Former heavyweight boxer William Fletcher, the narrator of Bywaters’s promising debut, winner of the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel competition, is scraping by as a PI in 1938 New Orleans when Bill Storm, a criminal acquaintance, asks Fletcher to find his estranged daughter, the beautiful but hate-filled Zella Storm. Fletcher winds up becoming Zella’s protector after Bill’s murder. Because Sal Mallon, a psychopathic mobster whom Bill mutilated years before, now craves revenge, Fletcher finds himself negotiating with rival gangsters, hiding Zella and her aunt in a cabin in the swamp, and collaborating—nervously, since he’s black—with the corrupt, racist New Orleans police. Staying alive is difficult; resisting various temptations to back away is even more so—but Fletcher slogs ahead through a hail of bullets. Bywaters edges near Hammett territory with this unassuming hero who stoically accepts that, even though the odds are heavily stacked against him, he still needs to go on doing the best he can.
I would first like to thank the ladies of Jungle Red Writers for allowing me to be here. I have been asked to briefly talk about my work as a private investigator. Most of the work I took part in was workers’ compensation fraud. The lead investigator I worked under while getting hours towards my license was an expert at it. Many of the videos he got ended up on news programs: people who claimed their backs were broken, yet were teaching a rock climbing course on the weekend, or throwing 75 pound hay bales into the back of their truck.
A lot of the private investigation work also involves meticulous research, which is something I have always enjoyed doing. Luckily, because I had to do a lot of it for THE RED STORM! The basic concept for my novel came about while I was taking a history class for college at the same time I was finishing my investigator's license. We were covering African American history and it got me thinking on how difficult it would have been for an African American to be a private investigator during the days of Jim Crow.
|First black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson losing to the last of many|
"Great White Hope" challengers, Jess Willard, in 1915. After this, no black
boxer was allowed to compete for the world title until Joe Lewis broke the
color line in 1937.
Many older fight fans remember vividly when a then Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title. They, along with most of the nation, believed the younger Clay was going to die in the ring. Of course he didn’t, and after the fight become the boxing legend that is Muhammad Ali. Yet talking to fight fans, you can still hear their fear for the underdog Cassius Clay against the powerful Liston, as if they were describing the fight after it had just happened.
This kind of vivid recollection of the moment, the combatants, and the fans' emotions does not just apply to boxing, but all sports. Even non-sports fans can recall an important moment - maybe the Olympics or the Nationals, the World Series or the Superbowl - and tell where they were and how they were feeling.
So what are the moments in sports you remember most?
You can find out more about Grant and friend him on Facebook. You can read an excerpt of THE RED STORM and get info on Grant's appearances at Macmillan.com.