New Finds

Texas Noir

Attica Locke's first novel is an auspicious debut. They don't get much better than this.

Book Cover There is already a Tabernacle-size choir singing the praises of Attica Locke’s first novel. Among others, the inestimable James Ellroy and my old pal (I mean that in a Facebook kind of way) George Pelecanos extol Black Water Rising (Harper Collins) as a stylish, involving literary thriller with a strong emphasis on human politics and character.

I know I am a slightly tardy to the party, but then again what is the timeline (other than the contrived and artificial window that commerce allots) for new books and music and such?

Here’s a novel that fires on all cylinders: good plot, complex protagonist, brisk and nimble prose, and thoughtful insights well-expressed, with some Civil Rights historical detail thrown in for good measure. Set in Houston in 1981, when that city was still riding an oil boom (which is, inescapably, a big factor in the story and from which the title comes), Jay Porter, black ex-radical and movement leader turned lawyer, is struggling to keep himself and his pregnant wife afloat. On the night he celebrates his wife’s birthday with a bayou cruise, he saves a woman from drowning—an act which involves him in a murder investigation that threatens to, at the very least, ruin him.

Porter runs a gauntlet of interesting fellow characters: from Cynthia Maddox, his white ex-girlfriend who is now Mayor of Houston, to an Indian private investigator named Rolo; all provide color and seasoning to a hearty literary recipe. This is most definitely an auspicious beginning for Ms. Locke and leaves me looking forward to her next work (and the movie version of this one).
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