Friday, September 23, 2016

#FridayReads : A Black Sail by Rich Zahradnik

A Black Sail by Rich Zahradnik is book three of a mystery series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor, set on the mean streets of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in the ’70s. It is a new release from Camel Press and is available in print, e-book and audio.

On the eve of the U.S. Bicentennial, Taylor is covering Operation Sail, and  New York Harbor is teeming with tall ships from all over the world. While enjoying the spectacle, Taylor is still a police reporter. He wants to cover real stories, not fluff, and gritty New York City still has plenty of those in July of 1976. One surfaces right in front of him when a housewife is fished out of the harbor wearing bricks of heroin, inferior stuff users have been rejecting for China White, peddled by the Chinatown gangs. Convinced he’s stumbled upon a drug war between the Italian Mafia and a Chinese tong, Taylor uses every spare minute to investigate.

This story resonated with me on several levels. First off, it is a terrific mystery with just the right amount of drama and intrigue to carry the reader along. I also love history, so the historical elements were interesting. I experienced the Bicentennial while busy raising kids, so I wasn't aware of how it was celebrated across the country, which made it more fun to find out about Operation Sail and the ships that came to New York from around the world. The author does a nice job of blending that history with the story, so none of it is intrusive. It just adds the flavor of the period.

Also, as a journalist, I could really relate to Taylor and his desire to write a really great story. The glimpse into the inner workings of the newspaper business took me back to the years I worked for that arm of the publishing world, and it was a nice visit. It was also nice to remember the time when journalists reported the news and not every reporter sensationalized every story.

I saw Taylor as a bit of an idealist - something else we have in common - and I liked the fact that he was compelled to try to help a young woman who was new to the drug scene. Mary had given him some information that helped in his investigation, and she ends up in danger. He manages to get her out of that danger, but he doesn't want her to go back on the street.

As he's considering whether he should try to help her, he thinks about an addict he helped before and wonders if he can help this one. But he knows how hard that will be. "Prying an addict from the spike in her arm was a serious battle, a full-time project."

With the help of his girlfriend Samantha, Taylor manages to at least get Mary to a halfway house where she can take the first step towards getting clean.

Samantha also helps Taylor in the investigation, and I liked her character very much. She is a good counter-point to Taylor's idealism, as well as bringing her skills as a police officer to his efforts to find out who is bringing China White into the country.

BUY LINKS  - Amazon  *  BN  *  Indiebound  *  Kindle  *  Audio/Downpour

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches kids how to publish online and print newspapers.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR  Website  *  Facebook  *  Twitter


Reviewed by Maryann Miller

13 comments :

  1. Historical mysteries are among my favorites due to the insight into different times and places and methods of investigation.

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  2. I've been enjoying them, too, for the same reasons, Diana. And it is a real treat to learn something new about a period of time in which you lived.

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  3. What an intriguing plot! I'm especially interested in the "voice" of an author who is also a journalist. Is it difficult to let go of the impartiality, or do you really get into the opportunity to flesh out characters and scenarios?

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    1. Great question Audrey. I wrote an earlier novel that never sold because the voice was too journalistic. I had to work hard at creating a novelist's voice so I could bring color and emotion, flesh and bones to the story.

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    2. It took me quite a few tries to switch from writing as a reporter and feature writer to writing fiction. My critique group kept commenting that I was "telling" the story, and at first my response was, "Of course, that's what I do." I never said it aloud though, and finally one member, Laura Castoro, showed me the difference between writing a good feature story and writing good fiction. She sat down with me and and one of my scenes and showed me how to make it fiction. She is still a good friend and mentor, and I am so thankful that she took the time to help.

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  4. I used to be a journalist too, and I think that's one reason I love historical fiction - all the research involved to make you feel like you were there, whereas journalism is fiction in a hurry. Interesting backdrop for a story. I was 13 in 1976, now it seems so long ago...

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    1. It was a long time ago, Cara. LOL I think those of us who started in journalism never lost that urge to research to find the story.

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    2. Cara, I was 16 and lived north of New York in 1976, so thought, how much research will I really need to do. A lot!

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  5. Very nice review. The story is right up my alley: crime, drugs, murder, New York, and the 70s, a period I know well.

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  6. Historical fiction sits high on my list of reads I enjoy. Although the thought of '76 being historical hadn't previously entered my mind, I do like the idea or being able to relate to the period of the story. Great review, Maryann. This is a story I'd like to read.

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  7. Historical fiction sits high on my list of reads I enjoy. Although the thought of '76 being historical hadn't previously entered my mind, I do like the idea or being able to relate to the period of the story. Great review, Maryann. This is a story I'd like to read.

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    1. Same here, Linda. I mean I lived through the 70s. How can it be historical? But you count back the years and it's 40 gone by. It wasn't until the book was done and out I realized it was historical crime (among other things).

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    2. I found it interesting that when I did my mystery, Boxes For Beds, set in the 60s, some people said that was not long enough past to be called historical. I still refer to it as historical, though.

      And it is weird to write about a time you lived through and have it dubbed as historical. Does that mean we are? Perhaps hysterical. LOL

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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