Richmond crime reporter Willie Black accepts a commission to clean up his unknown father’s grave and ends by cleaning up a whole lot more.
Willie’s never known much about Artie Lee, like where he’s buried or when and how he died. So when his cousin Philomena Slade, brought to a hospital she’s clearly not going to leave, says she wants to talk to Willie about his father, he has decidedly mixed emotions. Of course he’s going to do whatever he’s asked by his cousin, one of the few truly decent people in his family tree. But clearing Artie’s plot at Evergreen Cemetery turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg, for Willie can’t rest until he finds out what put his father there in the first place. A series of conversations with the surviving members of the Triple-A’s—Artie’s ancient friends Arthur Meeks and Arkie Bright—reveals mainly that they really don’t want to talk about the one-car encounter with a tree that killed Artie back in 1961, when his son was just learning to walk, and his dying newspaper’s files add precious few details. Willie’s big discovery concerns the aftermath of a Ku Klux Klan rally the year before, when a car bombing killed married police officer Phillip Raynor and his companion, 22-year-old Julia Windham, whom friends said he’d offered shelter from a thunderstorm that the weather pages from that date don’t mention. Unearthing the connection between their murders and Artie’s death six months later would be a challenge under ideal conditions, and Willie’s conditions—working 57 years later under the watchful eye of Benson Stine, yet another know-nothing representative of the conglomerate owner MediaWorld, who loads him with new responsibilities and forbids him to spend any time working on his own concerns during the paper’s time, which is all the time—are anything but ideal.
Middling for a series (Scuffletown, 2019, etc.) whose most distinctive features are its sharp eye for the mixed-race hero’s heavy burdens, including, but not limited to, the decline and fall of print journalism.