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Black Water Rising (Jay Porter #1)

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  3,289 Ratings  ·  576 Reviews
Attica Locke—a writer and producer of FOX’s Empire—delivers an engrossing, complex, and cinematic thriller about crime and racial justice

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist (Mystery/Thriller)
Edgar Award Nominee (Best First Novel)
The Orange Prize for Fiction (Shortlist)

“A near-perfect balance of trenchant social commentary, rich characterizations, and action-oriented plot
ebook, 448 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books
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Joe Valdez
Jun 30, 2017 Joe Valdez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Until time travel becomes widespread, I recommend Black Water Rising, a historical mystery that marked the publishing debut of Attica Locke in 2009. Neither the story or the dialogue enthralled me straight away, skirting so close to reality that it feels more like eyewitness news reporting than storytelling, like a Texas Monthly article from the '80s. But as the novel unfolded and the uncanny details of another place, time and experience began to unravel, I was transported somewhere else. Only t ...more
Feb 01, 2017 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Is this my first great crime novel read of the year? I think it is.

Black Water Rising is superb. Set in Houston in the early eighties, it begins when Jay Porter--a struggling ambulance-chaser and traumatized former idealist--takes his wife, Bernie, on a late-night boat ride through the bayou as a birthday present. It isn't going well--the boat he's hired is much shabbier than he was led to believe, and the man he thought would be captaining it has left an untrustworthy cousin in his stead--and t
Jan 31, 2016 Tooter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars. Not quite as good as Pleasantville. There were a few civil rights history sections that slowed the plotline for me. Otherwise, she's a wonderful author.
Clif Hostetler
Feb 23, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This murder-mystery-thriller novel provides a portrayal of 1980s Houston, Texas through the eyes of a young African American lawyer who has a past history of involvement in the black power movement of the late 60s. It is one man's personal journey told through flashbacks of past experiences intermixed with the current story that occurs during the Reagan administration of the 1980s. The time may be post civil rights legislation, but racial feelings are still raw. From the perspective of the main ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
In this adroit debut thriller, Attica Locke delivers the goods with an understated and assured confidence. The cadence, as well as the story, is brisk and balanced. She avoids the pitfalls of many debut authors, i.e. the prose is not self-conscious or cloying, and the story develops with a natural ease. Her sentences are a joy to read, as they are poised, with a sense of the poetic, and well scrubbed. This is a novel with political overtones and racial conflicts; however, Locke executes her narr ...more
Considering this is Locke's first novel, it is an excellent effort. She paints Houston in the early '80s as a greedy, oil-hungry place divided into rich and poor, black and white. Her main character has a tormented past that continues to follow him around, sometimes in his mind.

It's a novel of redemption and hope, in the end. It's a good solid story, but at times I found myself getting a bit bogged down in the details. It could have gripped me more and drawn me in deeper.

Taryn Pierson
Mar 01, 2015 Taryn Pierson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Attica Locke is one of those rare thriller writers who not only brings unrelenting action but throws in a hefty side of hard-hitting themes. I don't know that I've ever read another thriller that gave me this much to mull over afterwards. Usually I finish crime novels all like, “That was a fun and interesting diversion. Tra la la,” but not this time.

Locke's main character, attorney Jay Porter, is a complicated and tortured man. As the book opens in 1981, Jay is stable, married, awaiting the arri
Stacey Peters
Apr 23, 2010 Stacey Peters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers
There aren't very many African American mystery writers out there, so this novel was a welcome surprise. The author really did her research. The plot was well executed, with tidbits of historical relevance that helped set the stage. The main character, a tortured soul, complex and yet compelling, has checked out of life for the most part just going through the motions from one day to the next. Wake, work, wife, wake, work, wife. Shaky family foundations, married, but unable to trust his pregnant ...more
Linda Robinson
Jul 23, 2016 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Texas 1981. That's the first line in the book. I love first lines like this. All you say in your head is. Okay. Orient yourself to that year there. It was a volatile year around the world. Ronald Reagan was shot. Bernadette Devlin was shot. Lech Walesa and Solidarity were churning up Poland. The first 5 cases of AIDS were identified as some kind of pneumonia. And Jay Porter was busy being a personal injury lawyer in private practice, trying to keep body soul wife career and life above the water ...more
Oct 16, 2011 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, bookgroup
What a terrible read. Have joined a new reading group and this was the library's offering. I really don't understand how it became shortlisted for the Orange Prize last year. Must've been a bad year.

I normally never feel inclined to give-up on a novel, but was sorely tempted to ditch this book.

The voice is clunky, she focuses on irrelevant incidences, for instance:

"she keeps an eye on the chicken thawing in the sink, and when she gets bored with that, she shuffles across the kitchen floor, tak
Jul 02, 2009 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
The writing was well done and the characters well developed but this is not a book I will recomend to many of our customers. The biggest problem I had is that the main character was one of those characters in movies and books that I hate because they always seem to make the wrong choices, keep everything to themselves, and wind up getting deeper and deeper into trouble. You find yourself screaming, go to the police already. However, in the end, going to the police may not have helped him. All th ...more
None of the criticisms of this book dissuade me from giving this a good rating. Sure, the plot seems to be lost with divergent plot lines, but Locke ties all her lines in the end. Sure, I felt that the book went on for too long, and it felt like Locke ran out of steam around page 300, but that wasn’t enough for me to dislike the book. I’m not sure that this book will stimulate Houston’s tourism industry.
Even so, I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a book about race relations in America
Sarah Weathersby
Somehow I thought this book was a mystery. But the real mystery is Jay Porter...why he doesn't connect with his wife whom he loves, who loves him, and on whom he hangs his whole future.

There is that mysterious rescue of a woman from drowning in the bayou; a young man gets beat up by union guys who supposedly support the strike; oil seepage in the back yard of a kook who did a a one-man march on Washington; why is somebody following Jay or is he just paranoid from his "militant" days in the 70's.
Vicki Seldon
Nov 29, 2015 Vicki Seldon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me quite a while to finish this novel, not because it wasn't good. On the contrary, Attica Locke is a wonderful writer. What took me so long was that Ms. Locke managed to craft a thriller that also conveyed so well the anxiety and paranoia felt by members of the black community as they continued the struggle for equal rights in the Houston of the post- civil rights era. A young black lawyer, once a college activist and now a family man struggling to stay afloat, gets mixed up in murder, ...more
Thomas DeWolf
Apr 05, 2016 Thomas DeWolf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Having read Locke's "The Cutting Season" last year, I picked up this one at the library and loved it. So much going on within and around the story. Great characters and story mixed brilliantly with issues of race, politics, family, and humanity.
Oct 06, 2016 Udeni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"But his friends weren't Interested in personal tragedy, they were out to save a race of people. There was a war going on; this was no time for baby sisters and family squabbles."

A combination of the personal and the political is what gives this thriller its edge. Jay Porter is the ex-civil rights activist, haunted by a traumatic childhood and pursued by unknown assailants through the bayous and suburbs of Houston.
I read the book much more carefully than I would the typical thriller. There are m
Very atmospheric, deeply layered and intense; the malevolence in the novel is palpable and the tension becomes increasingly taut, making it difficult to put this book down before the back cover is closed. Highly recommended.
Sep 01, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Well-written but ultimately anti-climatic mystery. Fantastic details and tension but somehow fell a bit flat. Look forward to next effort.
May 20, 2017 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery, thriller
This was a debut novel for Locke, immersing us in the racial politics of Houston in the 1980s.

At the center of this story is Jay Porter, a struggling black lawyer who is awaiting his first child and who has a troubled past as a civil rights activist who was betrayed by some internal snitches. On a steamy evening, he takes his wife Bernie for a low-rent cruise along the bayou that bisects the booming oil city, and when they are almost done, they hear gunshots and a woman's cry for help. Soon, th
Aug 06, 2009 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a very ambitious first novel, and does a lot of things right, but unfortunately just tries to do too much. After opening with a bang on a birthday cruise down the bayou, lawyer Jay Porter is dragged into a conspiracy he'd really rather stay out of, but in which he lets himself get increasingly entwined due to his own paranoia. Jay's psychological profile is the most compelling thing about this book, as Locke presents him as a product of government persecution, stemming from the attempts ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Rosa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mysteries are not my favorite genre, but Black Water Rising by Attica Locke could be the start of a change of heart. The plot was well crafted and every piece of this puzzle fit together perfectly. Jay Porter is a young lawyer who is not doing so well. His law practice is floundering and he can barely meet his bills. Although an activist while in college, he is a bit ‘shell-shocked’ from being prosecuted for civil rights activities and he is settling into a mediocre existence awaiting the birth ...more
Jul 25, 2013 Judi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Guy Savage
Recommended to Judi by: switterbug (Betsey)
Shelves: read-in-2013
One reason I like to read fiction is to get into another's skin. This time it's a black man, Jay Porter, who is a lawyer in the 5th Ward in Houston, TX in 1981. He's had legal troubles that inspired him to become a a lawyer, but he doesn't make much money at it because his clientele doesn't have the funds and the crimes he defends are petty. This is worrisome because his wife is about seven months pregnant.

As the story opens, Jay has planned a surprise birthday for his wife -- a make-shift dinn
The title of this book so perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of this complex literary mystery. Librarian favorite Attica Locke evokes the hot, lazy tempo of the Bayou through rich description and layered dialogue, and turns up the heat with racially and fiscally charged tension. The time period can be a little challenging to fully grasp, with the story moving between the "present day" 80s, and jumping before and throughout the civil rights movement, but Locke weaves the protagonist's fic ...more
Myron Brown
I started reading this book but I could never get into it enough to complete it. Ultimately, I just did not care for the lead character. He was just there and since the book was completely from his point of view, I never got to know any of the other characters. There was never a sense that the characters of this story was anything but characters in the story. It felt like a plot driven book disguised as a character driven one. Stephen L. Carter does this type of storytelling much better. He's ab ...more
Laila (BigReadingLife)
3.5 stars. After an initial action-packed scene that sets the plot in motion, this one was a slow burn. But once it built a head of steam, it was a very engrossing, conspiracy-laden mystery. Lots of stuff going on - going back to the civil rights movement in colleges in the 1960s and the FBI involvement in that, Big Oil in the 1980s, looming labor strikes that cut across racial and class lines. A smart thriller. I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Locke's other novels, Pleasantville and The Cutti ...more
Aug 28, 2016 4cats rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Houston, 1980's and a black lawyer and his wife are witnesses to a crime which leads Jay into a web of political and corporation lies and deceit. Intelligent thriller which deals with the civil rights campaign as well as the power of corporations. Although it's set in the 80's things haven't moved on that much in many respects and in some respects things have got worse.
Sep 17, 2010 Jlaurenmc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read multiple books each week -- the last month or so being the exception, what with returning to teaching and making lesson plans and such. Most books are fairly good at doing their jobs -- they hold my attention, provide entertainment, make me think, educate me on new and interesting topics. Every once in a while, a book comes along and insinuates itself high above the rest.

Last week, Attica Locke's debut novel Black Water Rising became one such book, a step ahead of even the "good" books. I
Jun 12, 2011 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
The New York Times was quoted as saying that the story was "akin" to those by George Pelecanos or Dennis Lehane. I haven't read books by either of those authors but have heard great things. What I do think of when I hear those names, however, are thrillers that are mature and have thorough storylines -- not just a simple whodunit.

I found that to be the case with Black Water Rising. It tells the story of Jay Porter and is set in 1981 Texas. He's an attorney barely scraping by. The book starts out
Feb 21, 2016 Arlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: legal thriller lovers
Shelves: readsoullit, audio
I am really glad that I finally picked up the books. This being Attica Locke debut novel it surely doesn't read as if it is the first of many. I enjoyed her writing, it was very smooth and she can tell a great tale.

Jay Porter a lawyer just trying to keep his head afloat in the 5th ward of Houston, Texas. He has a less than successful business, a pregnant wife, a Reverend for a father in law, who I don't want to say pimps, but is quick to put him on the firing quad for any legal troubles that so
Jan 06, 2013 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Jay Porter, a struggling, young black lawyer in Houston, Texas, in 1981, rescues a white woman from a bayou after hearing gun shots and inadvertently becomes unwillingly drawn into a murder investigation and criminal conspiracy. In his youth Jay was a civil rights activist, but his mantra now is “This is not my fight . . . This ain’t my deal.” He was framed and almost convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, so “He knows firsthand the long, creative arm of Southern law enforcement” and is reluc ...more
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Attica Locke is a writer whose first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for an Orange Prize in the UK.

Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and
More about Attica Locke...

Other Books in the Series

Jay Porter (2 books)
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