Book Nook: Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, by William Kennedy

Nov 22, 2011

A new book by William Kennedy is an event. It has been almost a decade since his last one. The latest, "Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes," is the eighth book in his now legendary Albany Cycle.

This one features a rare foray outside of New York State. His protagonist, Daniel Quinn is introduced in a brief prologue set in 1930's Albany. Bing Crosby makes an appearance. Kennedy explains in this interview how he had always wanted to include a particular Crosby song in a novel.

The central section of the book takes place in Cuba in 1957. Quinn is a journalist covering the Cuban Revolution. He meets Hemingway and Castro and he also falls madly in love.

The final section returns us to Albany on the same day that Bobby Kennedy has been shot in California. Quinn is now a reporter covering racial unrest in the city. Meanwhile his father George is wandering the streets of his memory. He's singing songs and recalling an earlier period of racial strife on those same streets. Kennedy is now 83 years old. He has penned another masterpiece.