Review

Basketball Jones

by E. Lynn Harris

In E. Lynn Harris’s novels, secrets rule. BASKETBALL
JONES, which centers on the relationship between a closeted
professional athlete and his male lover, is standard Harris
fare.

AJ Richardson and Dray Jones have been lovers since they were
college students in South Carolina. When Dray heads to Atlanta to
play for the Hawks, he takes AJ with him --- on the down low of
course, but they’re together, which seems to be enough for
AJ, our narrator. Early in the story Dray is traded to New Orleans
and moves AJ to the city so they can still be with each other, in
spite of the fact that Dray is now a married man. The marriage
doesn’t prevent Dray from seeing AJ or supporting him. And AJ
continues to depend on his lover, using his skills as an interior
designer for charity work rather than as a job.

Things begin to get complicated --- well, more complicated ---
when Dray’s wife, Judi, surprises him while he is out of town
for a game. AJ, who had been flown out to hang with Dray, ends up
hung out to dry. Then Dray and AJ begin getting packages and calls
threatening to reveal their secret. The threats challenge their
relationship as Dray looks out for his career, his lifestyle and
his young family. AJ worries where he’ll fit in between
Dray’s disapproving father, his wife and the child Dray and
Judi are expecting. He realizes he needs his own life. But who can
he trust to help him as he breaks away from Dray and their life
together?

Since his first novel, INVISIBLE LIFE, Harris has challenged and
delighted his readers with juicy stories of love, betrayal and the
lives of beautiful people. What was amazing about Harris’s
stories is that he wrote about bisexual and gay characters, and
readers made him a bestselling author. His early books are
fast-paced, funny, hip and illustrate the universality of lust,
love and revenge.

BASKETBALL JONES shares many of the elements of these titles ---
physically beautiful characters, big spenders and luscious
settings, and an engaging story that references texting, blogs and
viral videos. And there is a down low relationship and all of the
drama we associate with closeted men and their lovers.

However, BASKETBALL JONES doesn’t deliver as well as
Harris’s earlier stories. He makes us care about AJ, but
nothing that happens to him is very surprising. Or maybe it’s
just that the plot twists aren’t as surprising to the reader
as they were when Harris first began telling us stories. We know
about the down low, secret sex tapes and the lives of the rich and
vicious. Secrets are a great entry point for a novel and even move
the story along. But when it becomes predictable, readers are left
unsatisfied.

As a Harris fan, I was happy to read his latest tale of a modern
affair, but I hope his next novel has a few more surprises and is
less formulaic.

Reviewed by Bernadette Davis on December 22, 2010

Basketball Jones
by E. Lynn Harris

  • Publication Date: January 5, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307278670
  • ISBN-13: 9780307278678