Rich Zahradnik’s Lights Out Summer won the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original novel in 2018. The main character Coleridge Taylor is a Crime Reporter. Not what I would call a traditional private eye, but he does fit perfectly the PWA definition. None of that is really important. I only mention, so a reader doesn’t jump into this thinking they’re getting Sam Spade (or Fuzzy Koella, for that matter).
The book is set in 1977 New York. The Summer of Sam, and the NYC blackout, which leds the book its title. The media is in a frenzy over The Story. Son of Sam, a serial killer hunting young lovers throughout the city’s boroughs. Taylor works for a local news wire, and pushed constantly to cover Sam. However, he resist this. Rightfully, arguing that everyone is covering it. Instead he chooses to cover the murder of a young Harlem woman, whose case is buried under the coverage by both the police and press of the serial killings.
Lights Out Summer isn’t quite the action-packed thriller of Hardman, but it’s still hard-boiled. Taylor is no amateur sleuth. And the crime here is street crime conducted by drug dealers and other low-lifes. While it doesn’t have the frenetic action of some hard-boiled novels, it still works the mystery at an excellent pace…and picks up just right when the black out hits the city.
I am thrilled to discover Zahradnik, and I hope you will give him a try, too.