BLACK WATER RISING

Attica Locke

Jay Porter has long since made peace with not living the American Dream. He runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy Houston strip mall—where his most promising client is a low-rent call girl—and he’s determined to leave the sins of his past buried: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him. That is, until the night he saves a woman from drowning and inadvertently opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets reach into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers and ensnare Jay in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family .

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Jay Porter has long since made peace with not living the American Dream. He runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy Houston strip mall—where his most promising client is a low-rent call girl—and he’s determined to leave the sins of his past buried: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him. That is, until the night he saves a woman from drowning and inadvertently opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets reach into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers and ensnare Jay in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family . . . even his life.

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  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • April 2010
  • 448 Pages
  • 9780061735851

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About Attica Locke

Attica Locke is a writer who has worked in both film and television. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has written movie scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, and Jerry Bruckheimer films, as well as television pilots for HBO, Dreamworks, and Silver Pictures. She was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab and is currently at work on an HBO miniseries about the civil rights movement, based on the writings of historian Taylor Branch. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Praise

“[An] atmospheric . . . deeply nuanced story . . . with a serious, stirring moral urgency akin to that of George Pelecanos or Dennis Lehane. . . . As Scott Turow has done, Ms. Locke uses small, incremental deceptions to draw her main character into big and dangerous mistakes . . . Subtle and compelling.”
–New York Times

“Locke deftly moves between past and present action . . . [putting] her in the company of master thriller writers such as Dennis Lehane or Scott Turow. Black Water Rising is a near-perfect balance of trenchant social commentary, rich characterizations, and an action-oriented plot that . . . moves rapidly toward some explosive revelations . . . Attica Locke [is] a writer wise beyond her years.” —Los Angeles Times

“A strong and whip-smart debut from Attica Locke. . . . a compelling mystery . . . The good, the bad, the subtle but relentless humiliation—it’s all vividly there.” —Seattle Times

“Attica Locke is a vivid storyteller. . . .Without pretence, she provides an engaging story about one man’s enduring struggle for justice and equality. It’s a must for your summer reading list.” —Associated Press

Discussion Questions

What do you think Jay’s choice to leave behind the politics of his youth for a shot at economic prosperity says about the larger American culture in 1981?

How does Jay’s struggle to balance his desire for personal success against his commitment to the community reflect upon the challenges for the black middle class today?

What are the ways in which Jay’s marriage to Bernie drives him?

Black Water Rising is brimming with history, both political and personal. What do you think the placement of the flashbacks—when/where/how they are woven into the story—reveals about Jay’s psyche and mental health?

What do you think the longshoremen’s labor fight says about how far the country had come in 1981, in terms of equal rights?

How much of Cynthia’s behavior in the book can be attributed to the fact that she’s desperate to succeed as the city’s first woman mayor? Does that excuse her sometimes despicable behavior? Do you have compassion for the sexism she’s up against as a woman in a position of political power?

Do you think Jay still has feelings for Cynthia? Does she have feelings for him?

Do you think Cynthia set up Jay during their radical student days? If yes, do you think she could have done so and still had genuine affection for Jay? If no, why do you think Jay is so willing to believe that she was capable of such a betrayal?

The story ends with Jay’s decision to take on Cole Industries in court. What do you think happens? Does he win? Does it matter? Is Jay’s willingness to take on the fight more important than any particular outcome?

What do you think Jay would think of the city of Houston now? What would he think about America in the post-Obama years?