Friday, December 29, 2017

Listened: "The Philadelphia Quarry" by Howard Owen.

Listened: The Philadelphia Quarry by Howard Owen, 2013, Overdrive download.

Second in the Willie Black series . Willie is still a newspaper reporter in Richmond, VA. Philadeplphia starts a year after the last novel and the newspaper is still in financial trouble. Richard Slade has been freed from prison after 28 years. DNA evidence cleared Slade's rape conviction and Black is there at the courtroom with everyone else.

Black knows the showboating defense attorney and wrangles a ride in the attorney's car along with Slade and Slade's mother. Well, the interview with Slade starts going OK - Slade is more interested in looking out the open car window than talking - until Black has to admit the paper he works for.  The problem with that is that Black's newspaper not only beat the drum against Slade 28 years ago, but it's editorial vitriol was damn near lynch-worthy.  Black gets kicked out of the car.

Missing among all the furor over Slade's release is the presence of the rape victim whose eyewitness testimony sent Slade to prison. That same woman is shot dead a week later during her 7AM drive home from her gym. Uh-oh. Sure enough the police look real hard at Slade. That hard look leads to an arrest. 

Black starts looking at this new case but gets big pushback from the newspaper owners who, it just so happens, are buddy-buddy with the dead woman's influential, old-money family. Things happen. Black looks into things. Black gets suspended from his job. Black has to defend his story from the newsroom vulture who swoops in to get a shared byline. Black has trouble getting people to talk. Black drinks way too much. Black gets busted for a DUI. Black thinks, "I'm not an alkie. I can stop drinking whenever I want. I just don't want to stop." Black thinks with his dick.

I've been enjoying this series and the narration is quite good. Owen does not build a complex plot of whodunit. You can figure out the bad guys without too much trouble. Heck, the last novel had Black chasing the same guy all the way through the story and Willie just had to collect enough evidence. The strength of the novels have lain in Richmond's history of old money, mixed feelings about race, and Black's own personal issues and history.

This novel has Black more directly addressing his own heritage. Black's father was black but died before Willie was born. His white mother is a long-time pothead and very flighty. She never spoke much about his father or his father's family and Willie never tried digging much deeper. Willie is taken aback when his mother offhandedly mentions that Willie is related to Slade. Later on Willie is having lunch with his college age daughter and she mentions taking a African American history class and Black realizes his daughter does not know her own grandfather was black.

Willie does not tell his daughter anything about his family. It's kinda weird. Willie passes for white - as his newfound cousin points out - and he has never denied his blackness. In fact Willie's kinda counted on his blackness keeping him employed since the newspaper can tally him in their staff diversity profile. 

To me this is an interesting aspect about Willie. Owen has kinda danced around it over the past two novels and it will be interesting in how he addresses the topic. Does Willie think he is "post-racial"? Hell no, he's witnessed the disparity between black and white every damn day. 

Anyhoo. I liked the novel. Straightforward and fun reading.
Backdating the post since I read it in 2017. 

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