A nice surprise

One of the nicest things that can happen to a book geek is to walk into a book shop and discover that an author you love has a new book out. It’s a joy that I don’t get to experience all that often. I’m the sort of geek who trawls through publisher’s websites and online book retailers to see what new releases are coming down the pipeline. So that makes it hard for an author to sneak up on me and get a new book out without my knowing about it.

But it did happen recently – and it happened with the help of a cranky kid. We were at a bar in the Canberra suburb of Manuka where my wife was catching up with some friends. After a few hours our daughter was sooooo overtired and also heartily sick of the grown-ups talking and wanted to go home. I amused her for as long as I could before deciding to take her for a walk so my wife and her friends didn’t have to listen to “Mu-UM, can we go home now?” repeated ad nauseum.

There was a bit of an ulterior motive – I knew there was a bookstore up the road from the pub and this would be my only chance to have a look inside. And right there at the front of the store was Lightning Men, the new crime fiction novel from US author Thomas Mullen.

I’d read Darktown, which was set in Atlanta in 1948, when the police department has to hire its first black officers. They’re not all that welcome – they don’t get to drive a squad car, can’t arrest white suspects and are banned from the police station. The book captures the endemic racism of the time, but it’s not there for shock value but rather simply because that’s what Atlanta was like at the time.

The history of the city and the era seeps through Darktown; it’s clear Mullen had done a lot of research so as to work out how to create the framework to hang his plot on. I loved Darktown but had figured it was a one-off. But then I’m in that Canberra bookstore and I spot its sequel, Lightning Men. To say I was stoked is putting it mildly.

To say I finished it within a week of buying it would be very accurate. Now here’s hoping Mullen writes a third book in the series.

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