The Philadelphia Quarry

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Overview

Willie finds himself in Richmond at the Quarry, where Alicia Parker Simpson identified Richard Slade as her rapist twenty-eight years ago. Five days after DNA evidence freed Slade from the prison system in which he had spent his adult life, Alicia Simpson was found shot to death. Most people believe that Slade did it, but Willie has his doubts. And when the city's old money tries to crush the story, he is even more determined to chase what always seems to get him into trouble: the truth, which draws him back to ...

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The Philadelphia Quarry

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Overview

Willie finds himself in Richmond at the Quarry, where Alicia Parker Simpson identified Richard Slade as her rapist twenty-eight years ago. Five days after DNA evidence freed Slade from the prison system in which he had spent his adult life, Alicia Simpson was found shot to death. Most people believe that Slade did it, but Willie has his doubts. And when the city's old money tries to crush the story, he is even more determined to chase what always seems to get him into trouble: the truth, which draws him back to the Quarry, where it all started and in whose murky waters the truth lies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Richmond, Va., reporter Willie Black proves himself a dogged, flawed, and tarnished knight of the Fourth Estate in Owen’s strong if less accomplished sequel to 2012’s Oregon Hill, a Hammett Prize finalist. DNA evidence establishes the innocence of Richard Slade, who has served 27 years for the rape of Alicia Parker Simpson, who was just 16 at the time of the crime. Simpson, a member of a wealthy white family, identified Slade, a poor 17-year-old black, as her attacker. As Willie puts it, “When it came time to step up for Richard Slade, everybody stepped back.” Slade has a brief taste of freedom before he’s arrested for the shooting death of Simpson. Willie, hard-drinking, thrice divorced, and debt-ridden, has an unquenchable thirst for truth that drives him to prevent a second miscarriage of justice. Along the way, he uncovers a Greek tragedy’s worth of murky relationships. Owen has a knack for creating quirky but credible characters, from homeless “Awesome Dude” to Simpson’s aristocratic older sister, Lewis Witt. (July)
Library Journal
When DNA proves that an innocent man has spent over 25 years wrongfully imprisoned for rape, crime reporter Willie Black shows up to witness Richard Slade's release from prison. Richard is more than a story; he and Willie are cousins. Now, less than a week after Richard is released, Alicia Simpson, who had identified Richard as her rapist, is shot dead. Richard is picked up right away, and the police aren't interested in looking any further. Luckily for Richard, Alicia's friend tells Willie about a journal that will reveal all. Willie carries plenty of his own baggage—he's a drunk and a father atoning for lost time. But when the powers of old-money Richmond tell him to drop the story, Willie pushes back for truth. VERDICT Owen is particularly good at character development and takes a familiar race and class struggle plot to a new level. His second entry featuring crime reporter Willie Black (after the Hammett Prize finalist Oregon Hill) is a stellar mystery deserving of a wide readership.
Kirkus Reviews
Owen's (Oregon Hill, 2012, etc.) hard-drinking Richmond reporter Willie Black has an inside track on a blockbuster crime story that's "red meat for the on-the-airheads." Richard Slade, a 17-year-old African-American, spent three decades incarcerated for the 1983 rape of debutante Alicia Parker Simpson, daughter of an old-money Commonwealth Club family. It was a he said, she said case relegated to an incompetent public defender. Slade ended up in prison. Now Slade is proven innocent by DNA technology. Free only days, Slade is jailed again, charged with Simpson's murder. It's another quixotic case for Willie Black, the perfect flawed hero, too often with the bottle, too often defying his bosses. Willie long ago lost a prime beat and was shuffled to night duty, but when an innocent guy takes the fall, Willie thinks first with his wrong-side-of-town, chip-on-the-shoulder mindset. Owen's secondary characters are superb. Kate, an attorney and Willie's ex-wife No. 3, allows Willie to rent her Prestwould condo and keeps him out of court when he picks up a DUI. She's also on Slade's case, seconding spotlight-hound Marcus Green, eager to prove "the racist system can't do it." Willie's marijuana-loving mother, Peggy, reappears, as does venerable Clara Westbrook, one of the Richmond elite and now a resident of Prestwould. Peggy offhandedly reveals that Willie and Slade are distantly related through Willie's light-skinned African-American father, and Clara gives him the down low on Alicia's society-maven sister and schizophrenic brother. Against a backdrop of advertising-suppressed investigative print journalism, Owen uses race and class, coupled with a Faulkner-ian family tragedy, to provide a powerful narrative engine. While the complex noir drama keeps the pages turning, crime-fiction buffs might identify the actual rapist early in the narrative, but the murderer and motivation complete the storyline perfectly. A quick-flowing crime drama that will have fans eager for Willie Black to right another injustice.
Library Journal, Starred Review - Teresa Jacobsen
"Owen is particularly good at character development and takes a familiar race and class struggle plot to a new level. His second entry featuring crime reporter Willie Black (after the Hammett Prize finalist Oregon Hill) is a stellar mystery deserving of a wide readership."
Booklist - Michele Lieber
"Narrator Willie, who charmed readers in Oregon Hill (2012), is a hard drinking, old-style newsman who still takes notes with pen and pad and takes his chances with the powers-that-be to get at the truth. A well-plotted mystery elevated above the norm by Owen's mastery of character development and his creation of a compelling hero."
Kirkus - Kirkus Reviews
"Against a backdrop of advertising-suppressed investigative print journalism, Owen uses race and class, coupled with a Faulkner-ian family tragedy, to provide a powerful narrative engine. While the complex noir drama keeps the pages turning, the murderer and motivation complete the storyline perfectly. A quick-flowing crime drama that will have fans eager for Willie Black to right another injustice."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579623357
  • Publisher: Permanent Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/28/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Owen grew up near Fayetteville, North Carolina. He and his wife, Karen, live in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is his 11th novel. His earlier works include, in addition to Oregon Hill, Littlejohn, Fat Lightning, rock of Ages, and the Reckoning.

Willie Black first appeared in a short story, The Thirteenth Floor, which was part of Richmond Noir.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Willie Black works the night cop beat at a Richmond Virginia new

    Willie Black works the night cop beat at a Richmond Virginia newspaper, where technology and the economy's downturn combine to darken his prospects. He and his colleagues await the day when they’ll be told to clear out their desks, but surely there’s still a place for honest reporting and investigation; it’s just hard persuading those paying the bills that real news shouldn’t be silenced.

    Howard Owen’s The Philadelphia Quarry is his second Willie Black novel. Favorite characters are back, but readers really don’t need to have met them before; the story stands alone as a fast-flowing, deeply evocative, character driven mystery, with just occasional enticing reminders of what has gone before.

    A black man is released from jail after DNA evidence overturns his conviction for rape. But the victim’s family carries lots of weight in town and on the newspaper. When questions are asked about the past, the powers that be go to great lengths to silence them. Meanwhile Richard Slade is arrested again for another crime, and Willie finds himself teamed with his ex-wife, searching for evidence to support his growing belief in the other man’s innocence. The paper’s somewhat racist opinion columns make Willie’s welcome on the wrong side of town rather uneasy. But Willie Black has secrets and sources of his own.

    A modern noir mystery with convincing characters, evocative locations, and a wonderful feel for the changing world of news, The Philadelphia Quarry offers a plot that’s neither overly complex nor too simple, while exploring the relationships of parents and children through families rich and poor, black and white, and in-between.



    Disclosure: I received a free bound galley of this novel from the publisher with a request for an honest review.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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