cover image A Father's Law

A Father's Law

Richard Wright, . . Harper Perennial, $14.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-06-134916-4

The centennial of Richard Wright's birth occasions the publication of this still-unfinished crime novel, which Wright was working on when he died in 1960. Ruddy Turner, a black Chicago police officer, is appointed the police chief of a rich Chicago suburb, Brentwood Park, when the current police chief is murdered. As Ruddy settles into his office, a woman is found dead in the Brentwood Park woods, possibly the sixth victim of what we would now call a serial killer. Ruddy's son, Tommy—a brilliant but high-strung sociology student at the University of Chicago who makes Ruddy uneasy because of his difficult temperament—knew one of the murder victims well and has been “studying” Brentwood Park. In an atmosphere of mounting hysteria in town, Ruddy's unconscious cop mind begins to connect Tommy to the murders. Is it due to some Freudian rivalry between the father and the son, or to the facts of the case? The plot elements and dialogue in this draft are crude, and it's hard to say how the book would have been shaped out of its state of flux. A short introduction from Wright's daughter, Julia, speculates provocatively and notes how Wright brings race, class and family dynamics to bear on Ruddy's actions and thoughts, which he does brilliantly. (Jan.)