Thursday, February 25, 2016

"The Red Storm"

Grant Bywaters's The Red Storm won the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel Competition. He applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
If you were to open up to page 69 you would find my detective, William Fletcher, in a lot of trouble. So much that his cop acquaintance Brawley is telling him he needs to lawyer up. It is an important scene because it gives insight into how a black detective in the 1930s uses his resources to get important connections which allows him to do his job while staying out of jail or worse.

From page 69:
“Get over to City Hall. Emerson wants to see you. You might want to bring that hotshot mouthpiece of yours, too.”

Brawley was referring to Jim Prescott, who was representing me. My previous lawyer and good friend, Jean Fisher, had been murdered less than a year ago, shot coming out of court with a not-guilty verdict for a colored man accused of rape. When the American Bar Association would not allow Fisher, and any other colored, for that matter, to be a member, he joined the National Bar Association in the late twenties. It was Fisher that retained me to do legal assistant work for him, which included finding witnesses, interviewing, conducting legal research, and performing other activities Fisher did not have the time to do. He was directly responsible for my current profession. Fisher also helped push for me to get licensed.

I had been forwarded to Prescott after Fisher’s murder. Prescott was gracious enough to take me on as a client, and charged me a fraction of what his normal fee would be, perhaps because Prescott had been good friends with Fisher as well, but I think it was predominantly because of the pro bono work I do for him. I had located enough key witnesses when he needed them for him to realize I would be no use to him in jail.

And it seems that’s what it always came down to. You had to make yourself look irreplaceable enough with the right people. It made no difference if this was true or not, as long as they believed it to be so. Prescott knew how to work the legal system, no matter how crooked it could be, and without his counsel, I’d have been in jail over a trumped-up charge long ago.
Learn more about The Red Storm at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue