A vulnerable kid. A brutal enemy. An addled ally. Blood runs cold on Harlem’s hottest summer night when Drive-by assassins shoot up a crowded playground, killing the teenaged friend of private eye SJ Rook. Only fourteen, the kid was smart, affectionate, and alive with potential. His sudden death strikes the cynical Rook through the heart. Was this boy the victim of a cruel accident? Or was he targeted by gang hit men in a ruthless display of power?
To find the killers, Rook must enlist the help of another teen, Whip, a mysterious runaway witness. Whip is a transgender boy whose life on the streets has drawn him into the realm of a violent mob kingpin. Damaged by his mother’s rejection, Whip doesn’t want to be found. Not by the cops or by community do-gooders. And certainly not by Rook, a resolute stranger with vengeance on his mind. Rook’s search for the elusive kid becomes a dangerous trek through the meanest corners of his neighborhood.
Racing from desolate homeless camps to urban swamps, from settlement houses to high-rise palaces ruled by greed and corruption, the determined Rook pursues his quarry. An unexpected twist in the detective’s relationship with his crime-fighting partner, Sabrina Ross, threatens to derail his mission. Noble tramps, vicious thugs, and a pint-sized trigger woman also complicate Rook’s efforts to protect Whip. When a mob prince and a hobo hold the boy’s life in the balance will Rook’s grit and imagination be enough to save Whip and bring the killers to justice?
– When and where do you prefer to write?
I write at one end of my dining room table. It is crowded with notebooks, flower vases holding pens, lip balm, coffee mugs, and even a replica of a Benin bronze statue. (Needless to say, my husband and I eat our meals in the kitchen!) I find the afternoon sunlight streaming into my dining room is a perfect lure; the warmth draws me like a cat to a bright window, so I do most of my writing before sunset.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
Opening up my laptop seems to be ritual enough on most days. I do my emailing and internet scanning on an iPad, so the laptop is strictly for my book writing. I find keeping the division clear helps me focus on writing when I get to my dining room desk.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
I love my coffee with plenty of cream. And I keep a jug of plain water on the side. No munching, although the refrigerator is dangerously in view.
– What is your favourite book?
My favorite book is always the one I’m currently reading. Right now, that is Attica Locke’s stunningly evocative mystery, Heaven, My Home. But my all-time favorite is Alice in Wonderland, followed closely by Huckleberry Finn.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I’ve plotted several general literary fiction attempts. But they always seem to revert to murder mysteries in the end. I do enjoy writing short suspense/crime fiction and novellas in addition to my longer work. When I wrote fan fiction (sixty plus stories), the variety spanned everything from character sketches and humor to erotica and science fiction.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Yes, almost always the characters are amalgamations of physical and psychological traits of people I know as well as pieces of their personal history Occasionally, I will borrow sayings and speaking styles from people I know. For example, my late father’s boisterous humor, penetrating intelligence, loud suits, love of dancing, and ability to capture every room, appear in several of the older male characters in my books.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I usually end up jotting ideas or snatches of conversation on scraps of paper in my purse. But I do keep a notepad next to my bed for middle-of-the-night inspirations
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I read widely, but I haven’t been caught up in YA or fantasy yet. My friends are making a list of romance novels I must read, so I may get into that at some point.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I would love to co-author a book with crime writer extraordinaire Tracy Clark, whose private eye series is set in my hometown, Chicago. I often fantasize about getting my New York-based detective Rook to make a trip to Chicago in pursuit of clues in a case. There, he could work with Tracy’s detective, Cass Raines. I think they would make a formidable, if prickly, team of sleuths.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
I would love to travel to the Caribbean, specifically to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica. I think those island nations would make intriguing settings for a series of adventures which would force my private eye out of his Harlem comfort zone.
Thank you, Delia C. Pitts and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Delia C. Pitts is the author of the Ross Agency Mysteries, a contemporary private eye series including Lost and Found in Harlem, Practice the Jealous Arts, and Black and Blue in Harlem. She is a former university administrator and U.S. diplomat, who served in West Africa and Mexico. After working as a journalist, she earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. She has published more than sixty fan fiction titles under the pen name Blacktop. Pauper and Prince in Harlem is the fourth novel in the Ross Agency Mystery series. The fifth, Murder My Past, will be released in 2021.
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