Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Black Water Rising (Jay Porter #1)” as Want to Read:
Black Water Rising (Jay Porter #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Black Water Rising

(Jay Porter #1)

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  6,121 ratings  ·  931 reviews
Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl, and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he’s long since made peace with his path to the American Dream, carefully tucking away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It’s here that Ja
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Amistad
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Black Water Rising, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Brandy B Not with a felony conviction. However, Jay was acquitted so he's fine.…moreNot with a felony conviction. However, Jay was acquitted so he's fine.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,121 ratings  ·  931 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Black Water Rising (Jay Porter #1)
Joe Valdez
Jun 30, 2017 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
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book out of a 'used bin' at the library bookstore for $1, expecting a "hard boiled thriller" in the vein of Dennis Lehane, as the accolades on the back cover promise. Turns out that's pretty far off in terms of a description: a psychological 'whodunnit' this isn't, and neither is it much of a paced thriller - these expectations, I imagine, are what brings the average rating of this book down so low (for GR, a 3.37 ain't good). And yet, the top reviews all give this between 4-5 star ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
4.5 Stars

Man! This book was great!

Black Water Rising has everything; Murder, sex, government corruption, environmental justice, racism and labor relations.

The synopsis on the book jacket doesnt even begin to cover what this book is. Attica Locke's ability to write a completely realistic world is astonishing. I truly felt like I had been dropped into summer in 1980's Houston. Despite reading while it was snowing outside my window, I completely felt the oppressive heat of this book. I could smell
You know when you take that first step forward energized by plain ol' impulse......things will not always work out in your favor.

All Jay Porter wanted was a special night out to celebrate his pregnant wife's birthday. As a sometimes active, and most times inactive, lawyer in a strip mall, Jay's options were limited. Why not a late night cruise on Buffalo Bayou with the one you love? But once they pull up near the dock, the dilapidated boat with an even more dilapidated captain soured the prospec
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Clif Hostetler
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Stacey Peters
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Would recommend to anyone. Try to listen to it. It is read by Dion Graham and he is the best! I would put this book into my category as one I would not like to listen too because the writing is so very good. But, again, Graham is great. I didn't not give it 5 stars because I reserve that for my favorite books. This comes very close. ...more
I read Attica Locke's acclaimed book, Bluebird, Bluebird, in 2017 and promised myself that I would read more. Finally, with Black Water Rising, I'm beginning to fulfill that promise to myself.

This book is actually Locke's first published novel. It came out in 2009 and was nominated for all sorts of awards including the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. The book is set in Locke's hometown of Houston, Texas in 1981. We moved here a few years later and I can attest that her re
This dragged in a few places but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
Jay is a former member of SNCC who gets frustrated and forms a Black Panther style Black Liberation group in the 70's. COINTELPRO begins to convict his friends on trumped up charges, out right murdering Fred Hamilton.
Jay is arrested, beats his charge and goes to law school. 10 years later he's noticing that the few comrades of his that slipped through the government's fingers are still being watched.
Into this tension drops
Monica **can't read fast enough**
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aa-fiction
A good read that felt realistic. I'll be reading more from her. Review to come. ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
good crime mystery.back drop of civilrights movement.
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Linda Robinson
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller, fiction, mystery
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
reading is my hustle
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
3.5 star read rounded up to 4 stars

well-written mystery set in houston w/prime details and tension reflecting the reagan years. houston is mired in trouble with rising oil ("black water") prices & union problems. jay porter is a black attorney who has a radical past & is understandably reluctant to get involved after rescuing a woman & hearing gunshots in the night. he struggles to act even knowing that it is the right thing to do. as jay reckons with past events that have formed his fears & dis
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Moved a little slow, a lot of twists and turns, but a good read. Enjoyed the complexity of the lead character Jay Porter, a man with many demons.
The ending was a little flat, left me wondering what, thats it??? Guess it will pick up in Locke's followup, "Pleasantville".
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.

Andy Weston
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great story set in Houston Texas in the 80s - I had just spent a week there with my brother, so very applicable.
Good strong characters - though it does seem the novel is just getting going at the end!! Maybe there will be a second book?
Ayelet Waldman
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's been a long long time since I read a mystery. Pretty well out of love with the genre, I'm afraid. ...more
Sarah Weathersby
Sep 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Arlene Whitlock
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am so glad to have discovered Attica Locke. In reading her sister Tembi Lockes’s novel From Scratch, I saw on the acknowledgment page Tembi thanking her big sister, Attica , for helping her to write. This was my third book by Attica Locke. I love how her novels have black men at the center of her mysteries. They are positive and multi-dimensional. They are smart; they make mistakes, they hate and they love. Additionally, she paints a host of other characters, white and black, the same way. She ...more
Oct 16, 2011 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 rated it liked it
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
Vicki Seldon
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Oct 06, 2016 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Black Water Rising - Attica Locke - 4 Stars 3 7 Jul 31, 2020 06:58PM  
The Challenge Fac...: Rachel & Sunshine007 - Black Water Rising 3 9 Nov 18, 2016 10:33AM  
THE NAACP IMAGE AWARDS 2010 24 22 Jul 27, 2014 09:05PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Searcher
  • Blacktop Wasteland
  • Winter Counts
  • The Less Dead
  • Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins, #1)
  • Hi Five (IQ, #4)
  • Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy
  • Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale
  • A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water, #1)
  • The Guardians
  • Tell Me Lies
  • One Last Step (Tara Mills Mystery #1)
  • Blood Ties (A Nik Pohl Thriller Book 2)
  • This Is How I Lied
  • Your House Will Pay
  • Among the Ruins (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak, #3)
  • Elena
  • Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie (Susanna, Lady Appleton, #1)
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

Jay Porter (2 books)
  • Pleasantville (Jay Porter, #2)

Related Articles

If you ask us, it's always the perfect time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked the...
145 likes · 96 comments
“I think the hope has always been that you see what you see, and you take us anyway, for who we are,” the Rev says. “Not that we all go around pretending we’re the same. I don’t see how that helps anybody.” Carlisle” 3 likes
“At the Sugar Oaks Plantation, there are lawn jockeys at attention on the clipped lawn in front of the clubhouse. They are not black so much as they are tan—not exactly white, but rather some reassuring shade of brown, the universal color of good service. They are meant as a reminder that somebody, somewhere, is working harder than you.” 2 likes
More quotes…