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Attica Locke is a bit of a rarity. She's an African-American, female novelist from Texas who's made her debut with a big-city crime novel. It's called Black Water Rising, and rarer still, Locke is getting compared to such master thriller writers as Dennis Lehane, the author of Mystic River, and George Pelecanos, who wrote for the HBO series, The Wire.

Locke has already been a successful screenwriter in Los Angeles for more than a decade. But while her scripts got sold they never got made. Partly, this was just because of the cumbersome economics of filmmaking. Partly, it's Hollywood's very limited openness to serious movies about African-Americans.

So Locke decided that this time, she'd write a novel. And she'd set it in Houston in 1981. She was inspired by an incident that happened when she grew up there.

ATTICA LOCKE: "My dad, who did not have a lot of money, wanted to do something for my step-mother, for her birthday. And he knew somebody who knew somebody who ran boat tours on Buffalo Bayou. And you dock in downtown Houston which is kind of, you know, city lights and somewhat picturesque, but the ride takes you into parts of the city that are not so nice."

Somewhere in the darkness, a woman screamed. Then, gunshots. Locke's father did not play hero. He wasn't going to endanger his wife and children by abandoning them to leap unarmed into a swamp at night.

In contrast, in the opening of Black Water Rising, Attica's main character, Jay Porter is in the same situation. But he jumps.
August 6, 2009 9:15 AM |


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