The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Casanegra in Essence...

This article in this morning...

Hollywood Swinging
Don't miss our ninth ESSENCE Book Club pick, a sizzling mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end.
By Patrik Henry Bass

Credit: Atria Books

L.A.'s dark side is exposed in a hot new novel.

We know what can happen when there are too many cooks in a kitchen. But when you see three names on the cover of the juicy new thriller Casanegra (Atria Books, $25), don't fret. Yes, celebrity novels written with established authors have proved to be a dicey mix, but kudos to actor Blair Underwood for having the good sense to create Casanegra with talented scribe Tananarive Due (whose novels, such as 1997's My Soul to Keep, have terrified us) and her equally gifted husband, Steven Barnes, author of 2002's Lion's Blood. They've concocted an exciting whodunit that we chose as our ninth ESSENCE Book Club Recommended Read. We think you're going to really dig on Tennyson Hardwick, a suave, sexy, reformed gigolo who finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery in this page-turner set in Hollywood. It's a town that Underwood knows well. "I was working on a movie with Diana Ross. I was going to play a gigolo, but the film never got off the ground," says Underwood, 42. "Somehow, the character never left me. And when I was in New York visiting the publisher of my children's book, Before I Got Here, I realized they had also published Due's novel My Soul to Keep. From there the ideas started to flow." It wasn't so much his 2004 role as an urbane physician on Sex and the City that inspired some of Casanegra's provocative bedroom scenes but rather Zane. Yep, he said it. "We wanted to find a way to fuse Black erotica with elements of mystery and some brilliant writing," Underwood explains.

It's safe to say the trio, who outlined the project last fall, has succeeded on all counts. They also plan a screenplay, with a certain photogenic leading man considered a shoo-in to play Tennyson in a film adaptation. But the Tacoma, Washington-born father of three children with wife D�sir�e says he and his collaborators weren't chasing Hollywood's bright lights in penning Tennyson's story. "We want this novel to succeed on the merits of the storytelling," Underwood says. "I'm proud that we've created a fascinating journey for the reader to enjoy."

30-second excerpt
In this exclusive passage from Casanegra, hero Tennyson Hardwick has a fateful encounter with the mysterious April Forrest, who just may end up causing him a whole lot of trouble:

"I've studied people all my life, the closest thing I got to acting lessons before college. I examine their faces, their style, their gestures. Sometimes I can see things people have missed after a lifetime in their own skin. So, I knew what this woman was about. Her clothes were neat but not fashionable, she used minimal makeup, and she wore flats, not heels. She was a worker. Ambitious, trying to impress somebody, and she was in over her head."

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