Minotaur Books, $25.99, 227 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-07307-5
Writers, Agents, Book Publishers and Reviewers are always looking for something different, something a bit out of the ordinary; something that grabs their attention on page one and never lets go. In today’s hyper frenetic literary world, where thousands of books are published every day, originality is a hard commodity to find. In the mystery crime fiction genre for example, we now have tough guys and gals in the classic Raymond Chandler mode, but then there’s everything from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous . . . we have ghost detectives, vampire detectives and wheelchair bound detectives as well as fallen angels, residents of Hell, old ladies, talking dogs and cats, teenagers and even arch criminal sleuths, just to name an assorted few. Rest assured, there’s others. So when a debut author comes up with a unique concept and point-of-view . . . it’s exciting news.
The Red Storm, by Grant Bywaters is a breath of fresh air in what’s become a most well-explored category of crime fiction . . . the private eye. The gumshoes name is William Fletcher. He’s a former heavyweight boxer who’s good enough to be champion of the world if only he wasn’t a black man in the early 1920s, a time when organized crime controlled the fight game and rampant racism prevented him from getting a title shot. He quits boxing and works as a money collector until his boss goes to prison and Fletcher moves down to New Orleans, where he reinvents himself as a private investigator. It’s a tough way to make a living for a black man in the south during the depression. Ten years later, in the early 1930s, he’s struggling to find clients and pay the bills when one of his old New York acquaintances named Bill Storm gets in touch. He hires Fletcher to find his estranged daughter Zella, a wannabe torch singer and a white woman. Fletcher’s investigation sets off a gang war for control of New Orleans between local mobsters and the trainload of New York Mafiosi who’ve trailed Storm to the Crescent City.
The Red Storm is a noir gem, full of period sights and sounds, language and everyday life in the heyday of the Jim Crow south. A fun, fast, entertaining read!