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Picks and Pans Review: A Conversation with the Mann

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By John Ridley

Jackie Mann is a stand-up comedian without a voice. Oh sure, this 1950s black man out of Harlem can harvest yuks by the cupful—by cribbing from white comics. The son of a saintly mother who died young and a monstrous father who abused drugs and his only son, Mann will do anything to become the Man, even if it means toadying up to powerful whites and ignoring the civil rights movement that is about to turn him into an anachronism. He gains the spotlight, but as an invisible man.

In this ambitious fourth novel Ridley, previously a writer of crime novels and for TV’s Third Watch, tries to capture a troubled man in a turbulent time, but he loses the you-are-there immediacy of his previous work. Mann‘s dilemma develops but never becomes compelling. Ridley used to deliver action flicks in book form; this is a warmed-over TV movie. (Warner, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Nowhere Mann