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Black Water Rising

(Jay Porter #1)

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  5,392 ratings  ·  829 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
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by HarperAudio
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Brandy B Not with a felony conviction. However, Jay was acquitted so he's fine.
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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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
Feb 01, 2017 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
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
Jan 31, 2016 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.
Stacey Peters
Apr 23, 2010 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
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
Clif Hostetler
Feb 23, 2012 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
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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**
A good read that felt realistic. I'll be reading more from her. Review to come.
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
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
good crime mystery.back drop of civilrights movement.
Mar 01, 2015 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
Linda Robinson
Jul 23, 2016 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
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.

May 20, 2017 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
Andy Weston
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
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.
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  ·  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
Vicki Seldon
Nov 29, 2015 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
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.
Ayelet Waldman
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long long time since I read a mystery. Pretty well out of love with the genre, I'm afraid.
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
Thomas DeWolf
Apr 05, 2016 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.
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
My thoughts:
This was a very solid debut book!!! I enjoyed reading this, as it brought to mind the reasons why I used to read Grisham's earlier works. Some have compared this author to Lehane and Turrow, but not having read either one I can only compare the author's writing to Grisham. I love the little guy versus the big bad corporations and corrupt politicians scenario. Another aspect that I enjoyed was the mini-history lesson on civil rights and the grittier, more violent side of the activists
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost a 5.

Excellent plot, context and characterizations.

Houston and Attica Locke- I am a huge fan.
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THE NAACP IMAGE AWARDS 2010 24 22 Jul 27, 2014 09:05PM  

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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

Other books in the series

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

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