Today we feature author, Patti Abbott (her take on her latest, Shot in Detroit), and our review.
Here’s Patti …
Shot in Detroit is the story of Violet Hart, a photographer, nearing forty, and eager to find artistic success. Through her relationship with a mortician, she comes up with the idea of photographing young black men who have died in Detroit over a six-month period. The novel takes place entirely in Detroit and its near suburbs. Violet Hart is ambitious, a loner, a pest in getting what she wants. She's an artist in other words.
“Photography was a license to go wherever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do.” Diane Arbus
Almost any African-American Detroiter that picks up Shot in Detroit will probably tell you that this is not the real Detroit. That I didn't get Detroit right from my vantage point as a suburbanite. That I didn't get them right. And this was the thought that reverberated in my head through the years I spent writing and rewriting my book. The Detroit in my novel might be one filled with violence, despair and poverty, but it was, and always would be, the view of an outside looking in--someone not, at heart, affected greatly by what was happening inside the city limits in most cases. I might work in Detroit, but I lived elsewhere.
The things I didn't know about Detroit included what the inside of a Detroit public school looked like; how underfinanced and antiquated the fire stations were; what it was like to stand in long lines to cash a check, pay a utility bill, pay a parking fine, see an representative at a Social Security office or at the Secretary of State's office. The hardship of waiting on a cold street corner for a DDOT bus that doesn't come; watching the depopulation of the street you live on, Then watching the houses come down due to arson, neglect, scrapping, mischief. I'd never know the difficulty of grocery shopping in a city with no grocery store chains. No full-scale pharmacies. And being without a car to take you outside city limits. (Most Detroit citizens have no car and this in a city with scant public transportation). City services were shoddy; a mayor was found guilty of many heinous crimes. You only had to look to Chicago or D.C. to see how these issues played out in other cities. But unlike these cities, Detroit had no glamour attached to it.
I conceded these facts. I knew my story would never tell the same story as someone writing from a depopulated street only a mile or two away from me. Other writers faced the same dilemma. Did Elmore Leonard mislead us to some degree with his gift for dialog, his colorful characters? Didn't his entertaining plots serve as the magician's trick of getting us to look at the wrong thing while he performed his magic? His home in Birmingham was as far removed from Detroit as mine.
Of the more than 100 stories I wrote before finishing my first novel, only five were set in Detroit--that's how much I feared getting it wrong. Each of those stories was grim and yet when I look at them now, they share the possibility of redemption, of finding a better life: two children escape their harridan mother, a criminal awakes to find two growths on his back and takes on the duties of an angel; an elderly man enjoys a day with the grandson he never knew he had. None of these stories state their characters are black although you can reasonably assume it.
I have tried to take this on in Shot in Detroit. To confront of fear of being the white outside. In the very first chapter, Violet Hart runs into two cops on Belle Isle. They accuse her of exploiting the people she is photographing. She responds by saying she's an artist. That perhaps her pictures tell their story. Various characters in the book throw this accusation in her face. She does the best she can to respond to it.
And perhaps I did too.
Patti has penned more than 125 stories in all the various venues—on line, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is also the author of two ebooks, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION and co-editor of DISCOUNT NOIR. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero." She lives outside Detroit. Patti has also authored two terrific novels, Concrete Angel and now Shot in the Detroit.
Patti is also about one of the kindest writers in the community as she features authors and their works on her blog, Patti Abbott (Pattinase). Visit her blog here:
Our Review of Shot in Detroit, by Patti Abbott
Violet Hart is a photographer seeking a project that excites. It can be weird, unusual, dark … but it has to be that special something that can stir the creative juices and that makes life, or at least life as it relates to one’s chosen profession, worth living. While she loves her profession, she’s dependent on the usual photographer fare—weddings, bar and bat mitvahs, birthdays, etc., so she’s living hand to mouth while hoping to put together something for a gallery. The works she currently has showing aren’t selling and she’s catching grief for it.
On one of Violet’s trips to Belle Isle to search for that special something, after one trip that ended with police questioning her presence there, she spots something unusual, and then an unusual person, and a young one at that. Derek Olsen is a kid who creates his own sculptures out of weird stuff and then puts them on display along the beach. The two accidentally meet on Belle Isle. Violet initially thinks of Derek as “crazy guy,” but there’s more to this kid than meets the eye.
Violet has a lover, Bill, who owns a funeral parlor and does a respectable business from his years of service in the neighborhood. When Bill asks Violet to photograph one of the bodies he’s prepped for a funeral, a rugby player from London who was killed by an aneurism, she finds the experience more exhilarating than she imagined it could be. The requested photograph came from the family, a simple picture of their loved one in a casket to be shipped home. Developing the film later on in her darkroom, Violet realizes there’s something more to the picture she’s taken … and creative juices flow.
She strikes a deal with her lover and begins taking pictures of young black males he preps for their funerals. Bill makes it legit by ascertaining permission from family members, but he isn’t fully comfortable with the new arrangement he’s agreed to with Violet.
Very much into her new project, filming dead black males in their caskets, Crazy guy (Derek) calls with something extra weird he thinks Violet might be interested in … and oh, boy, is it weird … body parts he’s created a sculpture from. It’s not something Violet is comfortable with, although she takes a number of photographs of the body parts and the sculpture Derek has created from them.
She’s continuing her project filming the young dead black males at her lover’s funeral parlor, but then the scene on the beach involving Derek, his sculpture, and the body parts, comes back to her via the police. She’s told Derek to let the police know about the body parts he’s found and he’s done as she suggested, except the police are now at her doorstep asking questions. Derek called his work “installation art” … but the police have to wonder if maybe Derek and/or Violet provided their own material for the body part project. She did, after all, take pictures of it.
The complications are increased when the guy who owns a gallery showing her stuff, a guy she’s been intimate with for more pragmatic than romantic reasons (even while a noisy neighbor directly upstairs exercises on his bike), sees her growing gallery of dead black males and wants to run with it. This is something she’s also excited about, but there are legal issues involved that may well threaten her relationship with her true lover, Bill, and it’s a relationship that seems to be on the wane of late.
There are chapters with newspaper articles describing the latest deaths of young black males Violet will get a crack at photographing. It’s a very effective way to keep the pace of the novel moving. Violet is an interesting character not only for her photographic talents, but because she’s flawed in the most artistic way. Let’s face it, there’s an extra dose of selfishness many (most, if not all) artists share, and Violet is no exception. She’s an independent woman unwilling to live by social mores that might preclude her quest for creative expression. It’s a fine line she walks, because the idea of photographing dead males can be viewed as more exploitive than creative … but that’s for the naysayers to deal with. Violet is willing to cross lines some feminists might balk at, and like those living with writers undoubtedly come to realize—nothing is safe around an artist.
Violet is also naïve about a particular family secret involving the musician father who abandoned her and her mother years ago, and when she spots Bill with another woman, one with his racial profile, Violet experiences the jealousy a potential rejection inevitably leads to. There are a couple of plot twists and turns in this very interesting novel that strike like sledgehammers, so readers beware. Like most novels worth reading, it’s the journey toward plot twists that keep us interested in what happens next. Violet is a vibrant character. She will keep you interested to the very end, making the plot twists all the more powerful. Shot in the Dark is a wonderful read with an exceptionally interesting female lead, and it is much more than a murder mystery.
Is/Has Sanders BERNED OUT?
It’s perhaps the most asked question going back and forth in social media these days: Will Bernie Sanders abandon the cause and get behind Crooked Hillary Clinton (sorry, but no sincere Sanders supporter and/or progressive can call her anything but Crooked Hillary).
I’ve had my doubts going back to the Arizona debacle, where hundreds of polling locations were reduced from over 200 in 2012 to 60 in 2016. I was pretty sure early on that the Democratic Party would never allow Bernie Sanders to represent them; a party owned by corporate coin wasn’t about to allow someone who refused it take the top spot. Yet, hopeless romantic I am, I was hopeful the huge crowds Bernie was drawing, as opposed to the tiny ones surrounding Crooked Hillary, meant something.
And I did my best to remind myself how in 1960. scores of dead people voted JFK into office in Illinois; if they could do that then and hack into the Pentagon now, what were the odds it wouldn’t happen to voting machines in an election being run by millionaires and billionaires?
Post Arizona, there was no longer a doubt as to what would happen. The question remained, however, would Bernie make the move his supporters so desperately want him to make—would he defy the corruption of the Democratic National Committee and its star corrupt candidate, Crooked Hillary Clinton? Would Bernie start a viable third party with millions of supporters behind him, or even join one already in existence, the Green Party, and help to make it the Progressive Party his supporters want so badly? Or, in the end, would he wind up rewarding the corruption and endorsing Crooked Hillary?
I fear it’ll wind up being the latter, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow suit—not his supporters. Most of us are well aware of the consequences for progressives should Crooked Hillary win the Presidency. First off, we’ll be ignored over the next four years—as if we never existed. Why wouldn’t they ignore us? After what they did to Sanders’ campaign, should he still endorse her, why the hell would the Democratic Party bother giving us lip service, never mind a genuine acknowledgment?
Secondly, nothing changes within the party itself and/or their policies. Absolutely nothing.
Thirdly, everything we feared about Crooked Hillary and her flip-flops will come to pass, to include TPP legislation authored by the same corporate owners who own Crooked Hillary and Barry Obama. She’ll forget $15.00 an hour, her pledge to reduce education costs, single payer health insurance, and we’ll be led right back into the Middle East quagmire via her regime change fetish and love of perpetual war.
So, if Bernie bolts, most of us are with him. If he caves, he does it alone.
We can still love the man for what he tried, but we cannot dismiss the end result. For Bernie to get behind Crooked Hillary is to REWARD the corruption of the party against himself and his supporters … something I’ll never digest.
So, go the convention, Bernie. Show up and let them have it in a much more direct way than they fought you throughout this campaign (as exposed in the latest hack of the DNC server). Take the microphone at center stage and announce that after more than a year of fighting the corruption of the DNC, you’re taking your talents to the GREEN PARTY and establishing a formal Progressive Party to not only challenge for the Presidency, but to establish as a viable political party at every level of government, from local organizations to Governorships.
YES, GO GREEN, BERNIE … it’s where we need you most now.
Jill Stein on the differences between Trump and Crooked Hillary … and the myth of the lesser of two evils.