Eugene Coard is woken one morning by a phone call to report the murder of a former St Lucian friend. It throws him back to memories of their island days, and his complicated love life in London that made necessary his relocation to the USA. Thoughts about his friend’s metamorphosis from middle-class “CB” to criminal, ghetto-dwelling “Red” provoke Eugene to review his own so far profitable transformations. But just how much of Eugene’s story can we believe? His confessions reveal him as probably the most unreliable and devious narrator in Caribbean fiction; has he, as a writer and psychiatrist, been exploiting the confusions of race in the USA to his own advantage?
With nods to Ellison’s Invisible Man and a witty inversion of Saul Bellow’s Sammler’s Planet , Prisnms is a dark comedy about the masks people wear in a racially divided society that anticipates the metafictions of a writer such as Percival Everett. In the shape-shifting figure of Eugene Coard, Garth St Omer has created a character whose admissions will bring the reader shocked and horrified delight. Prisnms was written in the 1980s but perhaps because it was so ahead of its time, not published until now.