Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Do-Right


Lisa Sandlin 

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Date of Publication: October 27, 2015
# of pages: 306
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1959. Delpha Wade killed a man who was raping her. Wanted to kill the other one too, but he got away. Now, after fourteen years in prison, she’s out. It’s 1973, and nobody’s rushing to hire a parolee. Persistence and smarts land her a secretarial job with Tom Phelan, an ex-roughneck turned neophyte private eye. Together these two pry into the dark corners of Beaumont, a blue-collar, Cajun-influenced town dominated by Big Oil. A mysterious client plots mayhem against a small petrochemical company-why? Searching for a teenage boy, Phelan uncovers the weird lair of a serial killer. And Delpha — on a weekend outing — looks into the eyes of her rapist, the one who got away. The novel's conclusion is classic noir, full of surprise, excitement, and karmic justice. Sandlin's elegant prose, twisting through the dark thickets of human passion, allows Delpha to open her heart again to friendship, compassion, and sexuality.


"Lisa Sandlin’s The Do-Right is something akin to a rusted nail through the foot: it’s dirty, it hurts, and it’ll have you jumping up and down—or possibly just on the floor. Delpha Wade and Tom Phelan are as lovable a duo as any in noir fiction." -- Joseph Borden, Killer Nashville

“When a critic praises a writer’s original voice, what does that really mean? In the case
of Texas native Lisa Sandlin, it means dog-earing page after page in her novel The
Do-Right, to reread particularly terrific passages or, even better, share them aloud . . .
Check out The Do-Right, and see if you don’t find yourself reading passages aloud
just for the sheer pleasure of it.” – Shawna Seed, The Dallas Morning News
"Smashingly original." -- Jack Batten, Toronto Star


Some books are almost like time machines.  They so vividly portray a time and a place from the reader’s past that reading them is almost like being there again.  For me, Lisa Sandlin’s The Do-Right is one of those books.  Set in 1973, in Beaumont, Texas, The Do-Right is the story of a young woman who returns to Beaumont after serving fourteen years in Gatesville prison for killing one of the two men who raped her.  Now, if she wants to avoid going back to prison, her parole officer tells her that she needs to get a job – and quickly.

Luckily for Delpha Wade, Beaumont is not nearly as large a town as it appears to be at first glance and Joe Ford, her parole officer, has a favor or two he is willing to call in on her behalf.  One of those owing Ford a favor is Tom Phelan a young man with a brand new detective agency and no one to handle all the phone calls he hopes will soon start rolling in.  After he very reluctantly agrees to interview her, and the take-charge Delpha gets an unscheduled chance to demonstrate her office skills, Tom knows that she is exactly what he needs manning his front office.  As he remarks to Delpha, “Miss Wade, you were hired when you called me Bubba.”

And the phone does start ringing.  For starters, a mother is looking for her missing high school student son, a woman wants pictures of her husband with his mistress, and someone’s sister has stolen his prosthetic leg and refuses to give it back.  It all seems fairly routine and promising for the new agency until some of the cases begin to overlap, and Tom learns the hard way just how important Delpha Wade is to his agency – and to him personally.

Lisa Sandlin presents 1973 Beaumont so much in the classic noir tradition that, despite numerous references to events of the day such as Nixon’s Watergate scandal and Hank Aaron’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, it is just as easy to envision a city of the late 1940s as it is one of the 1970s.  I, in fact, first read a segment of The Do-Right published in 2014 as “Phelan’s First Case,” one of the short stories featured in Lone Star Noir, a fine collection of noir short stories set in Texas. 

The best thing about The Do-Right, however, and what makes it so much more effective than its short story cousin is how deeply, in comparison to the short story, Sandlin develops the Delpha Wade character in the novel.  Delpha is a complex character, a woman who was determined to fight to the death the father and son who raped her despite the price she had to pay for doing so.  Now, after serving her prison sentence, she is determined to make something of the rest of her life - and she plans to help put away as many bad guys along the way as she can.

Delpha Wade and Tom Phelan make a great team, and here's hoping that Lisa Sandlin has more in store for them in the future.

Lisa Sandlin’s story “Phelan’s First Case” was anthologized in Lone Star Noir (Akashic) and was later re-anthologized in Akashic’s Best of the Noir compendium, USA Noir. The Do-Right, which uses the characters from that story, is her first full-length mystery. Lisa was born in Beaumont, Texas, currently lives and teaches in Omaha, Nebraska, and summers in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
  June 6 - June 15, 2016 

Check out the other great blogs on the tour! 

6/6       All for the Love of the Word      -- Review
6/7       Country Girl Bookaholic -- Author Interview #1
6/8       Forgotten Winds           -- Excerpt #1
6/9       My Book Fix Blog          -- Review
6/11     Missus Gonzo   -- Excerpt #2
6/12     Texas Book Lover          -- Author Interview #2
6/13     Margie's Must Reads    -- Review
6/14     The Crazy Booksellers   -- Promo
6/15     Book Chase      -- Review

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