Howard Owen is a novelist and journalist...
Struck by either an epiphany or a midlife crisis, Howard Owen wrote his first
novel, "Littlejohn," at the age of 40. The first draft took him about 100 days. At the time, Owen was sports editor
of a daily newspaper. He is now editorial page editor of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He has never taken
a sabbatical, adhering instead to a schedule that includes about an hour a day for writing or revising. He finds that it is
possible to do great things with an hour a day, every day. Owen's tenth novel, "Oregon Hill," published in 2012,
won the Hammett Prize for best crime literature in the U.S. and Canada, given by the International Association of Crime Writers.
The sequel, "The Philadelphia Quarry," came out in July of 2013. The third Willie Black mystery, "Parker Field,"
was published in 2014. The fifth, The Bottom, comes out in August of 2015.
Here are some nice
pre-publication reviews for The Bottom, the fourth Willie Black mystery. It comes out in August.
Howard Owen. Permanent, $28 (208p) ISBN 9781579623920
Willie Black has the tenacity of a bulldog when chasing a story or a bad guy, as shown in Owen’s satisfying
fourth mystery featuring the Richmond, Va., newspaper reporter (after 2014’s Parker Field). A serial
killer dubbed Tweety Bird has just claimed his fourth victim, a 14year old girl, probably a runaway, found in Richmond’s
rundown Main Street train station. On her ankle is the killer’s signature tattoo of a cartoon bird. After the police
arrest sleazy photographer Ronnie Sax for the crime, Willie starts receiving threatening handwritten letters with information
only the killer could know. Meanwhile, a former state senator is pushing an ambitious development plan for the Richmond neighborhood
known as the Bottom, much to its residents’ dismay. Willie carries a lot of personal baggage, including a fractured
(but not broken) family, three divorces, a couple of rocky romances, and a drinking problem sort of under control, but readers
can count on him to deliver in the end. (Aug.)
June 1, 2015
Aug 2015. 208 p. Permanent Press, hardcover, $28. (9781579623920).
Newspaperman Willie Black was born 60 years too late, and he’s unhappy about
it. His century’s
reporters were bourbon soaked, and when they weren’t playing
poker, they were bringing down
scoundrels. Nowadays, the birdcage liner—his term—Willie
works for in Richmond, Virginia, is
staffed by sycophants and run by weasels, and he loves
to tell us all about it. His rants are
interrupted by murders he must solve. This time (following
Parker Field, 2014), someone is
killing teenage girls, and after the cops jail a former
newspaper photographer, Willie still has his
doubts. After all, he keeps getting letters
from someone claiming to be the real killer. And he has
inside dope. As the story unfolds,
Willie faces the killer, battles a greedy developer’s plan to
junk up the landscape,
and installs a spine in the newspaper’s publisher—all the while displaying
easy humor and a sweet good nature that belies his cynicism. At one point, he wonders if his
could really care about, “a 53-year-old bald man who needs to lose weight.” Of course,
she could. We do. — Don Crinklaw
Kirkus Reviews Review Issue Date: June 15, 2015; Online Publish Date: June 4, 2015
THE BOTTOM Author: Howard Owen
Publisher:Permanent Press Pages: 208; Price ( Hardcover ): $28.00; Publication Date: August 31,
2015; ISBN 978-1-57962-392-0;Category: Fiction; Classification: Mystery
Willie Mays Black, reporter/drinker/police
gadfly, searches for a serial killer in Owen's (Parker
Field, 2014, etc.) fourth crime caper.
Young women, each corpse marked with a distinctive
tattoo, have been discovered in Richmond,
Virginia. Ronnie Sax, one-time photojournalist, full-
time pornographer, possessed all the right
perversions, and the cops jailed him. Even Willie
thinks he's guilty until he begins getting
threats that his single, pregnant, bar-tending, college-age
daughter, Andi, will be targeted
unless Sax is released. Sax's sister provides an alibi, and he's
freed. Willie's suspicions
turn to an ex-pol he exposed for bedding an underage girl. Now
lobbying to desecrate a slave
burial ground with big box stores, that fellow, Wat Chenault, is
"fronting for a bunch
of bright-eyed hustlers who claim they'll grow the tax base." Owen drops
page upon page: Willie as "a busybody who loves getting paid to snoop,"
true killer as "something out of the latest chainsaw movie." Clean and clear, not an
word or scene, Owen's plot flashes along like a tense edition of Law & Order: SVU.
former reporter, Owen enjoys knifing the newspapers business's bean counters, eager to ignore
news in pursuit of the bottom line. A little black comedy provides the knife twist when
former publisher makes the obits after an unfortunate meeting of Segway and city bus. Owen
regulars like Willie's mother, the dope-smoking Peggy; Awesome Dude, Peggy's
and part-time street wanderer; and Sarah, a young female reporter Willie fears
up the news beat to chase a bigger paycheck. Owen has a solid grip on people and
the social and racial tensions buzzing through a city haunted by history—a perfect
for nuanced crime capers.
Den http://pulplair.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-bottom.html, Night To Dawn Magazine
Bottom (Murder Mystery) by Howard Owen Rating 5-Stars
“A Masterful Tale
of Murder and Mystery.”
Richmond, Virginia is going through
some growing pains at the moment, as an ex-senator, now
a building contractor, is trying
to build a business center on the site where slaves were buried
and the black community
is up in arms. Newspaper crime reporter, Willie Mays Black is on their
side, but he and
the ex-senator have a past connection that goes back to when the ex-senator
was caught in
bed with a 14-year-old girl, and Willie helped ruin his political career. The ex-
senator is looking
for reasons to sue the newspaper because of Willie and their stand against
project. But Willie has other problems at the moment. The fourth victim of the
killer was just found at the train station, and Willie is working on that case. The
are all young girls, runaways, raped and tortured, then tattooed with the image of
Bird on their ankle before they were killed. Willie thinks that maybe the ex-senator is
guilty party due to his preference for underage girls. Now, the lawsuit may bring a stop to
This was another fantastic Willie Black murder mystery in his little community
of Richmond. The
author recently retired after 44 years as a veteran newspaper man, and
knows the inside and
outs of newspaper work The reader is pulled into the story, and the
characters come alive; the
reader may even want to drop by Penny Lane for a couple of beers
and a Camel with Willie,
listening to his tales of growing up on The Hill, while he’s
taking a break from the office. This is a
masterful tale of murder and mystery, and Willie
Black isn’t afraid of stepping on
toes—publishers, police or perps. Highly recommended.
Tom Johnson, Detective Mystery Stories
HILL NAMED WINNER OF NORTH AMERICAN HAMMETT PRIZE
The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers is pleased to announce
Hill, by Howard Owen (Permanent), has been named the winner of the organization's annual HAMMETT PRIZE for a work of
literary excellence in the field of crime writing.
The winning title was chosen by a group of three distinguished outside judges: Rob Dougherty, Manager of the Clinton Book Shop, in New Jersey; Janet Groth, author of The
Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker;
and Edward D. Miller, professor of Film and Theatre (CUNY),
and author of Tomboys, Pretty Boys, and Outspoken Women: The Media Revolution of 1973. The judges selected
from among five finalists nominated from the hundreds of crime books published in 2012. These five titles were selected by
the organization's nominations committee headed by J. Madison Davis.
Other books nominated for the 2012 HAMMETT PRIZE were Defending
Jacob: A Novel(Delacorte), by William Landay; Truth Like the Sun: A Novel (Knopf), by Jim Lynch; Patient Number 7 (McClelland
& Stewart), by Kurt Palka; and Alif the Unseen (Emblem/Canada; Grove/US), by G. Willow Wilson.
Mr. Owen was awarded a bronze trophy, designed by West
Coast sculptor, Peter Boiger. The award ceremony took place on October 1, in Somerset, New Jersey, during the New Atlantic
Independent Booksellers Association’s (NAIBA) Fall Conference.
Willie Black is back in "The Philadelphia Quarry" a sequel to be released
|The Philadelphia Quarry
|To be published July 2013
Black is back. Willie Black was last seen, in Oregon Hill, risking
the final tattered remnants of his checkered career – and his life – to free a man almost everyone else believed
was guilty of one of Richmond’s most heinous murders.
still employed by the city’s daily newspaper, still covering the night police beat with its DDGBs and dirt naps, still
avoiding the hawk that periodically swoops down to pluck away a few more of his colleagues in a business that was foundering
even before the Great Recession. He still drinks too much, smokes too much and disobeys too much. The only thing that keeps
him employed: He’s a damn fine reporter. Even his beleaguered bosses would concede that.
In The Philadelphia Quarry (which will be published in July of 2013), Willie puts himself
on a collision course with a part of Richmond that a boy growing up in Oregon Hill could only experience through illicit midnight
sorties at the city’s most exclusive swimming hole. The Quarry was where Alicia Parker Simpson identified Richard Slade
as her rapist, 28 years ago. Then, five days after DNA evidence freed Slade from the prison system in which he had spent his
adult life, Alicia Simpson is shot to death at a stoplight en route to her gym.
Hardly anyone doubts that Richard Slade did it. Who could blame him? But Willie has his doubts. When the full weight
of the city’s old money falls on him, trying to quash the story, he only becomes more determined to get at the thing
that always seems to get him in trouble – the truth. The fact that Richard Slade is his cousin, a link to his long-dead
African-American father, only makes Willie more tenacious.
end, Willie will be drawn back to the Philadelphia Quarry, where it all started so long ago and where the truth lies, waiting
The New York Times said Willie "speaks the local
language, a crisp and colorful urban idiom we can’t wait to hear again." Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Willie Black
deserves a sequel." Publishers Weekly added, "Readers will hope that Willie will soon return."
By popular demand, Willie’s back, and he’s not backing down.
Here's what the pre-pub reviewers are saying about The Philadelphia Quarry
Owen’s (Oregon Hill, 2012, etc.) hard-drinking Richmond reporter Willie Black has an inside
track on a blockbuster crime story that’s "red meat for the on-the-airheads."
Richard Slade, a 17-year-old African-American, spent three decades incarcerated for the 1983 rape
of debutante Alicia Parker Simpson, daughter of an old-money Commonwealth Club family. It was a he-said, she-said case relegated
to an incompetent public defender. Slade ended up in prison.
Slade is proven innocent by DNA technology. Free only days, Slade is jailed again, charged with Simpson’s murder. It’s
another quixotic case for Willie Black, the perfect flawed hero, too often with the bottle, too often defying his bosses.
Willie long ago lost a prime beat and was shuffled to night duty,
an innocent guy takes the fall, Willie thinks first
with his wrong-side-of-town, chip-on-the-shoulder mindset. Owen’s secondary characters are superb. Kate, an attorney
and Willie’s ex-wife No. 3, allows Willie to rent her Prestwould condo and keeps him out of court when he picks up a
DUI. She’s also on Slade’s case, seconding spotlight-hound Marcus Green, eager to prove "the racist system
can’t do it."
mother, Peggy, reappears, as does venerable Clara Westbrook, one of the Richmond elite and now a resident of Prestwould. Peggy
offhandedly reveals that Willie and Slade are distantly related through Willie’s light-skinned African-American father,
and Clara gives him the down low on Alicia’s society-maven sister and schizophrenic brother.
Against a backdrop of advertising-suppressed investigative print journalism, Owen uses race and class,
coupled with a Faulknerian family tragedy, to provide a powerful narrative engine. While the complex noir drama keeps the
pages turning, crime-fiction buffs might identify the actual rapist early in the narrative, but the murderer and motivation
complete the storyline perfectly.
A quick-flowing crime
drama that will have fans eager for Willie Black to right another injustice.
Narrator Willie, who charmed readers in Oregon Hill (2012),
is a hard drinking, old-style newsman who still takes notes with pen and pad and
takes his chances with the powers-that-be to get at the truth. A well-plotted mystery
elevated above the norm by Owen’s mastery of character development and his
creation of a compelling hero.
Richmond, Va., reporter Willie Black proves himself a dogged, flawed,
and tarnished knight of the Fourth Estate in Owen’s strong sequel to 2012’s
Oregon Hill, a Hammett Prize finalist. Owen
has a knack for creating quirky but credible characters, from homeless “Awesome Dude” to Simpson’s aristocratic older sister, Lewis Witt.
Virginia Living TV Interview
(Howard Owen is the first interview on both the Virginia Living and Germanna Today TV shows.
You may see a short commercial first.)
Germanna Today TV Interview
Howard Owen on Virginia This Morning, WTVR Richmond
Please watch this space for more book signing
Hammett Prize finalist Oregon Hill...
Willie Black has squandered a lot of things
in his life - his liver, his lungs, a couple of former wives and a floundering daughter can all attest to his abuse. He's
lucky to be employed, having managed to drink and smart-talk his way out of a nice, cushy job covering (and partying with)
the politicians down at the capitol.
Now, he's back on the night cops beat, right where he started when
he came to work for the Richmond paper almost 30 years ago. The thing Willie's always had going for him, though, all the way
back to his hardscrabble days as a mixed-race kid on Oregon Hill, where white was the primary color and fighting was everyone's
favorite leisure pastime, was grit. His mother, the drug-addled Peggy, gave him that if nothing else. He never backed down
then, and he shows no signs of changing.
When a co-ed at the local university where Willie's daughter is a perpetual
student is murdered, her headless body found along the South Anna River, the hapless alleged killer is arrested within days.
Everyone but Willie seems to think: Case Closed. But Willie, against
the orders and advice of his bosses at the paper, the police and just about everyone else, doesn't think the case is solved
at all. He embarks on a one-man crusade to do what he's always done: get the story.
On the way, Willie runs afoul of David Junior Shiflett, a nightmare from his youth who's now
a city cop, and awakens another dark force, one everyone thought disappeared a long time ago. And a score born in the parking
lot of an Oregon Hill beer joint 40 years ago will finally be settled.
The truth is out there. Willie Black's going to dig it out or die trying.
Raves for Oregon Hill:
is all business — newspaper business. In OREGON HILL (Permanent Press, $28), Howard Owen’s world-weary
crime reporter covers the night beat for a hard-pressed daily in Richmond, Va. When Willie’s number comes up for downsizing,
he wins a reprieve by chasing the terrific story he’s working on here — about a headless corpse tossed in the
South Anna River. Owen has recruited his sick, sad and creatively crazy characters from a rough neighborhood cut off from
the rest of the city when the expressway was built. If anyone is watching out for the forgotten citizens of Oregon Hill, it’s
Willie, who grew up there and speaks the local language, a crisp and colorful urban idiom we can’t wait to hear again.
-- The New York Times
Owen knows his setting, his dialogue is spot-on and his grasp of the down-and-dirty work of the police
and news reporters lends authenticity to the narrative. This is Southern literature as expected, with a touch of noir, and
with a touch of Dennis LeHane’s Mystic River. Willie Black deserves a sequel. -- Kirkus The deft and surprising plot builds to a satisfying ending. Readers will hope that Willie will soon return in
a sequel. --Publishers Weekly
Owen is a careful, precise writer, creating characters
so real that we have to keep reminding themselves they’re fiction, and stories so haunting that they stay with the reader
long after the books are back on the shelf.--Booklist
Oregon Hill is a wondrous
trip into the world of sarcastic newspaper reporters, bad cops, and murder most foul. Mr. Owen writes in a captivating voice,
his acute observations granting authenticity to the bullet-speed pace of the story. Newspaperman Willie Black is masterfully
created, ink and dark humor coursing through his hardboiled veins. It is hoped that this is the beginning of a series of books
starring Willie and crew. Bring on the sequel!--New York Journal of Books
of Carl Hiaasen’s Basket Case, Oregon Hill is as smart as it is thrilling, a true literary page-turner.--Small
Littlejohn McCain, humbled by age and haunted by tragedy, goes out on the
hottest day of his 82nd year to put himself in God’s hands and reflect on a life in which tragedy and redemption lie
hidden beneath an exterior as quiet and humdrum as a Presbyterian hymn. Saddled with a learning disability, scarred
by his role in his brother’s death, deeply affected by the horrors of World War II, Littlejohn tells the reader everything,
including the secret of the beautiful Sara.
“Littlejohn is a beautifully written
novel, and Howard Owen has created a character as fully rounded in his quirks and imperfections, his quiet determination and
bravery, as any in recent fiction.” --Washington Post
“A warm and generous novel, a heartfelt celebration of the human spirit.”
--The New York Times
|Rock of Ages
Eleven years after her father’s death, Georgia McCain is back in East
Geddie, North Carolina, racked with Baby Boomer guilt and stumbling along between marriages. In this return to the terrain
of the best-selling Littlejohn, Littlejohn McCain’s daughter, here to sell the family farm, tries to come to grips with
the place she couldn’t wait to escape. She’s brought along her drifting son, Justin, and his pregnant girlfriend.
Making her life more interesting will be an overweight psychopath, taboo-flouting lust, a murder mystery and a tall, thin
ghost wandering the perimeter of her once and now-again home.
in character and place, this murder mystery is also a haunting odyssey toward redemption and repatriation.” --Publishers Weekly
“This sequel to Littlejohn is beautifully
written and should appeal to readers of Southern fiction and to genre fans who favor character-driven crime stories.”
Lot Chastain, who has dreams of eating the oily, flammable pine kindling known
as fat lightning, is generally avoided by the people of Monacan. He is, in the local parlance, full of meanness.
But when the image of Jesus appears in the moss-covered boards of his barn, thousands of tourists flock there. Soon, seduced
by a flimflamming female gospel preacher, Lot begins to capitalize on Jesus on the Barn and heads down a dark path that will
cause his smoldering core to burst into flames.
warm, deeply satisfying story that resonates with imagery invoking the spiritual tradition of such Southern writers as Faulkner
and Flannery O’Connor.”--Publishers Weekly
“Owen is a master
storyteller and a writer to be watched.”--Library Journal
|The Measured Man
Walker Fann is from the right family. He married the right girl. He lives on the
right street on the right side of town. But something’s gone wrong. Maybe he could have gone on forever enjoying
the world that three generations of Fanns had built for him and his progeny. But the voice of Mattie Gray, the shy,
pretty girl who shared his life and then left it, haunts him, pressing to win his soul. When a 13-year-old boy dredges up
a ghost from Walker’s past, he knows he must at last be measured. He will have to decide between the expedient thing
and the right thing.
“A journey of the soul that warms and cheers.” --Kirkus Reviews
"[A] nicely plotted novel inhabited by real people living in a real--and
thus complex--world. Fann's struggle to come to grips with his own limitations is well and plausibly detailed." --The New York Times
|Answers to Lucky
Tommy Sweatt, a North Carolina trucker driver with a fifth-grade education, has
a teeth-grinding desire to amount to something. In his twin sons, he sees the vehicle for his family’s deliverance,
and he pushes them toward his concept of greatness. When Lucky is crippled by polio in 1954, he becomes a non-person to his
father, who turns all his attention on the unscathed twin, Tom Ed. Forty years later, with Tom Ed running for governor and
Lucky working as his unpaid driver, all that Tommy Sweatt sowed is about to be reaped.
progeny of Robert Penn Warren’s Willie Stark is alive and charming the pants off everyone in the wonderful new novel
“Answers to Lucky,” a 1990s version of “All the King’s Men.” --GQ
“A completely engaging story about the family ties that bind—tight—and the ego-pricking legacy
of growing up poor.” --Kirkus Reviews
“A quietly powerful narrative, a poignant study of sibling rivalry and family dysfunction.” --Publishers Weekly
|Harry and Ruth
Ruth Crowder Flood has always told Harry Stein not to torture himself, not to
let his life be ruined by what might have been. But he can’t help it, and neither can she: They both know just
how much can be lost by one bad decision. Now, late in the game, Harry is dying, and he wants to tie up a few loose ends.
As the second defining hurricane of Ruth’s life closes in, the time seems right.
“A winning story of human frailty and renewal.” --The New York
Before he sabotaged his life, Neil Beauchamp was special, the glorious Virginia
Rail who terrorized American League pitchers. He lived and flourished in the world of privilege, adored and accommodated.
Then, it was gone. The only thing worse than spending your life earthbound, he would learn, is landing hard and knowing you’ll
never fly again. Now, long after the fall and just out of prison, the Rail has a chance at redemption, a chance to,
for once, not fail those who love him.
pace is leisurely, the revelations apt and unexpected, and the coverage of professional baseball rings absolutely true.”
“With this rich, multi-layered
narrative focusing on a major league baseball star fallen from grace, Owen adds another volume to a remarkable body of work.”
No one thought Jack Stone of Speakeasy, Virginia, was the kind of man who would
try to solve his problems with a .38. But here he is, on a train to New York, armed and dangerously determined that
somebody is going to read his damn novel. Jack once had dreams of bigger things, but here he is, a long-distance trucker with
a shaky home life and one last chance to be special. All that New York editor needs is a little persuasion.
“A poison-pen letter to the publishing industry from Owen, whose loser protagonist hits the big time
once he stops playing by the rules.” --Kirkus Reviews
"Richmond Noir" is a
collection of all-new stories by a variety of accomplished authors. Each story is set in Richmond, Virginia. In Howard
Owen's The Thirteenth Floor, a political reporter reassigned to the night police beat investigates a murder-by-gunshot
in his own apartment building.
About Owen's story, "...a well-done contemporary
fair play whodunit..." -- Publishers Weekly
Howard Owen Biography...
Award-winning writer Howard
Owen was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism
degree and earned a master’s degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Howard's first novel, "Littlejohn," was
published by The Permanent Press in 1992. Random House bought and reissued it as a Villard hardcover in 1993 and a Vintage
Contemporary paperback in 1994. It was nominated for the Abbey Award (American Booksellers) and Discovery (Barnes & Noble)
award for best new fiction. It has sold, in all, more than 50,000 copies. It has been printed in Japanese, French and Korean;
it has been a Doubleday Book Club selection; audio and large-print editions have been issued, and movie option rights have
kudos for Howard Owen and his books:
· Starred reviews from Publishers'
Included in "The Best Novels of the Nineties: A Reader’s Guide."
in the LA Times Book Reviews’ "Recommended Titles" for 1997.
· Several of his novels have
been Booksense selections.
Owen won the 2002 Theresa Pollak Award for Words.
· His short story, "The Thirteenth Floor," was
included in "Richmond Noir” in 2010.
Howard lives in Richmond,
Virginia, with his wife Karen who is also an award-winning writer and editor.