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Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
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Black Water Rising (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Attica Locke

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407None26,112 (3.41)1 / 96
Member:sylviag
Title:Black Water Rising
Authors:Attica Locke
Info:Serpents Tail (2010), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (2009)

1980s (10) America (6) American (5) audiobook (4) civil rights (19) corruption (14) crime (16) crime fiction (11) ebook (4) fiction (54) Houston (24) Kindle (7) lawyers (11) murder (14) mystery (29) noir (4) novel (5) oil (6) oil industry (11) orange (4) Orange Prize (5) race (4) race relations (8) racism (5) read in 2010 (8) suspense (4) Texas (27) thriller (12) to-read (10) USA (7)
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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
The character of Jay Porter is fully realized and deeply felt. The setting, Houston 1981, is so clear that it seems Locke must have been there, but she was only 7 years old and couldn't have known the story her book tells of the Civil Rights Movement in Houston at that time. Carefully researched and extremely well told. ( )
  PetreaBurchard | Feb 9, 2014 |
I was initially drawn to this novel as a debut suspense novel, yet it truly is so much more than that. Set in the Texas bayou outside Houston, a fluke of circumstance leads to a tale of corruption, murder, attempted murder and all of the machinations one would expect. However, this is also a well told story of a man on the verge of fatherhood who must find a way to resolve the crime, his past, and his future. it is a tale of integrity...doing the right thing when no one is looking. Well done! ( )
  hemlokgang | Dec 16, 2013 |
The first word that came to mind when I finished the last line of Black Water Rising was WOW! This book, which takes place in the 1980's, gave me an education on union politics, race relations, and the more militant civil rights movement of the late 1960's and 1970's. Attica Locke, not nearly old enough to have experienced these events first hand, nevertheless presented what felt like an insiders view into a dark and complicated world where oil was king in Texas. Even more amazing was that she did so through the eyes of a black MAN as her main character. Jay Porter is a new lawyer working out of strip mall making very little profit and representing the desperate. He is an angry, bitter man who knows he should have more and be more. His background, his race, and his anger hold him back. I lived out his experiences via Attica Locke and walked in another man's shoes. This is why I read. To experience life through the eyes and heart of another person. Only a strong writer like Locke could help a white woman who was a teenager in the 1980's understand and empathize with the life of a strong-minded black lawyer in the Texas of that same decade. The book grabbed me from the start with a murder in the middle of the night, dragged a bit in the politics here and there, but captured me in full at the climax, holding my undivided attention all the way to its beautiful conclusion. A conclusion that actually made me pause and reflect with the word "wow" the only thought I could conjure in that moment.

My favorite words:

Dashiki-a loose, often colorfully patterned, pullover garment originating in Africa and worn chiefly by men.

Pecuniary-consisting of or given or exacted in money or monetary payments.

Dulcet-pleasant to the ear; melodious.

Dais-a raised platform, as at the front of a room, for a lectern, throne, seats of honor, etc.

Stevedore-a firm or individual engaged in the loading or unloading of a vessel.

Quote from which comes the title (p.367): "The strike, therefore, made it impossible for the company to hide its crime, which was, by then, starting to come up in plain sight, like black water rising in the streets."

Favorite quote (p.404): "And standing now in a urine-stained corner of this jail cell, where he paid a toll of six cigarettes to be left in peace, he strikes a new bargain with himself. There is a way out of here, he knows, out of this prison in his mind. It requires only the courage to speak."

Before I was even finished with Black Water Rising, I was online ordering Locke's second and highly acclaimed book, The Cutting Season. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a Dennis Lehane, James Ellroy, or Greg Iles fan. I was also reminded of John Grisham at times. Just note that many of the characters use salty language, and the plot contains some violence and sexual situations. ( )
  TheLoopyLibrarian | May 15, 2013 |
It’s Houston, Texas, 1981. Jay Porter, a lawyer barely scratching out an existence with a handful of low or no paying clients, takes his wife on a bayou boat ride one night to celebrate her birthday. They hear a woman’s scream, gun shots and something fall into the water. After some prompting from his wife Jay dives in to discover a barely conscious woman whom he manages to drag onto the boat. Receiving no explanation from the woman about what led up to her ending up in the water, Jay and his wife drop her outside a police station. They don’t think about the incident further until Jay notices a news article about a man having been found shot dead near where their boat picked up the mysterious woman. Ostensibly the rest of the book unravels the story of what went on that night.

I say ostensibly because it was my very strong impression that this somewhat clunky storyline wasn’t really the author’s focus. What she did seem interested in, and what she interested me in, was an exploration of the civil rights movement of the late 1960′s and 1970′s, depicted from an insider’s point of view via Jay Porter’s personal history. Much of the novel consists of flashbacks to his earlier life, starting with his time as an idealistic young student activist campaigning against segregation and other injustices being experienced by black people in the south of America. We see how and why Jay’s devotion to the causes he believed in lessened over time, to the point where he is a shadow of his former self and this aspect of the story manages to be compelling, credible and moving without wallowing in overt sentimentality. It’s a terrific example of the kind of thing people mean when they say that historical fiction brings the past alive in a way that factual recounting of events often fails to do.

However, the present-day storylines are significantly less successful, being jumbled, woolly and, more than once, preposterous. Elsewhere in the book Jay is depicted as possessing both intelligence and a strong sense of self-preservation but he makes his way to the scene of the crime and literally sprinkles his DNA and other evidence all over the place in an event that should have come with a flashing ‘clunky plot device’ neon sign. And even if you do manage to suspend your disbelief over this and other quite laughable happenings this present day plot meanders far too much. There are entire major threads I haven’t had time to discuss here, but the book finds time to delve into them in excruciating detail.

Even so I am, on balance, impressed with this novel. I have observed before that début novels tend to incorporate too many ideas, as this one did, and I can be forgiving of this trait from someone who might well wonder if this is the only thing they will ever publish. Locke’s writing is good, her research seamlessly incorporated into her world and her characters are very nuanced. There must have been a temptation to make Jay Porter and/or his wife into perfect and allegorical characters representing all facets of the struggles of African American people but Locke restrains herself on this front. They are ordinary people motivated most of the time by self-interest, as all but the very noblest among us are, and they are entirely believable. I think this credibility factor was helped in my case because I listened to the book narrated by American actor Dion Graham who became Jay Porter and told his very personal story of loss of self and helped transport me to Locke’s version of Houston 30-40 years ago.

If you are looking for a first rate crime novel then BLACK WATER RISING probably isn’t for you. But if you are looking for historical fiction that brings alive a version of the American civil rights movement in a way you won’t quickly forget then you could do a lot worse than read this novel. There is more than enough evidence here to convince me that Locke has real talent and that her second novel, already published, is something I need to read soon.
  bsquaredinoz | Apr 14, 2013 |
I don't often read crime fiction, but this book was excellent - great characters, complex historical background. This author is unafraid to wrestle with the big issues of our time - race and class - but she never lectures, and neither do her characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. ( )
  EllenMeeropol | Apr 7, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061735868, Hardcover)

On a dark night, out on the Houston bayou to celebrate his wife's birthday, Jay Porter hears a scream. Saving a distressed woman from drowning, he opens a Pandora's Box. Not the lawyer he set out to be, Jay long ago made peace with his radical youth, tucked away his darkest sins and resolved to make a fresh start. His impulsive act out on the bayou is heroic, but it puts Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him is practice, his family and even his life. Before he can untangle the mystery that stretches to the highest reaches of corporate power, he must confront the demons of his past. A provocative thriller with an exhilarating climax, "Black Water Rising" marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:04 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When African-American lawyer Jay Porter jumps into the bayou to save a drowning white woman in Houston, Texas, in 1981, he finds his practice and life in danger when he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation involving Houston's elite.

(summary from another edition)

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