Two Shades of Vice

Based on the True Story of an Interracial Couple's Life Together in Crime

Non-Fiction - True Crime
322 Pages
Reviewed on 11/17/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers' Favorite

Two Shades of Vice: Based on the True Story of an Interracial Couple's Life Together in Crime by Dewey Reynolds is a true crime story that explores powerful cultural and political issues in a great historical setting. In a story set against the tumultuous backdrop of Kansas in the 1960s, readers are introduced to Gordon Reynolds, a nasty criminal who served time in prison in five different states over a period of twenty-five years. Now he is determined to establish himself in the world of prostitution, cigarettes, robbery, hijacking, and bootlegging whiskey.

When Gordon Reynolds meets a woman, Alla Mae Briggs, who has a string of convictions behind her for soliciting and prostitution, he is certain she is the perfect recruit. Alla Mae Briggs has what it takes to create the connection he needs between clients and hookers. At the time his business starts thriving, they meet with a lot of difficulties and these include racist cops, jealous pimps, unforgiving gangsters, and supremacist groups. Can this interracial couple come out of the fray unscathed?

Dewey Reynolds’ book is well-written and the narrative voice is boosted by the strong descriptive prose and exciting dialogues. One gets the feeling that the book is well-researched and one notices the skillful development of the setting. The themes are well-treated, and whether it’s about the color line or crime, love or friendship, the author does a wonderful job of weaving themes seamlessly into the narrative. While the story is very entertaining, it also depicts the atmosphere in Kansas in the 1960s and the compelling social commentaries add to the strength of the narrative. Two Shades of Vice: Based on the True Story of an Interracial Couple's Life Together in Crime is gripping, a true crime tale that reads like a well-crafted piece of fiction, a real page-turner.

Natasha Jackson

As someone who considers herself a crime aficionado, finding out there was this interracial couple, Alla Mae and Gordon, that I’d never heard about was a first. From page one I dived into Dewey Reynolds' recounting of the lives, loves and crimes of this intrepid couple. One of the things Two Shades of Vice does beautifully is to keep reminding the reader that being an interracial couple in the era they were was hard enough, given the racism, segregation and Jim Crow, and to add a life of crime on top of that was crazy. Or brave, depending on your perspective. For the most part, I had a good time reading this fast paced tale of sex and crime and violence, but there were times when I wondered if this was all true crime or if some things were embellished.

Despite that, Dewey Reynolds created a wonderful account of a pair of criminals I’d never heard of, and he made it compelling. From ‘four foot eleven of pure hustle,’ he had me hooked on the story, the biographies of the heroes of this tale, and the more I learned about how they came to be, the more I wanted to know. Two Shades of Vice is, at its heart, a love story. A twisted, dark kind of love, for sure but not the kind that ends with one half of the couple dead. In their own way, Alla Mae and Gordon got the happy ending they both secretly wanted, but never really believed they would have.

Ruffina Oserio

Two Shades of Vice is so aptly sub-titled Based on the True Story of an Interracial Couple’s Life Together in Crime, a gripping true crime story by Dewey Reynolds. It is the 1960s and the place is Kansas City, where a dreaded criminal, Gordon Reynolds, a man who has served jail time in many states over a period of twenty-five years, sets out to start a new business venture in brokering prostitution, contraband cigarettes, liquor, and hijacking. He meets another criminal, Alla Mae, a woman with a long history of crime and jail time; a woman who has walked the streets of Kansas as a prostitute and been jailed many times for solicitation and prostitution. The two make an ideal pair, with Alla Mae using her contacts and experience to bring in clients.

But they have to overcome unimaginable odds to thrive in business, facing reprisals from racist cops, ruthless competition from gangsters, and the disdain of supremacist groups. Can they survive and stick together as a couple while building a business in crime? Two Shades of Vice has strong racial undertones, a well-written story with characters that readers will learn to like, in spite of their personal views about crime and racism. The story explores themes of family, racial discrimination, crime, and social justice. Dewey Reynolds weaves historical elements into the narrative and allows the reader to get glimpses of Kansas in the 1960s. I loved the writing style, friendly and down to earth, with compelling descriptions of places and characters. The narrative is strong and honest, even ruthlessly honest, and the story is both informative and entertaining.