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  • Location: Houston

Pleasantville

Pleasantville

Why a Booktrail?

1996: Pleasantville – an African-American neighbourhood in Houston which has swung almost every mayoral election race since 1949. And a place of murder…..

Jay Porter, hero of Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising, returns to fight one last case

  • ISBN: 978-1846689482
  • Genre: Fiction

What you need to know before your trail

Pleasantville, Houston,1996

Bill Clinton has just been re-elected. In Houston a mayoral election is looming and the campaign focuses on Pleasantville – the African-American neighbourhood of the city that has swung almost every race since it was founded to house a growing black middle class in 1949.

Axel Hathorne, former chief of police and the son of Pleasantville’s founding father Sam Hathorne,  is all set to become Houston’s first black mayor. The competition is hotting up when a girl working for Axel is found murdered.  Axel’s nephew is charged with her murder.

This murder case will have repercussions which threatens to blow open the entire community and to reveal the lengths that those with power are willing to go to hold onto it.

Travel Guide

Pleasantville – “a neighbourhood that, when it was built in 1949, had been advertised over the city’s airwaves and in the pages of the Defender and the Sun as the first kind in the nation – “a planned community of new homes, spacious and modern in design and built specifically for Negro families of means and class”

Pleasantville  is a real part of Houston but as the author mentions in her note at the start of the novel, some events and geography have been fictionalised for the sake of a good story. The essence of the place shines through however and the significance of this Houston suburb is well noted –

“Any politician worth his salt knows the road to elected office passes though Pleasantville – Houston Chronicle”

The story takes place in 1996, fifteen years later, after the events of Black Water Rising and Jay Porter, the Houston attorney is back.

It’s not long before Houston had made a mark on the man and he becomes entangled in a web of political corruption and dark secrets that makes himself a target as well. The city has a problem that the new political figures want to change –

“Houston’s crime was as much of a part of its cultural identity as its love of football and line-dancing, barbecue and big hair, a permanent fixture no matter the state of the local economy or the face in the mayor’s office”

Alicia Nowell is the third girl from the community to go missing in the past few years. There may be a danger in Pleasantville and one getting closer to home.

“This neighborhood has been slowly changing since the death of Jim Crow in ‘Black Water rising’. Black people are changing too and they are seeing more opportunities than ever before. But the city is damaged” –

(There was) the widespread fear that Houston would never pull out of the shadow of the oil bust that had decimated its economy in the 80s, wounding its diamond-crested pride, until it got its crime situation under control.

Booktrailer Review

Susan:

Some knowledge of local American politics will help with this tangled thriller but if you know nothing at all, you soon will for the landscape is bumpy and you get one heck of a ride.

I loved how the language and the nuances of the African American way of speaking which has no doubt developed over the years and describes the nuances of the city in unusual yet very distinctive ways –“It’s a place where the smoking of meat is holy, and cleanliness is next to whatever comes way after beer and football, a place where men and dogs are welcome.”

I got fully involved with the people and politics of Pleasantville and was fully alert during the gripping courtroom scenes. An interesting mystery based on the true history of a Houston suburb and the star of the story in its own right.

Gritty and a good examination of American politics with murder at its core.

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