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When his cousin Ulysses S. Grant IV comes knocking, Paris Minton would rather keep the door shut, because "Useless" is a snake who brings bad luck wherever he goes. But trouble always finds an open window, and soon there's a man murdered on his bookshop floor, evidence of blackmail is discovered, and Useless has vanished. To get out of this mess, Paris turns to his solid-hearted but quick-fisted friend Fearless Jones. Traversing the complex landscape of 1950s Los Angeles, where a wrong look can get a black man killed, Paris and Fearless find deperate women, secret lives--and more than one dead body.

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