Canon contender
'Your House Will Pay' revisits collateral damage of Rodney King race war 30 years on

Canon contender
Jeffrey Mannix - 01/02/2020

Novels – like movies, music, fashions, trends and fads – keep on coming regardless of quality, need or preference. I’ve mentioned before that I peruse on average 10 crime fiction books before I’m seduced by exceptional writing and lured by canny plots to finish reading and recommend one.

Do the math: You’re hearing about 10 percent of the books in this genre that are worth my time and your time reading. And that’s probably an even smaller percentage when you figure that I miss a few new releases from new or slothful publicists, and I occasionally get left behind for a time as authors or publicists change companies and have to rebuild their list of reviewers.

In my correspondence with publicists, I never fail to assert that I am interested in only “literary” crime fiction, and that’s defined in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (The Big Dic) as “writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features,” and writings that “provide insights about how society has evolved and about the societal norms.”

In the canon of literature, we think of the great Russians Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol and Chekhov. And the French Andre? Gide, Albert Camus, Sartre and Samuel Beckett, and the more modern crime fiction giants, Georges Simenon and Pascal Garnier. To those we add Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Truman Capote, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison ... and the list accretes with the test of time, but it is never more than a sliver of the writers and books published.

Forgive me for the allocution, it’s just that this month’s “Murder Ink” features a contender for literary eminence. Your House Will Pay, written by Korean-American novelist Steph Cha and astutely purchased by HarperCollins Publishers for their Ecco imprint, may very well be one of those canonical books. We’ve read more than a few recognized and awarded writers of literature in “Murder Ink” reviews.

But Cha’s Your House Will Pay freezes a cultural wince in a snapshot of history that shouldn’t simply be understood as a headline in newspapers or from the pandering snippets of broadcast rectitude.

In the spring of 1991, on March 3, four white Los Angeles police officers were filmed beating nearly to death a defenseless Rodney King after a
traffic stop in the middle of an intersection in South Central L.A. The battering with batons, fists and combat boots was widely televised, and on April 29, 1991, after a jury acquitted the four cops of using excessive force, rioting escalated throughout the L.A. metro area. Over the next six days, the nation watched as lives were lost and property damage escalated to over $1 billion.

Meanwhile, on March 16, following two weeks of agitation in the black community over the Rodney King incident, African-American teen Latasha Harlins was shot twice in the back of the head in a Korean convenience store by female cashier Jung-Ja Han, who was similarly acquitted of wrongdoing.

Cha’s story is about how the families of Latasha Harlins and Jung-Ja Han dealt with this indelible miscarriage of justice with another miscarriage of justice three decades later.

Your House Will Pay is a literary interpretation of these events by descendants of murders impassioned by the unchanging times 30 years apart. Only through well-crafted fiction can we see the verities behind the historical PowerPoint. Ms. Cha will win a slew of awards for Your House Will Pay, and you and I will be wiser for the reading. What a book!

Pick up you copy of Your House Will Pay at Maria’s Bookshop and be sure to ask for the “Mu der Ink “15 percent discount.

Top Shelf

Raised on radio
Raised on radio
By Chris Aaland
03/26/2020

Social distancing is driving many of us stir crazy, especially after last week’s big dump. Not only do we crave physical interaction with each other, but we’re also an active community.

The week the music died
The week the music died
By Chris Aaland
03/19/2020

For more than 12 years, I’ve written “Top Shelf” on a weekly basis as a column about the local music scene and nightlife. I also drift into sports, pop culture and political territory from time to time. And, on far too many occasions, I’ve paid homage to a family member or friend who has passed, like my son, brother, mother and festival friend. 

Bogguss' aces, Irish eyes and Salmon splash
Bogguss' aces, Irish eyes and Salmon splash
By Chris Aaland
03/12/2020

Perhaps the biggest and baddest Durango Celtic Festival to date runs tonight (Thurs., March 12) through Sunday, with events alternating between the Henry Strater Theatre and the Irish Embassy Pub. This year’s line up is one of the best in the festival’s history, with five internationally acclaimed artists. 

Sensible dance, world fusion and radio gaga
Sensible dance, world fusion and radio gaga
By Chris Aaland
03/05/2020

It’s Film Fest week here in D-Town, meaning the 15th annual Durango Independent Film Festival takes over many of the screens at the Animas City, Gaslight and Durango Stadium theatres for documentaries, features, shorts and more. Durangofilm.org is a great source for a full schedule, descriptions of films and more.

Read All in Top Shelf

Day in the Life

Turns for the worse
Turns for the worse
By Stephen Eginoire
03/19/2020

Skiing isn't as glamorous as folks make it out to be.

Sole man
Sole man
03/12/2020

At the age of 19, Durango’s Mervin “Merv” Stilson started making shoes and never looked back (except for the time he made a Western-style jacket for Neil Young).

Wonder wall
Wonder wall
By Stephen Eginoire
03/05/2020

Southeastern Utah has no shortage of natural wonders, and perhaps one of the most curious is the 80-mile-long sandstone monocline known as Comb Ridge. 

Salty dogs
The river wild
By Stephen Eginoire
02/27/2020

Jonesing for a river fix? Come along for the ride on  this desert classic

Read All in Day on the Life