Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Black Stiletto

The Black Stiletto

4.6 7
by Raymond Benson

See All Formats & Editions

Could Martin Talbot's elderly, Alzheimer-stricken mother, Judy, really have been the Black Stiletto? When Martin discovers several volumes of her diaries hidden by his mother, he is stunned beyond all imagination. His mother, the underground heroine of yesteryear? The famed ,still unidentified woman who battled Communist spies, took on the Mafia, and preyed on common


Could Martin Talbot's elderly, Alzheimer-stricken mother, Judy, really have been the Black Stiletto? When Martin discovers several volumes of her diaries hidden by his mother, he is stunned beyond all imagination. His mother, the underground heroine of yesteryear? The famed ,still unidentified woman who battled Communist spies, took on the Mafia, and preyed on common crooks? The woman who exacted punishment on evildoers without mercy? But it is all described, in great detail, in the diaries. What caused her to begin her quest for justice. Her decision to act outside the law. Her feats as the famed and feared vigilante. How her reputation exploded. In short, how it all played out. Could it be true? Talbot is filled with doubt and disbelief. But the reappearance of one of the Stiletto's old enemies with a thirst for merciless revenge makes the story more than real and could imperil the life of not only the Stiletto, but her son and granddaughter as well.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The appeal in this series-opener lies in the transformation of Judy Cooper into 'an international icon of feminist strength and power' who assumes near-mythic proportions. Prolific crime-fiction writer Benson captures the style of a young woman's diary and moves with ease between time periods in this comic book-like novel of nonstop action. Prime escapism." - Booklist Starred Review

"Irresistible: Suppose you found out--just too late--that your mother had been a superhero crime fighter. What would you do? Sit back, take a deep breath, and let Raymond Benson tell you." -- --LEE CHILD, New York Times best selling author of the Jack Reacher thrillers

“A thriller that brilliantly succeeds at that most difficult of authorial endeavors: blending the past and the present into a single compelling story. Filled with cutting-edge suspense, wry humor and heart-wrenching warmth, not to mention great period detail, Black Stiletto will grab you instantly and simply not let go until the final page—no, make that the final page. - Jeffery Deaver, New York Times best-selling author

Library Journal
Imagine waking up to discover that your Alzheimer's-striken mom had been an action figure. That's the fate of Martin Talbot, who unearths a 1958 diary kept by his mother. A New York street vigilante in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Judy Talbot later inspired a comic book series and an Angelina Jolie movie, as well as the action figure. Most of Benson's (James Bond: Choice of Weapons) thriller excerpts Judy's diary detailing her attempts, devoid of superhuman powers (à la Batman), to teach herself boxing and karate, as well as to wield the weapon that provides her crime-fighting name, the Black Stiletto; she's equally adept in stiletto heels and sews her own threads, one set for summer and another for winter. Interspersed are less interesting sections about Martin's life and a subplot dealing with a Mafia hit man whose brother had been killed by the Black Stiletto and, after 52 years in stir, is out to get her. VERDICT This mashup of the work of Gloria Steinem, Ian Fleming, and Mario Puzo, all under the editorship of Stan Lee, will appeal to fans of comic books and the movie Kick-Ass.—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO

Product Details

Oceanview Publishing
Publication date:
Black Stiletto Series , #1
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Black Stiletto

The First Diary â" 1958 A Novel

By Raymond Benson

Oceanview Publishing

Copyright © 2011 Raymond Benson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60809-020-4



The Present

My mother was the masked vigilante known as the Black Stiletto.

I just found this out today, and I've been her son for forty-eight years. All my life I knew she had some secrets, but needless to say, this is a bit of a shock.

At first I thought it was joke. I mean, come on. My mother? A costumed crusader? Yeah, tell me another one. And the Black Stiletto, of all people? No one in a million years would believe it. I'm not sure I do, and here I am being presented with hard evidence.

The Black Stiletto. One of the most famous persons on the planet.

And she's slowly dying. In a nursing home.

Oh. My. God.

I really don't know how I'm supposed to react to this.

It was sure something I didn't expect when I was called to Uncle Thomas's office this fine May afternoon. He's not really my uncle; just a friend of the family. I suspect he was my mom's lover at some point when I was a kid, but they remained friendly and then later he acted as her estate attorney. You see, my mom — Judy Talbot — is seventy-two years old and she's got Alzheimer's. It's a terrible disease and it hit her hard and fast. It didn't creep up on her like it does with most victims. It was almost as if she was okay one day, and then a couple of years later she couldn't remember my name. Within five years of the onset of her illness, I had to put her into Woodlands North. An unpleasant but necessary thing to do; and I couldn't have done it without Uncle Thomas. The ironic thing is that she's somewhat okay physically. She was always in pretty good shape, even with all the drinking and depression. Then one day her mind shut down and she was no longer able to take care of herself. What bodily ailments she has now are simply due to atrophy from being held prisoner in a nursing home for the last two years. Yes, she's dying, and it's going to be slow and terrible. Her doctors don't know how long it will take. It could be years, it could be a few months. One never knows with Alzheimer's.

Uncle Thomas's office is in Arlington Heights, Illinois. That's a northwestern suburb of Chicago. I grew up there. I lived with my mom in a house near the downtown area, where we would catch a commuter train if we wanted to go into the big city.

Downtown Arlington Heights used to be a funky, quaint little place, certainly not much to talk about when I was a kid growing up in the sixties and seventies. Today they've built it up and made it more of a nightlife destination with movie theaters, trendy restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. But I don't live there anymore.

I live a little farther north in a suburb called Buffalo Grove. I'm a single dad. My daughter lives with her mother — my ex-wife — in Lincolnshire. All these places are close together. So it's not much of a schlep to see Uncle Thomas, or to visit my mom at Woodlands, which is in Riverwoods. And I do it. Visit my mom, that is. At least once a week. Aside from my daughter who sometimes visits her, I'm all she has — even though most of the time now she doesn't know who I am.

Janie, Uncle Thomas's secretary, welcomed me warmly when I walked into the office. We exchanged brief pleasantries and then she said I could go on in. I found him at his desk studying a pile of legal documents. Uncle Thomas is around my mother's age and still works eight hours a day, seven days a week. He looked up at me, smiled, and stood. We greeted each other, shook hands, and then he told me to have a seat. He walked around the desk and shut the door so we could have some privacy.

"So what's up?" I asked him. He had been fairly mysterious on the phone.

"Martin, I have some things I'm supposed to give you." He gestured to his desk and indicated a small metal strongbox, the kind used to hold files or valuables. Next to it was a nine by twelve envelope with my name and address typed on it.

"What is it?"

"It's from your mother." When I furrowed my brow, he continued. "She set this up a long time ago. Fifteen years ago, to be precise. In the event that she died or became incapacitated, I was supposed to see that you got these things. This letter and this strongbox."

"Where have they been all this time?" I asked.

"I've had them in safekeeping. In trust, so to speak."

"Do you know what's in them?"

"No, Martin, I don't. Your mother was very clear about the contents being private and confidential. I've debated with myself for a while when I should release them to you. I suppose it's time I stop the denial and admit your mother is indeed incapacitated. She will never recover from that horrible disease unless some kind of miracle cure is discovered, and the chances of that happening in her lifetime are unlikely. So, here you are. Sorry I've waited so long."

I wasn't upset with him. I understood his dilemma, but I was more concerned and curious about the stuff on the desk. What could she have possibly deemed so secretive?

"Well, let's see it." I held out my hand and he gave me the envelope first. It felt as if it contained a letter, certainly, and something metal and slightly heavy — a key to the strongbox perhaps? I opened the envelope and sure enough, a small key dropped into my lap. I picked it up and put it aside for the time being. I took out the letter and read it.

I recognized the typeface as belonging to an old electric typewriter we once had in the house. She had hand-dated the letter and signed the bottom — "Judith May Talbot."

I had to read it three times before I could comprehend what she had written.

Uncle Thomas watched me eagerly. "You don't have to tell me what it says if you don't want to," he prompted. He was obviously dying to know.

For several moments I sat in the chair dumbfounded. I wanted to laugh. In fact, I did laugh, I think. I asked Uncle Thomas if it was a joke. He replied that it wasn't and then queried why I would ask that.

"Never mind," I answered.

I read the letter again. Shook my head.

It was a confession. In it, my mother admitted her name was really Judith May Cooper and that she was the Black Stiletto. She had kept this secret to herself since the sixties, when she retired her costume, changed her name, and tried to lead a normal life. She anticipated my skepticism and explained that the contents of the strongbox would lead me to the proof. She also granted me the rights to her life story. In short, she was leaving it up to me whether or not I reveal her secret to the world.

I folded the letter and stuffed it back into the envelope. Then I nodded at the strongbox. "Let's see that." Uncle Thomas handed it to me, and I used the little key to unlock it. I wasn't sure if I wanted him to see what was inside, and he sensed it.

"Maybe I should step outside?" he asked.

"Would you mind, Uncle Thomas?"

"Not at all, Martin. Just call me if you need me."

He left the room and shut the door. I opened the lid and found a folded piece of paper, three keys on a ring, and some other trinkets. I removed and unfolded the paper, revealing a floor plan of some kind. I studied it for a few seconds and then realized it was the floor plan of our basement. In the house where I grew up. Where no one has lived for the past two years. It's been on the market, but nobody was remotely interested in buying it. The real estate agent, Mrs. Reynolds, kept making the same old excuses — it's a bad market, it's the economy, the house needs fixing up, and so on.

So what were the keys for? Two of them were grey and appeared suitable for unlocking doors. The third was small and gold colored.

I looked at the floor plan again and then noticed a room that wasn't supposed to be there.

Hold on.

A wall separated the basement from that new space — a wall I never knew I could go through. The floor plan indicated there was a door in it. I'd never seen a door there. One or two of the keys must unlock it. And if that was true, what was the gold key for?

Even more puzzling were the other items, which I picked up and examined, one by one.

A heart-shaped locket on a chain, silver-plated, I think.

A Kennedy/Johnson campaign button, from 1960.

And a small canister containing a reel of 8-mm film.

I quickly put everything back into the strongbox, stood, and carried it to the outer office. Uncle Thomas was by the coffee-machine and Janie was still at her desk.

"All done?" he asked.

"Yeah. Um, thanks."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"I don't know yet."

"You look a little pale. Is something wrong? What was in there, Martin? I assure you, as your mother's attorney, I —"

"I know. I appreciate it. I may consult you. I just need to process this. I'll call you later, okay?"

"Sure, Martin. Would you like a drink of water?"

I took him up on that.

The three-bedroom ranch house was a prewar affair on Chestnut that had seen better days. In 1970 I'm sure it was probably pretty nice. That was when my mom and I moved in. I was eight years old. Prior to that we had been all over. I was born in Los Angeles, but for the first few years of my life we were living on the road. I don't remember much of it, but I do have fleeting memories of traveling in a car, stopping in lots of hotels, living in apartments here and there, and finally coming to Illinois. I do recall we were in a small apartment in Arlington Heights before we moved into the house, and I distinctly recollect the day mom took me to see it. She picked me up at school — second grade — and said she had a surprise for me. We rode in her dumpy '64 Bonneville and there it was. A real house.

Unfortunately, Mom wasn't the best homemaker in the world. She didn't spend much time cleaning it or maintaining it properly. I didn't notice how much it had gone into decline until after I'd graduated from high school, gone away to college, and come back for a visit in the early eighties. By then, mom had started drinking more than usual. She seemed okay, though. She wasn't a drunk, at least not around me. There wasn't much I could do about it. But she still worked out and went on her runs and looked fit. Mom always had a punching bag hanging from the basement ceiling and, I swear, every day of her life she went down and beat on it for a half hour. She may have been an alcoholic and all that, but it didn't stop her from keeping her body toned.

As I visualized her slamming that punching bag over and over, day after day, I realized maybe this Black Stiletto stuff wasn't all horseshit.

At any rate, I drove straight to the house from Uncle Thomas's office. The FOR SALE sign was still in the front yard. It appeared that Mrs. Reynolds had replaced it recently. The last one was old and rusty, having been out there for a couple of years.

Yeah, the place was ugly. It needed a paint job in the nineties and here it was 2010. The real estate company took care of keeping the grass cut, but there were weeds everywhere. The shutters on the windows were broken. There were holes in the roof. Squatters wouldn't want to stay there. It was no wonder it hadn't sold. I really needed to get off my ass and hire someone to do some work.

I used my own key to get in the front door. The place smelled like mildew in that way old houses do. It was completely empty, for we'd moved out most of the furniture and Mom's stuff long ago. There was nothing in it but the soiled carpet and a chair or two.

Mrs. Reynolds kept some tools in the kitchen, so I grabbed a flashlight before going downstairs. The basement was dark, cold, and dank. I switched on the single bulb in the ceiling and found what appeared to be animal droppings on the concrete floor. Squirrels, probably; hopefully not rats. There were a few empty cardboard boxes lying around. Mom's punching bag was still hanging there in the middle of the room. I made my way to the wall in question and examined it. Looked to me like an ordinary wall made of, well, concrete. It was part of the foundation, directly under the stairs. There wasn't a door. I couldn't see anything except two blotches of caulk. One was eye level and the other a few feet below that. They seemed old and dry and completely flush with the concrete. I reached out to touch one and I felt some give. Using my fingertips, I pulled it away from the wall — it was actually a piece of hinged plaster! The caulked spots were really little covers built into the wall. And behind them were keyholes.

I quickly got the keys out of the strongbox and stuck one in the top lock. It turned easily. The second grey key worked, too, and as soon as the door unlocked, the frame seemed to pop out of the wall a quarter-inch, allowing me to pull it open with my fingertips.

I must have stopped breathing when I aimed the flashlight inside the small, closet-like space.

Hanging on the back wall were two costumes. Easily recognizable ones. Two sets of the most famous costume in the world, I dare say.

The Black Stiletto.

I stepped inside and touched them.

In both cases, the pants and jacket were made of thin black leather. One outfit was made of thicker material than the other, but was basically the same. Knee-high black boots stood on the floor beneath them. A knapsack lay beside the boots. The single mask was a half-hood with holes for the eyes, but tome it always resembled those kinky S&M things you see in sex shops. The Black Stiletto sure had that dominatrix thing going for her, and that was way before that kind of imagery was in popular media.

The legendary knife — the stiletto — was in its sheath and mounted on the wall next to the costume.

Amazing. Totally mind-boggling.

Sitting on shelves built into the side of the closet were stacks of newspapers, photographs, and comic books preserved inside plastic bags. Black Stiletto comic books — not a lot, but some of the very first ones. Worth quite a bit now, I suspect. She must have bought them when they first came out.

On another shelf was a holster with a gun inside. I picked it up and inspected it. I don't know much about guns, but I knew it was a semiautomatic of some kind. A Smith &Wesson, according to what was engraved on its side. Boxes of ammunition sat next to it on the shelf.

And then there were the little books. Diaries. A whole set of them. Each one was labeled with a year, starting with 1958.

Holy shit!

What had I just discovered? What had my dear mother left me?

Who the fuck was my mother?

I grabbed the first diary and went upstairs. I needed some air. This was all too much to swallow.

Outside, I sat on the wooden front porch and held the book in my hands. What was I going to learn from reading it? The truth about my father, perhaps? Mom had always told me his name was Richard Talbot and that he'd died early on in the Vietnam War. I never knew him. The really odd thing about it was there were no pictures of him in the house — ever. I don't even know what he looked like. When I asked my mom about it when I was teenager, she simply said she couldn't bear to look at his face after he'd died. She'd gotten rid of all his photos. I asked her about his family — my grandparents or any uncles, aunts, or cousins on his side — and she replied that there weren't any. The same with her own family. We were all alone.

I accepted all that as gospel.

I flipped through the diary, afraid to start reading.

My mom was the Black Stiletto.

I still couldn't wrap my brain around it. This was big. It was bigger than anything I could imagine. It was tantamount to finding out the truth behind JFK's assassination or the identity of the Green River Killer. The Black Stiletto was a world-famous legend, an international icon of feminist strength and power. And no one knew who she really was except the Stiletto herself. And now me.

Her existence had become the stuff of myths, just like that pin-up model Bettie Page, who had posed for underground nude photographs and films in the fifties and then dropped out of sight. In the eighties and nineties, pop culture had "rediscovered" Page and her images sprouted everywhere — even though the woman herself was nowhere to be found. The media exploited Page's likeness without her permission through movies, comics, and magazines — and then she finally made herself known. The elderly former model had been living quietly in seclusion, completely unaware of the attention she'd been getting until a friend pointed it out to her. Only in the last years of her life did Page see any profit from the use of her youthful image.

The same thing had happened to the Black Stiletto.


Excerpted from The Black Stiletto by Raymond Benson. Copyright © 2011 Raymond Benson. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Best-selling author Raymond Benson is the author of 31 published books. He is most well-known for being the official James Bond 007 continuation author between 1996 and 2002 and for his Black Stiletto novels. Benson lives in the Chicago area.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Black Stiletto 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
MeteorFlower More than 1 year ago
Raymond Benson came to me in June and told me about The Black Stiletto. He showed me the promo video for it and he asked me to review it. After I checked out the video, I had to read it! I love novels with strong female leads. I was NOT disappointed! This book was an amazing read and it kept me up long after my bedtime with a book light because I was dying to find out what happened next. It has all the complexity of a novel with all the action of a comic book. Raymond tells the origin story of The Black Stiletto through Judy’s diary, which is narrated by Judy herself. We are stopped every now and then by Martin, her son who is reading the diary and then a third narrator joins the bunch in Roberto Ranelli, a ghost from Judy’s past who just got paroled from Sing-Sing after 52 years with revenge on his mind. The characters aren’t all that draw you into the world of The Black Stiletto, the description does as well. The fight scenes, building and interior descriptions all make you feel like you’re a part of Judy’s world. Raymond even goes as far as to mention street names as Judy is traveling so it feels highly credible. The reader will find themselves as shocked as Martin was that little old Judy Talbot who is now in a rest home with Alzheimer’s was learning karate and boxing in the 50’s. I’m not even going to try to compare her to any other comic book character or movie superhero out there. She stands on her own as one of my favorites and while it took me a long time to post this review, I have been anxiously awaiting book two the whole time. I can’t thank Raymond Benson and Oceanview Publishing enough for introducing me to The Black Stiletto and for the ARC copy. It in no way influenced my review.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Martin Talbot is an accountant with an ex-wife, a daughter that wants to be an actor instead of getting a business degree, and a mother with Alzheimer’s. He gets a call from his mother’s lawyer. The attorney tells him that his mother wanted him to have an envelope and locked box if she passed away or if she became incapacitated. Martin opens the envelope and box and learns that his mother was The Black Stiletto. He goes to their old house and finds a secret room in the basement with her costume, newspaper and magazine clipping, other Black Stiletto memorabilia, and a collection of diaries. Martin starts reading and gets sucked into her story. The book starts with the past and the year 1958. Judy Cooper grew up in Texas with her mother and two brothers. Her father died during the war and her mother remarried Douglas, a roughneck from the oil fields. After an assault from Douglas, she runs away from home. She gets to New York City and makes a living for herself. There she finds that she is drawn to helping others. She starts learning boxing, karate, judo, and how to use a knife. This leads her to becoming The Black Stiletto. Back in the present time, Martin is bitter that his mother never told him any of this before. He is also having a hard time at work and dealing with his daughter’s career choice. We also meet Roberto. He has finally been released from prison after doing his time for murder charges. He is 78 and has a personal vendetta toward The Black Stiletto. So Roberto begins his hunt for Judy. I really liked this book. Judy was the best character; it’s great to see someone rise about their beginnings. What’s nice is I have learned some of the techniques that she used to defend herself and it helped me to relate to her. Martin had his own issues and I admit that I was not impressed with him as a person, great for the character though. I loved how the book goes through 1958. I can’t think of anything that I was not impressed with and can’t think of a single thing. I have to say that I can’t wait to get the next book in this series. If you like thrillers and super heroes, I think that this is one book that you need to read. I received this book for free from netGalley in exchange for an honest review.
shayrp76 More than 1 year ago
The Black Stiletto Raymond Benson ISBN: 978-1-60809-020-4 Sept 5, 2011 288 pages Martin is presented with some keys to a secret room in the house he grew up in by his mother's attorney. There he discovers his mother's secret life; the same woman who lives in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's. All the clues, meaning her diaries, are leading him to believe that she is the infamous, costumed heroine from the 1950's called The Black Stiletto. Martin isn't the only one who is interested in Judy Cooper's past. Someone who wants revenge is doing some digging of their own. This is an amazingly unique plot! Not only is the concept great; it is absorbing. I couldn't put it down and sacrificed sleep for this one. There's action, mystery, a family drama, and a tad bit of romance, so it's got something for everything. My only complaint is that I wonder if there is going to be a sequel because there were some unanswered questions. Otherwise I really enjoyed this book. I will be recommending it to everyone I know who reads. reviewed via Library Thing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Septuagenarian Judy Talbot resides in the Woodlands Nursing Home in Riverwoods, Illinois. "Uncle" Thomas gives Judy's forty-eight year old divorced son Martin the accountant a journal. Judy gave the dairy to Thomas to give to Martin if the time is right. Martin is stunned to learn his ailing mom claimed she was the famous pop hero of five decades ago the Black Stiletto vigilante. Judy explains what happened in 1958 when she was twenty years old. Being very tall and athletically gifted with incredible senses she dedicated herself to fighting evil. Disbelieving her account though there is great detail and he knew his mom was a terrific athlete, the skeptical Martin changes his mind when seventy-eight years old Roberto Ranelli, just released from prison after a fifty-two year stay, arrives to threaten Judy, her son and her granddaughter. This exciting thriller moves back and forth between Martin reading his mom's diary and Judy's description of her exploits; bridging the five decades is Ranelli who has a voice in both decades. The story line is over the top of Wrigley Field, but fun to read especially the fast-paced exploits as accounted by a young female heroine. Harriet Klausner
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
I thought it sure a different way to hear about super hero. Martin Talbot mother's lawyer gave him a letter and lockbox and it he learned that his mom was the black stiletto. She was famous back in the 60's and he had no clue. In the box was blueprints of their house and it had a hidden room in basement. Their house has been up for sale for two years. Martin found the hidden room their house and in it was a bunch of journals two costumes, the knife,gun and other things. So Martin reads the journal and puts the rest in safe deposit box. From Judy diary he learn about the changes in her body when she 12 better hearing, didn't need glasses anymore and could tell if someone was honest or tellings lies. Tells how after her stepfather raped her she ran away to New York and her life . She learned boxing, karate and then how to use a knife. How after the murder of her friend she became the black stiletto. It also contains chapters of Roberto and his getting out of jail and what revenge he is planning. I like that Judy seamed like a real person with faults. Liked how she stopped crimes. Did not agree with revenge killings. Still have more questions I want to know, so I hope their is going to be more books about the Black stiletto. I will gladly read them kept me interested through the whole book. I was given this ebook in exchange for honest review.