Huey, one of the main characters, takes his name from Black Panther leader, Huey Newton. It's amazing that the Panthers have any reputation left after the damage inflicted by that gripping book, The Shadow of the Panther, published a decade or so ago. A sordid but fascinating read. (David Horowitz's Radical Son dug up lots of dirt too.) Yet, somehow, the mythology lingers on. Stanley Crouch, a man who takes no prisoners, returns to the fray in a review of a memoir by former insider, Flores Forbes:
Newton had a cocaine habit that made his personality mercurial and may have provided the impetus to shift his organization into serious crime by the early 1970's. Fawned over by the New Left, the news media and Hollywood, he was transformed into a messiah expected to fill ever bigger shoes.
... In a very low-key, matter-of-fact style that takes attempted murder, gunplay, beatings, extortion and arrests as normal occurrences, Forbes pulls the covers off Newton with so much authority that the case his book makes against the Black Panther legend will be hard to dismiss. In unparalleled detail , we are given the inside story of a left-wing group of "revolutionaries" whose organization evolved into a lucrative criminal enterprise
There's a bizarre moment in the DVD of one of Richard Pryor's live shows where he points to Newton in the audience and asks him to take bow. Chilling.
So, when I hear Islamists ranting on the streets or on the Today programme, I can't help thinking of the easy ride Newton and his henchmen used to be given by much of the media. Maybe history is repeating itself. The first time as farce, the second time as tragedy?