Sunday 4 October 2015

You should be reading Attica Locke: Review by Kathleen Bell of Attica Locke’s novels

Attica Locke
“You should be reading Attica Locke”

I discovered her novels this summer. The first two – Black Water Rising and The Cutting Season – kept me awake. I needed to know what happens next. The third, Pleasantville, must wait until I can afford a couple of sleepless nights.

Attica Locke writes thrillers. But her novels are more than that. They explore the very recent past but also a deeper, troubling history. Jay Porter, the lead character in Black Water Rising, cannot escape the damage and injustice he and his comrades suffered during the Civil Rights movement. Caren Gray in The Cutting Season, manages a southern plantation which is romanticised for modern tourists, but the six surviving slave-huts remind her that her ancestors were once “owned,” and later controlled, by the rich white people who possessed the estate.

Both novels do what good thrillers must: they tell a gripping story and create suspense. They do more than that too. Thrillers are always concerned with uncovering a secret which matters to the characters in the novel. But these thrillers also uncover secrets which matter to us all, and which challenge the comforting stories about our world’s history.

The main characters Attica Locke has created are not perfect human beings or simple victims. They are people who are complex and sometimes inconsistent – as most people are. They make decisions which are sometimes wrong. While they are affected by historical oppression, they are also capable of standing up for what is right – but they know the cost  may be heavy and that it may also be borne by those they love most. As readers we are drawn in by the agonising choices they are forced to make.

If you like thrillers, and if you care about people and history, read Attica Locke. You won’t be disappointed.

About the reviewer
Kathleen Bell is a poet and fiction-writer whose recent pamphlet at the memory exchange is published by Oystercatcher. She is a Principal Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University.

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