Philip Lewis

Philip Lewis

Philip Lewis was born in Atlanta and attended Howard University. He now lives in Adelphi, Maryland, where he publishes Café Noir magazine. Life of Death is his first published book

Life of Death

Lewis’s vision is fixed upon Inferno, and his novel has the power of a nuclear fusillade.

John A. Williams

Life of Death

Philip Lewis

Life of Death, by Philip Lewis (FC2, 1993)

Quality Paper
ISBN 978-0-932511-75-1


Life of Death is a potent, poisonous powerhouse of rage, desperation, and desire laced with maniacal comedy. In one long delirious outburst, narrator Louie Phillips takes aim at life in a crumbling suburb of Washington, D.C., and skewers the bourgeois attitudes that keep him from succeeding as an artist. Phillips, living in a state of rock-bottom exasperation, plots to escape his parents and the education at a black college that he believes is designed to whiten him up.

Determined to make enough money to launch his European art career, Phillips accepts a job for low wages at the Dummheit Café, branch of a worldwide corporation with investments in South Africa. There his coworkers’ petty politics and hysterically erotic lifestyle ensnare him. Although he resents his exploitation, the need for money daily lures him back, and fear of his true feelings. Finally, when his mother steals the pittance he saved from his wages, he retaliates by swiping her jewelry and all the money from Dummheit’s safe and feeling to Istanbul.

Life of Death creates a stunning narration of a young black man’s initiation into adult life and the American workplace. It is a remarkable debut from a writer unafraid of exploding the comforting myths masquerading as contemporary American culture.


The book is raging, raw, murderously truthful in statement and vision, calling to mind Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan and Alfred Doblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz … Lewis’s vision is fixed upon Inferno, and his novel has the power of a nuclear fusillade.

John A. Williams, author of Captain Blackman and If I Stop I’ll Die: The Comedy and Tragedy of Richard Pryor