cover image Ash Dark as Night

Ash Dark as Night

Gary Phillips. Soho Crime, $27.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-64129-474-4

The times, they are a-changing in Phillips’s outstanding sequel to One-Shot Harry. It’s August 1965: Vietnam is heating up; the civil rights movement is marching forward. Escalating tensions between the police and Black Americans have boiled over most recently in the Watts Riots. Black photographer Harry Ingram is in Los Angeles to document the unrest and winds up capturing the police shooting of unarmed activist Faraday Zinum. The widely reproduced photo brings Harry newfound fame, as well as the unwelcome attention of LAPD chief William Parker and his intelligence division. Meanwhile, an acquaintance hires Harry to look into the disappearance of her business associate Moses Tolbert, who ran a building company in the Watts neighborhood and vanished during the riots. As Harry investigates, stumbling into citywide conspiracies along the way, he finds that he has a natural aptitude for the work, and ponders the possibility of becoming a private detective full-time. Phillips folds real historical figures, including TV journalist Louis Lomax, and events into a complex narrative of shifting alliances that captures the urgency and volatility of the mid-’60s. The results rank with the best of Walter Mosley in the canon of Los Angeles noir. Agent: David Hale Smith, InkWell Management. (Apr.)