‘Oregon Hill’ Author To Speak At Crime Novel Talk Tomorrow

From Kelly Justice, proprietor of Fountain Bookstore (in Shockoe Slip):

Join us for a night of conversation about what goes on behind the scenes of writing successful and award-winning series crime fiction. I will be moderating Swinson and Owen (two very charming gentlemen in addition to being very talented) about their books.

I paired them together because they both have so much in common: both have main characters on the more serious side of flawed, both employ the blackest of humor to great effect, both write with a deeply rooted sense of place. Swinson’s books take place in D.C., Owen’s in Richmond.

This is a good opportunity to ask Owen questions about his ‘Oregon Hill’ novel as well as his more recent works.

‘Grace’ by Owen

Doug Childers has a review of Howard Owen’s new book, ‘Grace’, in the Times Dispatch. It’s once again set in Richmond and one of the main characters is a minister named Sam McNish, whose background includes growing up poor and fatherless in Oregon Hill. Like “Oregon Hill”, a previous Owen novel, this features his hero/reporter protagonist Willie Black.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the review:

Richmond’s building a reputation as a highly creative city, with everything from art shows to ad agencies getting national press. Few of the city’s creative types have built a following by writing about Richmond’s crimes, though.

Of course, the crimes that Howard Owen describes in his critically acclaimed Willie Black series are fictional. But the books are so thoroughly rooted in recognizable locales that it sometimes feels as if local readers following Black’s path through the city might bump into him.

In fact, each installment in the series takes its title from a Richmond neighborhood or landmark. Owen’s latest, “Grace,” refers to Grace Street. As Black tells us, “(T)he city’s history is laid out along its chopped-up route.”


From “Oregon Hill” To “Parker Field”

Howard Owen‘s sequel to his charged crime novel, Oregon Hill”, is “Parker Field” and it dives right into Richmond’s baseball past (no, not the questionable future).


“Parker Field” is the third in Owen’s series featuring Willie Black, an alcoholic reporter for a struggling Richmond newspaper. In this new one, the character becomes personally involved with a shooting, the motive for which goes back to the days of the Virginians baseball team.

Doug Childer’s review in the Times Dispatch picks up on Owen’s sense of place:

Often, it feels as if you could read the Willie Black series with Google Street View open on your laptop and track Black’s movements, page by page. Or use the books to stage Willie Black tours.

A sample: “I drive over to Oregon Hill. The weather, fickle as ever, has turned from late winter to full-blown spring overnight. Along Laurel Street, the camellias are blooming and the trees seem to have turned into a yellow-green canopy, shading the sidewalks their roots are slowly destroying.”

For Richmond readers, it’s a particular thrill. Don’t be surprised if you glance up apprehensively at the ninth-floor windows of the Prestwould the next time you walk through Monroe Park, though.

“Oregon Hill” in Bon Air

From James River Writers website:

Oregon Hill Program
Tuesday, September 11 at 7:00 PM: Howard Owen presents a program on his latest mystery Oregon Hill. At Bon Air Library, 9103 Rattlesnake Rd.

You can read some previous coverage of “Oregon Hill” by clicking here and here.

Also, Owen recently wrote a tribute to the James River Writers group.
Here is an excerpt:

The first few years, Karen and I hosted the pre-conference party for the presenters in our sixth-floor condominium in the Prestwould. We made a lot of the food ourselves, hired a bartender, and had a blast. We still think — this being Richmond — there should be a historical marker beside the door to unit 6B, noting that Tom Robbins, Richard Price, Mark Bowden and others drank there.

The Richmond writing community has thrived and grown more prolific, and we like to think JRW played some small part of that. We take pride that our city’s literary toilers were able to turn out the well-received Richmond Noir anthology, in a city much smaller than the others in that detective-noir series. We beam every time another Richmond writer gets published.

We live an hour away now, so I don’t get back for JRW events very often. But my heart is with you. It is one of my proudest achievements to have had a part in the founding of such a worthy and successful enterprise.

Richmond is a writers’ city, and JRW helped make it so. Who wouldn’t be proud of that?

Early Reviews for “Oregon Hill”

From The Permanent Press blog:

LibraryThing Early Reviewers have favorably praised Howard Owen’s newest novel Oregon Hill

“This is pure classic noir in the best possible way…The plot moves along quickly with some interesting twists…to make every character three dimensional and to create a feel for the streets of Richmond.”

“Owen creates a story that is both suspenseful and rich in character development and the feeling of small town life…I am left with the desire to read the past works of Howard Owen.”

“Oregon Hill by Howard Owen is a character-driven mystery enhanced by the first-person observations of the very self-aware narrator, Willie Mays Black…It all makes for an entertaining and colorful mix of character, plot and setting.”

Hopefully, there will be more news on this novel soon. I hope there will be an interview soon on WRIR’s Wordy Birds.