About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

(37. – 924.) Black Water Rising by Attica Locke – It is 1981 in Houston and Jay Porter, a young black lawyer struggling to survive in private practice, wants to celebrate the birthday of his very pregnant wife, Bernie. With little money coming in he barters for a “moonlight cruise”. There is a boat and water and night but it is far from a romantic evening. As they make their way along the turgid Buffalo Bayou they hear a woman screaming and then a gunshot. They see a body roll into the river. Jay dives into the murky water and rescues her. The young white woman refuses to say what happened. Jay does not provide particulars on himself and Bernie.

When Jay and Bernie drop the woman outside a police station. Jay decides to do no more:

Just the idea of being anywhere near a police station at this time of night, looking like a ragged dog, tangled up in some white woman’s mess makes him more than a little dizzy. He knows firsthand the long, creative arm of Southern law enforcement, knows when he ought to keep his mouth shut.

His fear, even as a lawyer, spoke clearly to me of the position of black Americans dealing with police.

The next day Jay manages to stave off a summary dismissal of a civil action by his client, Dana Moreland, against City Commissioner, J.T. Cumings. Ms. Moreland, a hooker, alleges she was injured while riding with Mr. Cumings when he hit a telephone pole. At the time of the accident she was in a vulnerable position.

Bernie's father, the Reverend Boykin, calls upon Jay to attend a meeting of the black Brotherhood of Longshoremen. They are at odds with the white International Longshoremen's Association. While under court order to integrate the process is not going well.

The black longshoremen unwilling to put up with their continuing subservient position on the docks are looking to strike. 

Led by Reverend Boykin they want Jay to talk to the white mayor, Cynthia Maddox, about providing police protection if they go on strike.

They know Jay and Cynthia had a personal relationship while in university over a decade earlier.

While the mayor is now a member of the establishment she was a student radical at university going so far as to join the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). 

Jay was also a student activist though more focused on black issues. During his university years he was associated with some of the leading young black activists including Stokely Carmichael.

Because of his promise to his father in law Jay talks with Cynthia. It is a difficult conversation. 

Jay soon finds out a middle aged white man was found shot to death in a car in the vicinity of where he saved the woman. Unable to leave the issue alone and worried what will happen to him and Bernie if the police find out he did not report what he knew Jay investigates the murder.

Jay, coming from a tough background, has a hard time with relationships. He loves Bernie but holds so much within himself. He is so guarded.

With an unresolved past and a complex present Jay treads a challenging path.

Black Water Rising is a strong first novel. It gave me more insight into the lives of black Americans (I use the description of the book) at the beginning of the 1980's in the southern United States.

In my next post I will discuss the impact of reading Black Water Rising after reading the second book in the series, Pleasantville.
Locke, Attica - (2016) - Pleasantville


  1. Thanks, Bill, for your thoughts on this. I'm glad you thought this was a strong start. I agree with you that the book gives insights into life for black Americans in the early 1980s. One thing I also liked about the novel was that it highlighted the class differences of Houston society of the time. Porter is a smart lawyer, but he's not one of those wealthy attorneys who are on retainer by even wealthier clients. I think his financial situation more closely resembles a lot of lawyers who are trying to build a career.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I would have responded sooner but did not realize Blogger was arbitrarily sending some comments to Spam. Grrrr!

      Unless you are in a big firm financial success is unlikely for a young lawyer. It takes time to build a clientele and establish a reputation. As set out in the book a significant number of lawyers never do better than getting by financially.

  2. I like Attica Locke's writing, but the best one to me is her latest book, "Bluebird, Bluebird," set in East Texas. It's powerful and moving and the characters are so complicated and well-developed.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. If Santa finds me a good boy I am hoping he will bring me "Bluebird, Bluebird" for Christmas.

  3. I do hope that Santa's elves packed "Bluebird, Bluebird," in their sleigh for you.

    My 7-year-old neighbor just told me he got an email from Santa. I told him I was amazed to hear that Santa is now high-tech, and soon he'll be texting.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. With family home yesterday we opened presents and "Bluebird, Bluebird" was there. I will soon be reading it.

  4. I have long been intending to read something by Attica Locke, perhaps this is the push I needed.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I do not believe you will regret being pushed. "Bluebird, Bluebird" will be an early read for me in 2018.