2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Strong treatment of a collision between race, politics, celebrity and justice in Atlanta, April 25, 2014
This review is from: Hallways in the Night: A Legal Thriller (Kindle Edition)
Apparently a first novel, this book surprised me. It’s fast-moving and well-told. O’Leary shares with Tom Wolfe the ability to flesh out with present-day realism a race-money-politics-and-celebrity tale set in Atlanta, and with John Grisham the ability to tell a good, taut courtroom story.
Atlanta police detective Dave Mackno, sitting through a boring stakeout late one night deep in the city, suddenly finds himself in an altercation with the city’s star baseball player Remo Centrella, who, bull-strong and pumped full of steroids, nearly beats him to death before Mackno shoots him. The only witness is a blonde Centrella has just given a black eye, who flees into the night.
Thus begins a story that pulled me in faster than usual. The shooting derails the team’s until-then stellar season and imperils the finances of mercurial billionaire owner Ray Manning. It triggers political maneuverings by the white governor, Frank Durkin, and black district attorney Maurice Bass, an ambitious lawyer who made his name mobilizing black anger at a white power structure and police. Police shootings of unarmed civilians on streets in the ‘hood are high on the list of things he hates. Mackno is exonerated by the police department’s internal investigation, but Bass indicts him anyway, and so begins a journey leading to a media-frenzy trial.
O’Leary has done plenty of homework on everything from police procedure to legal tactics to high finance. He notes in an afterword that he took some liberties with the legal procedure, but as a former news reporter who covered courts for years, I didn’t see any howlers. It all rang true enough for me.
He places the story in the Atlanta of a decade or so ago. He navigates deftly Atlanta’s distinctive blends of race, politics and celebrity. Ray Manning is reminiscent of Ted Turner in a lot of ways (if this is ever made into a movie, I nominate John Slattery from “Mad Men” to play him). But the other politicians, while suggesting familiar local types, don’t seem to be attempts to characterize, or caricature, any ones in particular.
O’Leary takes a different tack in one major way from Wolfe in his approach to a story like this (Wolfe has dealt with racially-charged, media-hyped incidents in at least three of his bestselling novels, including “A Man In Full”, also set in Atlanta). Wolfe’s characters don’t have major back stories; they find themselves thrust into events whirling out of control to which they must respond in the present without that much reference to the past.
O’Leary’s characters, though, have back stories that count, and the weaving of these into this story is what drives the plot and makes it interesting. His character arcs are positive, suggesting growth is possible, forgiveness exists and people on both sides can learn to look beyond racial stereotyping.
Mackno’s police memories date back to the Atlanta Child Murders and the Rodney King riots, and O’Leary’s treatment discussion of those from different perspectives is well done. You understand where Mackno and other white cops are coming from – and how they’re not all the same – but you also get a fair telling of life as black Atlantans might have experienced it in the Jim Crow, Civil Rights and present eras, and the scars left by those times.
Interestingly, O’Leary notes in an afterword that he was writing another novel, created a back story for it, and found the back story so interesting that he gave it its own book – this one. It is now the prequel for the original story, not yet published. I look forward to it.