I didn't think her first mystery featuring this protagonist, Black Moon Rising, was all that great. But Pleasantville was quite good. It is set duringI didn't think her first mystery featuring this protagonist, Black Moon Rising, was all that great. But Pleasantville was quite good. It is set during a mayoral election which is meant to recall Lee Brown's first election to mayor in Houston. It is also centered around a once-important African-American neighborhood called Pleasantville, once home to many of the post-war African-American muddle-class, which has since legal segregation was outlawed, has seen them move to "better" neighborhoods--specifically neighborhoods farther away from the East Side's chemical plants. At the time of the novel, it is still primarily African American and still an important voting bloc. But attempts to weaken it are an undercurrent of the book, which focuses on the murder trial of the campaign director for the Lee Brown-like character, and three horrible murders in Pleasantville.
The politics of the novel really could be read in a political science class--it's that acute. And eye-opening, since it looks at them from an African-American point of view. If you are from Houston, as I am, the locations are great--it feels like Locke carefully drove (or took the bus) to ever single one of them. But I was puzzled by the neighborhood of Pleasantville itself--I had never heard of it. But it5 turns out to be a real neighborhood, east of Denver Harbor and south of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. I like mystery novels set in the relatively recent past that use actual history--James Elroy's L.A. novels come to mind. The protagonist, Jay Porter, is based on Attica Locke's father Gene, who has been involved in city politics for years, running for mayor against Anise Parker in 2009....more
It's an old travel book about Texas that I read back in the mid-80s. The author's website is here: http://www.stephenbrook.com/index.htm . I was workiIt's an old travel book about Texas that I read back in the mid-80s. The author's website is here: http://www.stephenbrook.com/index.htm . I was working in Nigeria in 1986 and traveling to London a lot. I saw this book, a travel narrative about Texas, at a bookstore and picked it up. It's in the genre of a Paul Theroux book--"I went to a place and traveled around a lot and met people and here's what happened." In short, a first-person travel narrative. I was feeling a little homesick at the time. But what I loved Brooks' style and erudition, and the way he allowed pretensions to be punctured by letting his subjects speak for themselves--and yet left you feeling warmly about many of the most ridiculous characters he met. It was the first time I had read about Texas from the point of view of a complete outsider. And it portrayed Texas at a particular point in time--after an almost imperial rise in economic power during the 70s and early 80s, just before the price of oil collapsed in 85. The insecurities of the nouveau riche were writ large in this book.
For a long time, I couldn't remember the name of the book or the author, even though I remembered the book itself quite well. But I was messing around on Google when I finally re-discovered the title. I immediately ordered a "new" copy through Alibris.
It is quite dated now, as such books tend to quickly become. Having just spent several days in Dallas, I reread the Dallas section of Honkytonk Gelato and found parts of it incomprehensible in terms of present-day Dallas, and parts of it as true today as when they were published 27 years ago. The five stars is a combination of my regard for the book and a certain nostalgia I feel about it. ...more