New York Times and USA Today best-selling author
Warning: Do not cross the Black Stiletto!
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.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
The Black Stiletto
The First Diary â" 1958 A Novel
By Raymond Benson
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2011 Raymond Benson
All rights reserved.
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.
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.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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
When Martin Talbot is called by the family lawyer to pay a visit, he can't imagine what he is being summoned for. Sitting in the attorney's office Martin is presented with a set of keys, and an explanation that upon his mother's death, or in the event that she becomes incapacitated, he was to be given items that will tell a very unusual story and reveal some incredibly shocking news that will soon turn his life upside down. He walks away from the lawyer with an envelope of cryptic letters and keys that will open up a secret room that is walled up in the basement of his childhood home, currently up for sale.Totally bewildered and mystified, and wondering if this was some kind of joke, Martin immediately drives to the old abandoned house. While unlocking the room he never knew existed, he sets free a story of all stories that will after fifty years, unleash a mind-blowing family secret. One that will also solve a criminal mystery the nation never forgot, and that the police and feds never resolved.Martin Talbot's mother, now in her seventies and residing in a nursing home suffering with Alzheimer's, left her son a box of memories and trinkets, and a set of diaries that penned her life story, and confessed that she was the outlandish superhero female crime fighter known as the Black Stiletto in the 1950s. Yes, Judy Cooper Talbot, was a mixture of Batman and Cat Woman, defending the weak and avenging New York's victims of violence and Mafia mayhem.From the point where Martin begins his mother's first diary entry, Benson deftly alternates between the past and the present to write a novel that is beyond unique, cool, and of riveting page-turning quality. This reader could not put this book down for a minute and read it in one sitting from page one to the finale. The author is outstanding in his period presentation giving the reader a totally realistic atmosphere of the 1950's, and an inside look at the Italian mob and the family power it wields. Benson shows outstanding talent to not only write a hard-core crime novel, but creatively blends in romance, adventure, and a heartwarming story of a little girl lost, who overcomes her victimization by turning herself into a powerhouse of guts and glory.You will be amazed at how 14 year old Judy Cooper, a runaway innocent little girl with a secret, finds her courage to travel to the big city, to then turn herself into a fighting warrior to not only avenge others, but to get revenge for the horrible act that made her turn her heels from a small town in Texas and run for her life.Part coming-of-age story, part comic book crusader adventure, The Black Stiletto delivers top-notch suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats, and promises to be on of the best new series fiction has to offer. This reviewer gives The Black Stiletto a standing ovation and a flashing five star rating! Bravo!
¿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.¿ And with those opening sentences, I was absolutely hooked on Raymond Benson¿s latest novel, The Black Stiletto. In Benson¿s world, everyone knows the name of ¿the Black Stiletto,¿ but her identity has been a mystery for decades. From the late 50¿s through the early 60¿s, this woman donned a mask and leather costume and took to the streets to fight crime. After a few years of activity, she dropped out of site, never to be heard from again¿except for the comic book series, the feature film, and other pop culture references¿until the day that suburban Chicago accountant, Martin Talbot, got a call from his mother¿s attorney. She¿d left a letter and a locked box in his care, to be given to Martin ¿in the event she died or became incapacitated.¿ At the age of 72, Judy Talbot is in pretty good shape physically, but Alzheimer¿s has hit her hard. Most days she doesn¿t even recognize her son. So that¿s the set-up. The story unfolds in three narrative voices, two in the present day and one in the past. The first is Martin¿s account and reaction as he unravels his mother¿s true history. His mother has left behind a number of items, safely stashed away, including several diaries. Martin begins reading the first, for the year 1958. The second voice is his mother¿s own account, writing in her diary as a young woman. It¿s the Black Stiletto¿s origin story. Every hero has one. Within her diary she summarizes her life story and what led her to becoming a masked vigilante, until she reaches the present day in 1958, and then carries her story forward. The third voice is that of Roberto Ranelli, who appears in both timelines. Back in the 50¿s, he was a mob enforcer. In the present day, he¿s a 78-year-old man, just paroled from Sing-Sing after 52 years. And he has revenge on his mind.There is much that is delightful about this story. As I mentioned, the premise grabbed me right away. All I could think of was how it would feel to learn something that stunning about your mom! And while there have been variations on this story, with movies like Kick-Ass and other pop culture treatments, this one¿s a little different. The period setting is exceptionally well-handled. It was an interesting time historically and socially, and Benson uses the period to great effect. He¿s also having a lot fun with his audience. There are occasional nods and winks such as: ¿As I drank another glass of whiskey, my eyes fell on a stack of Fiorello¿s comic books. The latest Batman was on top. I picked it up and thumbed through it. In my foggy state of mind, I read a bit and couldn¿t help but laugh a little. The premise was silly¿some millionaire dressed up in a costume, had a secret identity, and went out to fight crime. Who would really do such a thing? I suppose that was the germ of the idea that would change my life.¿Judy is awesome! She¿s a feminist (¿I¿ve learned a lot in my short life about how the world treats women.¿) and a lady with an interesting system of ethics. Still, I have to admit that I loved Martin¿s briefer appearances in the novel. I am captivated by his journey. There isn¿t much to Ranelli. He has a role to fill, and he does his job. The book moves fast, and can be read in a matter of hours. It truly is pure entertainment.The novel¿s greatest weakness is the actual writing. I don¿t think most readers attracted to this title are looking for gorgeous prose and exciting use of language. I wasn¿t. The prose is very casual and idiomatic, with a lot of direct address to the reader, but it was clunky and awkward at times. It got weird with tenses occasionally, and the dropped g¿s and all the ¿gonna¿s and ¿gotta¿s and other written dialect got on my nerves a bit. Possibly this is just my peeve.
I am sad to say that I did not really like this book. When I read the brief write-up of the book, I thought that it had promise. A man is shocked and surprised to find out that his Alzheimer¿s stricken mother had a very interesting past as an ex-vigilante, the Black Stiletto. Unfortunately, for me the book fell a bit flat. I found the voice of Judy ¿ through her diaries ¿ to be stilted and more of an outline of a story. I also found that the events of the book jumped without plausibility or a full explanation, which left me a bit frustrated.
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.
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. 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. There¿s action, mystery, a family drama, and a tad bit of romance, so it¿s got something for everyone. 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.
A man discovers the diary of his mother who has advancing demntia and discovers that his mother is not the person he thought she was. She was a famous or notorious crime fighter of the superhero persuasion. An entertaining read that gallops along as he tells her story, however although I read this quickly I have prevaricated over writing the review that suggests to me that there is something that I wasn't happy with that I cannot quite put my finger on. I think that it might well be the superhero part isn't quite fitted into the context.Slight but enjoyable
The explosions of an action movie or the ¿Pow! Bam!¿ of a comic strip are always exciting, but, for most superhero fans, what really makes a successful hero is the story. Setting aside the science-fiction bent of teens with mutant powers or mad scientists exposed to chemicals, underneath the mask is usually a normal person. What made him (or her) reach for a cape and start prowling city streets at night?Raymond Benson¿s The Black Stiletto offers a case study to answer such questions. Eisenhower¿s in the White House, and Judy Cooper escapes an abusive stepfather, only to find herself embroiled in romance, murder, the mafia and vigilantism in New York City.Her exploits as the Black Stiletto (named for her favorite knife) make her a household name through the 1960s. The police don¿t know what to make of her, but, since Judy keeps her identity hidden successfully, they never have a chance to catch her.When the book opens, Judy¿s son, Martin, is going through her belongings at their old home. Stricken with Alzheimer¿s disease, Judy is now in a nursing home. Benson skillfully switches from the son¿s point of view to Judy¿s diary as the reader and Martin uncover his mother¿s secrets.Benson¿s previous credits include several James Bond novels and several movie and video game adaptations. His experience writing action sequences works well in The Black Stiletto. Judy¿s escapades have more than a note of comic-book/action-movie realism to them, but this works well within the context of the novel.What doesn¿t work so well is the introduction of a third point of view. This one is from Roberto Ranelli, recently out of prison and with a vendetta against the Stiletto. The information in Ranelli¿s sections is important and of interest, but the point of view is jarring. It makes sense for Judy¿s sections to be written in the first person ¿ we¿re reading her diary along with her son. And since Martin is the first character we meet, it is easy to accept his sections in the first person. But when Ranelli is introduced, questions about how readers know what he¿s thinking start to interfere with the story. Benson may have been better served to write Martin and Ranelli from a third-person point of view, saving the first person for Judy¿s diary.The point-of-view problem is a small quibble (as is the unnecessary preternatural hearing, grace, etc Judy exhibits from puberty). The Stiletto comes across as a believable vigilante, albeit one in a mask and black leather outfit. Her motivations are straightforward and she has justifications for becoming involved in the crimes detailed in the novel. Yes, she ends up with an almost-cliched job at a boxing ring and some of her back story reads as if Benson worked his way down a checklist of genre tropes, but he uses the cliches and tropes well. The story and Judy¿s character remain the most important aspects to The Black Stiletto. And Benson captures the voice of 15-year-old Judy.Benson¿s website announces a second book in the Stiletto series (coming in May 2012). If the first novel is any indication, the second will be an exciting read.
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.
Martin Talbot is a 48 year old divorced single dad who is an accountant. His mother, Judy Talbot, has Alzheimers and lives in a nursing home. His life is pretty normal, some would even say boring, until one day when he is given a letter and a strongbox that his mother wanted him to have. The letter is her confession to being The Black Stiletto, a masked super hero that lived in New York City back in the 1950s. In the strongbox was instruction on how he could find other proof in her house. A hidden room that had her costumes, newspaper articles, comic books that were written about her, a set of diaries that Judy started in 1958 detailing her life and what led up to her being the Black Stiletto, and even the famous stiletto itself. This book is such a good read. The story bounces back and forth between the past, Judy's diary, and the present, Martin. Fast paced, great characters, never a dull moment. I read this book while traveling and was sorry when the plane landed because it meant putting the book away. Another good thing about this book is that it is number one in a series of The Black Stiletto and believe me I will be first in line to pick up the next installment. I just wish it were tomorrow. You will not be disappointed in this book.
What happens when you find out that the mother you know and love for years, now residing in a nursing home with debilitating Alzheimer's, may in fact be a renowned masked vigilante of her time? Such is the dilemma that Martin Talbot, a 48 year old single dad who is divorced, finds himself in when he is entrusted with a box that his mother had wanted him to have. Inside, he finds her confession to being "The Black Stiletto", a masked superhero in the 50's. As Martin reads her diaries, and comes across other proof that she was indeed the masked vigilante she claims to be in her confession, he uncovers the true story of his own past, and that of his mother. And, I believe, that discovering the strength of his mother's actions gives some measure of strength to Martin, as a character. "The Black Stiletto" is an absolutely riveting read - fast paced, and electric in nature. It is extremely enjoyable, this book, and although the character of Judy may seem naive, I really enjoyed watching her character develop as the diaries progressed. As a matter of fact, the only reason I gave this book four stars is because I enjoyed it so much that it irked me that I have to wait for more volumes to reveal to me where the story will take me. I thoroughly appreciated this novel, and I am sure most people would enjoy the characterization, the fast pace and the sizzling superhero known as "The Black Stiletto".
While the premise of the book was interesting and the writing was very good, super heroes and mythical spies are not my genre. A woman, who has Alzheimers and is put in a nursing home, leaves a series of letters and diaries for her son. Reading these he finds out she was the Black Stiletto and a player in many of the politics and captures of mob figures during the fifties and sixties. Characters were interesting and well drawn, book mostly in diary form. Enjoyed it but it was just okay for me.
Unfortunately The Black Stiletto was not my type of book. It had an interesting premise - a middle-aged man is shocked to find out that his mother, who now has Alzheimer's, was once a legendary, daring, costumed, avenging superhero. A lawyer gives him his mother's diaries which she had locked away to be given to him only in the event of her death or incapacitation. The diaries detail her exploits, but I did not find the writing either plausible or engaging. Everything seemed breathless and comic-book-like, superficial and unreal. Readers who like that sort of quick, violent and non-involving action story may like the book. It became a page-turner as I got farther into the diaries with their unbelievable adventures, but questions were left unanswered and the book did not feel finished.
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Black Stiletto". Like some of the other reviewers, this is not my usual type of reading but perhaps that was what made it so enjoyable. Also, it was very kind of the author to sign the book. I collect signed first editions and so I will be keeping it. The superhero theme as celebrated in comic books and movies takes liberties with reality (to state the obvious) but this female superhero does not have any obvious supernatural powers. She is a fighter as a child and is fascinated by the martial arts and boxing, but like most superheroes she has a sort of moral crusade.
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
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.