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Posts tagged ‘Kansas City’

“An intelligent novel that twists your gut.”

December 13, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

We are thrilled to share another wonderful new review for a ‘backlist’ title – a proof that great books don’t have a ‘use-by’ date!

REACH THE SHINING RIVER by Kevin Stevens in NB Magazine

Cover art by Keith Mallett

Stevens has written a grippingly sinister murder mystery that oozes menace and violence. Reach the Shining River captures the deeply corrupt and racist atmosphere of the 1930s, creating a feeling of dread and fear for the characters. This is a fight where the good guys are vastly out-numbered and out-gunned and where looking the wrong way at the wrong person can get you killed. Under the veneer of polite, civilised conversation, the golf club drinks parties and the sumptuous elegance is a rotten core, a canker. The question is, is it so embedded in the daily life of the city as to be immovable?

There’s a conspiracy at the heart of this thriller, but it’s not that simple; all motives are suspect and even those trying to do good have their limits. There are echoes here of the political shenanigans of All The King’s Men, the conspiracy at the heart of Chinatown, and the real life story of Louisiana governor Huey Long. It’s a bleak vision of the segregated society, greed and economic despair that rings very true. Reaching the Shining River is superbly plotted and suspenseful, This novel is haunting and chilling. When a black man is murdered, we see the value white society places on that man’s life.

Kansas City, 1935, even though the Volstead Act has been repealed and prohibition ended two years earlier, liquor distribution in the city is still controlled by the Italian mob. The police, from the commissioner down, are getting a cut of the gambling action, prostitution, drugs and the numbers racket. A few rich white men get richer, even in hard times. Boss Pendergast controls the legislature, he owns enough politicians to dictate to the State and kiss off the federal authorities. Against this backdrop, there’s only one thing worse than being a dirt-poor white person, and that’s being a dirt-poor black person. Not a drop of the New Deal aid, following the financial crash, has made it to the Negro part of town. The tone of the novel is beautifully reinforced by the painful and poetic lyrics of the blues that infuse this gritty Noir, underlining the prejudice and corruption of the times.

Reach the Shinning River

Cover of the 1st edition, 2014

Sunday morning and eleven-year-old Wardell comes across the body of a “coloured” man, just like him, just outside town. The battered corpse is lying face down in the mud between the Missouri River and the rail track. Wardell runs to the Negro district to tell them what he’s seen. Mr Watkins knows it’s no easy matter reporting such a death. An hour later, he returns with a white police officer who makes Wardell take him to the body. He takes the boy back to town but he threatens him before he drops him off. Wardell best forget what he saw if he knows what’s good for him and his family.

Emmett Whelan and his wife Fay haven’t been close since the miscarriage; the old resentments about Emmett not being part of the ‘right set’ resurface. Fay relies on Daddy, Lloyd Perkins, for her spending money. He and his brother Robert are big men in this city, whereas Emmett is a poorly paid Jackson County Assistant Prosecutor. Lloyd has some people he wants his son-in-law to meet, distinguished gentlemen of the golf club – they have a proposal for Emmett.

The dead man, Eddie Sloane, didn’t show for work at the Sunset Club on Saturday night so Arlene sang with Otis on piano. Arlene and Eddie have been lovers for two years now. When she eventually reports him missing, the police don’t want to know, won’t even take a report. Even when his body turns up, Detective Timmins, in charge of the case, does nothing. There are people in the black community who won’t let the death of another black man just slide. The Friendship Brotherhood and Eddie’s lover Arlene hire a PI, a white detective from Chicago, to investigate.

Kevin Stevens

Lloyd Perkins and his business chums talk about reform to Emmett, and urge him to find out who killed Eddie Sloane. The city needs a clean-up; it would be good for them and good for the prosecutor that could bring it about – Fay would respect that. Eddie was killed inside city limits, so as a county prosecutor Emmett would have to tread carefully, but someone needs to conduct a proper investigation. Roddy Hudson, state prosecutor, and the FBI are still angry with Kansas City for not cooperating on law enforcement and the New Deal; they will help.

Emmett brings in an old friend, a former detective, to investigate. The autopsy shows that Eddie was beaten badly, then shot three times, one in the head – police style. He stepped on the wrong toes, didn’t pay a debt or was just in the wrong place. Emmett, Arlene and her son Wardell are drawn deeper into a world of dirty cops, racism, corruption and personal danger. The people they are up against have no morals; they will stop at nothing.

Stevens’ powerful evocation of the shameful segregated world that is pre-war Missouri is a classy conspiracy thriller. An intelligent novel that twists your gut. In the spirit of the best American noir.

Paul Burke

Read the first pages of the novel here: https://betimesbooks.com/2014/07/29/excerpt-reach-the-shining-river/

And another excerpt, with a soundtrack: https://betimesbooks.com/2015/05/29/reach-the-shining-river-lover-man-excerpt-soundtrack/

Original review: https://nbmagazine.co.uk/reach-the-shining-river-by-kevin-stevens/

 

E-book rights to Kevin Stevens’ novel “Reach the Shining River” licensed to Endeavour Press

August 17, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

Following on from the success of “Francesca” by Donald Finnaeus Mayo, we are delighted to announce the new release of the Ebook edition of Kevin Stevens’ novel “Reach the Shining River” by the UK’s leading independent digital publisher, Endeavour Press.

It is now available for order on Amazon here.

Reach the Shining River

 

Our own trade paperback is also available here: viewBook.at/REACH_Stevens

REACHx2700_NEW

 


“Not only a solid murder mystery, but equally a colourful and thought-provoking study of a moment in time. With the rhythm and cadence of the prose, echoing the blues soundtrack that underscored the whole book, Stevens easily achieved that balance between crime fiction and literary fiction due to his exceptional characterization and engaging prose.” —Raven Crime Reads


Kansas City, 1935

The effects of the Depression are still being felt, gangsters are running the show, and the police are corrupt. Emmett Whelan, an idealistic county prosecutor who has left behind his Irish roots and married into the country club set, takes on the city’s corrupt political machine when he investigates the brutal murder of a black musician. Emmett starts poking around and soon finds that there has been no investigation into the man’s death. He starts to wonder why a gentle man like Eddie was murdered?

As Emmett probes the case and meets another outsider, black jazz singer Arlene Gray, he discovers the city’s underbelly of racism and criminality.

Emmett hires a PI to help him, Mickey McDermott lost his job as a cop when he wouldn’t play by the rules. Soon they see that Eddie’s death is connected to some pretty powerful men in town. But as Emmett works harder and harder for justice, his marriage starts to disintegrate. And the more he digs, the more he sees he’s being played.

The closer he gets to the heart of the corruption, the more he sees that it is deeper and closer than he has ever suspected. When the truth finally unfolds – about the killings, the machine, Emmett’s wife – a surprising and devastating climax reverberates at every level of the city…

Reach the Shining River is an urban crime drama about money, race, and class. Tense and full of memorable characters, it has the smell of a big river, the atmosphere of 1930s America, and a soundtrack that is pure jazz and blues.

REACH THE SHINING RIVER: “Lover man”, excerpt & soundtrack

May 29, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Bill Call leaned over his coffee, peering at Arlene. “When was the last time you saw Eddie?”

Without answering him or even excusing herself, Arlene rose and went to the bathroom. She locked the door, splashed water on her face, and sat on the toilet. On the back of the door was a framed photograph of Paul Robeson. Leonora had placed little baskets along the rim of the wash basin, each filled with a different colored soap.

She covered her face with her hands and cried noiselessly. There was Eddie in her mind’s eye, standing tall in her front doorway on that last evening, molding the crown of his hat with forefinger and thumb, wearing the dark suit with pencil stripes that he favored when the sun went down.

“I’m not inclined,” he had said.

“Well, then, don’t bother,” she answered. “Don’t bother on my account.”

“Tomorrow night be better. Our customary evening.”

This last phrase Eddie spoke with a sly tone, his way of offering to end the spat on friendly terms.

But she was angry. “You rather spend time with Virgil than me then you go right ahead. See if I care.”

He frowned, put his hat on his greased head, and wandered into the night. See if I care. Her last words to him. Words he carried into the next world. Words she would carry through the rest of her earthly life.

And Virgil gone missing. Maybe murdered as well. What had they done? Who had they crossed?

She and Eddie had rarely argued. He was a peacemaker, even when he was unhappy with something (her wedding ring, not being able to come by the house when Wardell was home). The secrecy of their affair suited them both, and was easy to disguise because of their musical partnership. He liked to slide along the easy way, Eddie did, and keep his head low.

But lately he’d been prickly. He had to borrow a few bucks from her once or twice, which hurt his pride, and couldn’t find work outside the weekend gig at the Sunset (Emmanuel Baptist didn’t pay). His needs were modest, but he liked his reefer and new threads when he could get them, and bought her flowers every week. He was feeling the bite of hard times, she knew that.

Their songs would not leave her alone. Lyrics took on sharper meanings:

 I don’t know why but I’m feeling so sad
I long to try something I never had
Never had no kissin’
Oh, what I’ve been missin’
Lover man, oh where can you be?

  REACHx2700_NEW   Kevin Stevens’ novel is available HERE

New cover art for REACH THE SHINING RIVER

May 22, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

REACHx2700_NEW   Cover art: Keith Mallett

Cover design: JT Lindroos

We hope you would agree that this is a striking new cover for Kevin Stevens’ novel REACH THE SHINING RIVER, with its soundtrack of jazz and blues.

The lady on the cover is, of course, Arlene Gray, wonderfully described in this reader’s review: “Arlene cleans hotel rooms by day and by night she sings of heartbreak in a blues club. Arlene knows what she is singing about…”

Read the full review — and more — here and an excerpt about Arlene Gray here  (with a soundtrack!).

We would like to thank the artist Keith Mallet who has graciously allowed us to use his artwork “Jazz Café” and, as always, our favourite designer JT Lindroos.

Australian promotion for REACH THE SHINING RIVER by Kevin Stevens

April 22, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Australian readers, don’t miss Kevin Stevens beautiful historical crime novel REACH THE SHINING RIVER for only 0.99 AUD:

http://www.amazon.com.au/REACH-SHINING-RIVER-Kevin-Stevens-ebook/dp/B00JYBISXM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1429692688&sr=1-1&keywords=Reach+the+Shining+River

“Not only a solid murder mystery, but equally a colourful and thought-provoking study of a moment in time. With the rhythm and cadence of the prose, echoing the blues soundtrack that underscored the whole book, Stevens easily achieved that balance between crime fiction and literary fiction due to his exceptional characterization and engaging prose.” —Raven Crime Reads

Reach the Shinning River

Reaching Readers in Missouri

November 12, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Reach the Shining River

KS signing

There is no friend as loyal as a book.                      Ernest Hemingway

Last week I gave readings of Reach the Shining River at two different venues in St. Louis, Missouri: to staff and students at Fontbonne University, and to Saturday Writers, a writing group in St. Peters, Missouri, which is also a chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild. Both audiences were interested and well-informed, and both events reminded me how important it is for writers to leave the lonely confines of the desk on occasion and engage with others who love to read and write fiction.

fontbonne_sign

Of course, it was challenging to talk about my novel with people who know its setting much better than I do. Reach the Shining River is a Missouri novel, set in Kansas City, and though I have visited KC and St. Louis many times, I have to be careful not to assume…

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“Cities, Bars, and Crime” by Kevin Stevens

October 13, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Reach the Shining River

electric_noir

These days, big cities go out of their way to proclaim their cleanliness and safety. New York, LA, London, Paris…the city fathers of each note regularly how, compared with a few decades ago, their metropolises are much better to visit and live in. Crime rates have fallen. The cops are friendly. The streets are litter-free. What vice there is is socially acceptable or decidely unseedy. And who’d have it any other way?

Well, readers of crime fiction, perhaps. Crime novels and cities go together like guns and ammo. And traditionally, dirty, unsafe streets with heavy fog and crumbling neighborhoods not only create atmosphere but plot opportunities as well.

But fiction moves with the times. And these days noir is as much a state of mind as a physical phenomenon. The twenty-first century urban landscape is slick and anonymous, at least in the developed world, and writers now look to these characteristics – while not…

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“My Literary Neighborhood” by Kevin Stevens

October 9, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Reach the Shining River

mark-twain

There ought to be a room in every house to swear in.                                    Mark Twain

I live near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass, in a “Harlow buidling.” These beautiful brick structures were designed by Hamilton Harlow in the early decades of the twentieth century and were designed to blend in with the features of Harvard University buildings – red brick, elegant ironwork, and leaded glass windows.

It’s a cool neighborhood. A really cool neighborhood for a writer, partly because so many famous authors lived nearby. Two doors up from my building is where William Dean Howells lived in the 1870s, when he was editor of the Atlantic Monthly.

howells sign

There is a great story in Justin Kaplan’s biography of Mark Twain which details Twain’s visit to this house in April, 1876, and the ill-fated attempt of Howells and Twain to get to Concord by train for centennial celebrations presided over…

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