The Devil’s Triangle

by Howard Owen
Permanent Press, June 2017, $28

Be sure and catch Howard Owen’s terrific The Devil’s Triangle, which brings back irascible reporter Willie Black for a sixth outing (after Oregon Hill, Grace, etc.). This time out, the murderous stakes are raised when a small plane purposely crashes into the Richmond, Virginia, watering hole where attorneys have gone to celebrate the close of a successful case. As the death toll climbs past two dozen, Willie must fight his wackadoodle publisher for permission to probe more deeply into the pilot’s past. Grim though the subject matter may be, there is—again—a plethora of dark humor to be found here. Newspaperman Willie, himself multiracial, is a sly historian, especially when confronting Richmond’s racist past. When the mayor makes a speech about the tragedy, Willie snarks, “He said a few words about our city’s darkest day, maybe forgetting the time the Confederate troops accidentally burned the place to the ground in their haste to flee the approaching Union army.” The plot—why did pilot David Biggio wipe out a bar filled with attorneys?—is intriguing, but Willie is so entertaining that he could headline a much duller plot and his many loyal readers would still follow him. No one and no thing is safe from Willie’s rapier wit, not even himself. While waiting to see if he is among those destined to lose his job as his newspaper straggles into oblivion, he considers his prospects. “I’m pretty much the whole package: 56 years old, good salary, a well-earned reputation for antagonizing the powers that be, maybe a wee bit of a drinking problem. I’m a human resources ax-wielder’s dream.” Yet Willie isn’t the only colorful character in this comedy/drama of a book. Along for the ride are renegades like Pistol Pete, Peachy Love, Bootie Carmichael, Goat Johnson, and Awesome Dude (Willie’s mom’s pot-smoking boyfriend). Ironically, with all his faults, Willie’s is the strongest voice for decency and honor, which is one of the reasons his three ex-wives and numerous ex-girlfriends still like him. Author Owen, who besides writing superb mysteries also writes superb literary novels (Littlejohn, Rock of Ages, etc.) is to be lauded for creating a character as flawed yet lovable as Willie Black. Yes, the man is a rascal, and yes, he drinks too much, but Willie is truly a man for all seasons.

Betty Webb

The irascible reporter Willie Black returns for a sixth outing in which a small plane purposely crashes into the Richmond, Virginia, in a terrorist attack.

Teri Duerr
June 2017
Permanent Press