Scott Poulson-Bryant has graced the pages of this site before. The award-winning journalist is a seminal figure in the emergence of the hip-hop generation in popular culture, having been one of the founding editors (and coining the name) of Vibe Magazine, serving as a contributor to Spin, co-hosting a VH-1 panel show, and authoring “Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of the Black Man in America”, as confrontational a book as has ever been written about the topic of black male sexuality past and present.

Scott’s first novel, “The VIPs”, was released earlier this month, and I eagerly awaited it’s arrival. Sadly, I don’t read as much fiction as I used to back in the day-as voracious a reader as I am, I tend to stay on the biographical/musical reference side of things. I’ll admit to a soft spot for the soap opera-like novels written by E. Lynn Harris, and while “The VIPs” has some similarities to the late author’s books, it’s much more accomplished, more accessible and less guilty-pleasure inducing than Harris’s string of novels.

“The VIPs” focuses on four childhood friends who came of age and befriended one another during summers in the picturesque New York town of Sag Harbor. There’s Leo, an ugly-duckling-turned-swan whose dad owns a successful cosmetics company. Barry is a swaggering cocksman-in-training with a major chip on his shoulder by virtue of a strained relationship with his parents. Duke is a hip-hop junkie, cutting his teeth as a party DJ. Meanwhile, Joey is a kid who’s been forced into the foster system and jumps from house to house until a fortuitous chain of events leads him to the other three. A quarter century after crystallizing their friendship, they are brought together by top-selling rap artist TNT. How does TNT figure into the equation? Well, he believes that one of the four men is his father, and over the course of the novel, the years in between are explored in dramatic, hilarious and heartbreaking detail.

“The VIPs” is a coming of age story with equal elements suspense and humor. Over the years the story is told, there is family estrangement, incarceration, world-conquering success, sex, self-discovery and tragedy. All four main characters are well-written and very easy to identify with (at least for me), and even secondary characters such as Leo’s brash father are sketched out vividly.

While the novel is enjoyable all the way through, Scott kicks it up a notch (actually, several notches) in “The VIPs”‘ final third. A series of events unfolds in almost dizzying fashion. I would imagine that as the book roars towards it’s conclusion, it becomes virtually impossible to put down. I didn’t even try-just read through to a satisfying-and somewhat surprising-end.

For a work of fiction to hold my interest, several things have to happen. One is that I have to be able to relate to the characters. That’s no problem here. The other is that the story has to be captivating. I found myself completely sucked into the story and all it’s twists and turns, and you will be too.

Now when’s the movie coming out?

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