Today’s featured book is Oregon Hill by Howard Owen.
Why I chose this book:
A colorful reporter who is a sardonic spectator. The wrong perpetrator charged. The reporter saves the day. You probably think you’ve read this story before. But you would be wrong. This is so much better than those other books you might have read. Author Howard Owen is a brilliant observer of people. Set in Richmond in the dying world of print newspapers, this first person narrative is Southern investigative noir at its finest. I love the dialogue. It has that rare combination of being both plot and character driven, an infrequent amalgamation in most books. I first came across Owen’s reporter Willie Black in “Richmond Noir,” an anthology of short stories from Akashic Books. I thought he would make a great series character. I’m glad Owen introduced him here. I hope Willie Black makes another appearance. I predict a very successful series. On a side note: What’s the magic at Permanent Press? The house is fast becoming one of my favorite publishers. Consistently, publisher Martin Shepard and staff keep turning out winners. I don’t know how they do it, but the team has a golden touch. I’m looking forward to more stories from their organization in the future. You can check out all of their mysteries here: http://www.thepermanentpress.com/c-19-Mysteries.aspx.
“Willie Black has squandered a lot of things in his life – his liver, his lungs, a couple of former wives and a floundering daughter can all attest to his abuse. He’s lucky to be employed, having managed to drink and smart-talk his way out of a nice, cushy job covering (and partying with) the politicians down at the capitol.
Now, he’s back on the night corps beat, right where he started when he came to work for the Richmond paper almost 30 years ago. The thing Willie’s always had going for him, though, all the way back to his hardscrabble days as a mixed-race kid on Oregon Hill, where white was the primary color and fighting was everyone’s favorite leisure pastime, was grit. His mother, the drug-addled Peggy, gave him that if nothing else. He never backed down then, and he shows no signs of changing.
When a co-ed at the local university where Willie’s daughter is a perpetual student is murdered, her headless body found along the South Anna River, the hapless alleged killer is arrested within days. Everyone but Willie seems to think: Case Closed. But Willie, against the orders and advice of his bosses at the paper, the police and just about everyone else, doesn’t think the case is solved at all. He embarks on a one-man crusade to do what he’s always done: get the story.
On the way, Willie runs afoul of David Junior Shiflett, a nightmare from his youth who’s now a city cop, and awakens another dark force, one everyone thought disappeared a long time ago. And a score born in the parking lot of an Oregon Hill beer joint 40 years ago will finally be settled.
The truth is out there. Willie Black’s going to dig it out or die trying.”
Owen knows his setting, his dialogue is spot-on and his grasp of the down-and-dirty work of the police and news reporters lends authenticity to the narrative. This is Southern literature as expected, with a touch of noir, and with a touch of Dennis Lehane s Mystic River. Willie Black deserves a sequel. – Kirkus
Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!
– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville