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If 6 were 9

by Jake Lamar

(Crown 2001) 

If 6 were 9 has been translated

into French as Le Caméléon noir

He needs help, trusting Clay's wry sense of humor and famous cool head to get him out of trouble. But Clay, dragged out of his bed into the winter night, recognizes the victim -- Jennifer Wolfshiem, a.k.a. Pirate Jenny, Clay's student and, for a brief time, his mistress. Knowing he too might be implicated in Jenny's death, Clay tries to cover up his knowledge of the murder: he gives Reggie a ride out of town, goes home and gets back to bed, and falls asleep as though the whole episode was a nightmare. But when he wakes up in the morning, his life slowly, inexorably begins to fall apart.

Dragged into the investigation in spite of himself, Clay knows he must unmask the killer before he becomes the prime suspect. Was Brogus the killer after all? Was the murder indeed linked to the FBI and a long-ago counter-intelligence operation? Or is the killer someone closer to home, with a sterling reputation and a hidden sadistic streak? Part whodunit, part social satire, If 6 Were 9 is a funny, fast-paced thriller filled with vibrant characters, unexpected plot twists, and provocative ideas about the complexities of race and politics in America.

IIn the wee hours of the morning, Clay Robinette, formerly a disgraced reporter, now a happily married, happily tenured black professor, is awakened by a phone call.

The caller is Reggie Brogus, a famous black militant who, after a mysterious seven-year exile, remade himself into a fire-breathing conservative professor. There's a dead body in Reggie's office, and he's sure it's the work of government agents looking to frame him for his radical past.


"Jake Lamar's new novel, If 6 Were 9, is a page-turner of a murder mystery with a clear, breezy style. The book is also a wicked black comedy in both senses of the phrase -- it's both caustically funny and a shrewd take on racial politics. Twists abound, satiric wallops are doled out, the plot zips along like an airport novel -- and glowing at the center of it all is a core of hope: we can rise above the absurdity of racial divides if we can all just ease up and get a bit more real."

--New York Times Book Review January 28, 2001

"Jake Lamar has written a novel which effectively captures the racial and political complexities of post-Civil Rights America in a way that federal commissions, documentaries, and a thousand newspaper editorials have not. Lamar is, indisputably, one of the master writers of his generation. And If 6 Were 9 deserves a place alongside Native Son and Invisible Man as a truly American saga seen through the lens of the black experience."

--Kevin Powell, Editor, Step Into A World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature

"Once again, Jake Lamar, the master of conspiracy theory, has produced a story filled with strong, colorful characters, dialogue and revelations so fully developed and haunting you'll need to question how much is truth and how much fiction to enable a good night's sleep."

--Trisha Thomas, author of Nappily Ever After

"If you want to know what the last decades of American social, cultural, racial tensions might feel like as lived in the life and the heart of a bright, sensitive, sensible, but by no means unbewildered and unwounded fictional black man, then read If 6 Were 9, a splendid book."

--C.K. Williams, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Repair