Regarding the culture we consume, all of us have books, movies, albums, etc. that we keep meaning to get to, and want to get to, but put off for various reasons. Other things attract our attention or we make excuses or whatever. And when you inevitably get around to what you’ve been putting off, nine times out of ten you’ll wonder why you did.
All that to say, I’ve put off on reading Attica Locke’s work for far too long. I made excuses too. I didn’t even want to start this one but the book I was waiting for hadn’t come from the library yet so I settled on it. And man, am I glad I did.
This is a tough book to describe. It is in some sense a mystery as there is a central plot to it, but it is also a historical pastiche of a city (Houston) in a particular time (early 80s), as well as a commentary on how white supremacy impacts black people in their daily lives. It’s also a political thriller, albeit a slow burn type thriller. In other words, it’s my kind of book. And for a first novel, I was impressed at how deftly Attica Locke handled all of this.
Jay, the main character, is in some ways the most compelling part of Black Water Rising, while in others he’s the catalyst for the plot. The flashback scenes add a layer of tragedy to his story and I always empathized for him and feared for him and his family. But there were spots the book was more interested in what’s happening around him than what’s happening to him. It’s a tough thing to synthesize for a first novel. Locke does it mostly well but there were times when I felt like she was more interested in telling the story through the city’s lens and not the character’s.
But this is a minor complaint. Attica Locke is a fine writer. I slept on her work for too long. No more.