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ASH DARK AS NIGHT by Gary Phillips


by Gary Phillips

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2024
ISBN: 9781641294744
Publisher: Soho Crime

The 1965 Watts riots kick off a new series of puzzles and dangers for freelance news photographer Harry Ingram.

When LAPD officers, meeting the violent tide of protests with violence of their own, beat Black activist Faraday Zinum to death, one of the horrified spectators just happens to be Harry, who captures the moment in a photo that gets widely reprinted in both Black- and white-owned newspapers. For his trouble, he’s beaten and arrested, his camera is snatched from him, he’s invited onto Louis E. Lomax’s TV show, and white preservationist Betty Payton hires him to look for her missing friend Mose Tolbert, owner of Restoration Building Supply. Mose’s parlous finances lead Harry to focus on Gavin Rickler, the investor/gambler who owns the upscale Emerald Room but sometimes provides cash to ordinary people, as he evidently did to Mose at the suggestion of Albert Domergue, whose sister, Arlene, keeps the books at Restoration. It’s not giving too much away to say that Harry’s search for Mose is almost totally eclipsed by the criminal malfeasance he unearths along the way. A willingness to break every law in sight unites Robin Hood figures like Harry’s lover, Anita Claire—a field deputy to Councilman Tom Bradley, who together with her parents robs from the rich and donates to organizations that serve the poor—and members of the LAPD, who play a pivotal role in the real-life MacGuffin Harry eventually discovers.

Like Walter Mosley, his obvious model, Phillips is less interested in telling a story than evoking a world—and what a world!