Money Rock

A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South

Meet Money Rock—young, charismatic, and Charlotte’s flashiest coke dealer—in a riveting social history with echoes of Ghettosideand Random Family

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

Meet Money Rock. He’s young. He’s charismatic. He’s generous, often to a fault. He’s one of Charlotte’s most successful cocaine dealers, and that’s what first prompted veteran reporter Pam Kelley to craft this riveting social history—by turns action-packed, uplifting, and tragic—of a striving African American family, swept up and transformed by the 1980s cocaine epidemic.

The saga begins in 1963 when a budding civil rights activist named Carrie gives birth to Belton Lamont Platt, eventually known as Money Rock, in a newly integrated North Carolina hospital. Pam Kelley takes readers through a shootout that shocks the city, a botched FBI sting, and a trial with a judge known as “Maximum Bob.” When the story concludes more than a half century later, Belton has redeemed himself. But three of his sons have met violent deaths and his oldest, fresh from prison, struggles to make a new life in a world where the odds are stacked against him.

This gripping tale, populated with characters both big-hearted and flawed, shows how social forces and public policies—racism, segregation, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration—help shape individual destinies. Money Rock is a deeply American story, one that will leave readers reflecting on the near impossibility of making lasting change, in our lives and as a society, until we reckon with the sins of our past.


“Extends the work of such classics as Code of the Street and The Corner with curiosity, economy, thoroughness, and a deep feel for the nuances of human life. . . . Kelley places the remarkable story of her remarkable protagonist, Belton ‘Money Rock’ Platt, in a larger narrative that is too often elided, illuminating, in the process, the difference between justice and mere judgment.”
—Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire
“A powerful and unforgettable story of ambition, the failed War on Drugs, and those places where policies have failed to keep up with the human experience.”
—Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
“A bracing tale of love and hope, despair and redemption, civil rights and wrongs.”
—Byrant Simon, author of The Hamlet Fire
“Compelling. . . . Kelley’s captivating account bears witness to people and places simultaneously striving and stuck; to the redemptive power of women; and to faith that a better way might be possible, for ourselves and our cities.”
—Susan Burton, author of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women
“Eye-opening and moving. . . . An honest and absorbing chronicle of the social and emotional devastation of ‘law and order’ and essential reading for anyone who cares about racial justice and the health of American cities.”
—Matthew Horace, author of The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement

News and Reviews

National Book Review

“A gripping tale . . . . Kelley weaves a textured narrative.”

The Charlotte Observer

“A unique, engrossing reading experience [and] diligent exposé. . . . A fascinating and hard-hitting story about drugs, crime, faith, and retribution.”

Garden & Gun

A September Reading List Pick

Kirkus Reviews

“A unique, engrossing reading experience [and] diligent exposé. . . . A fascinating and hard-hitting story about drugs, crime, faith, and retribution.”


Goodreads Reviews