Books: Gumbo Diplomacy

THE LAST DAYS OF LOUISIANA RED

by ISHMAEL REED 177 pages. Random House. $5.95.

In such original comic novels as The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Yellow Back Radio Broke Down and Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed displayed powers of camouflage, mimicry and verbal play that drew praise from his peers—though very little cash from his publishers. As a black writer with a ticklish touch, Reed had to sit in the back of the literary omnibus until the white audience tired of having their heads whipped by the Cleavers and Joneses.

Yet Reed can hardly be accused of eye rolling and cakewalking for his supper. His angers and...

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