'Father's Law' a Reflection of Wright's Masterpieces
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
More lost fiction now. In 1940, Chicago-based author Richard Wright published a violent first novel called "Native Son." It was a huge success. And he spent the next 20 years blazing trails for other African-American writers. Wright died of a heart attack in Paris in the autumn of 1960, leaving behind an unfinished novel he called "A Father's Law." That book will finally be published this week by Wright's daughter.
Alan Cheuse has a review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Wright begins by introducing a black Chicago cop, Rudolph "Rudy" Turner, who's only a few months away from a planned retirement. That plan goes awry when Rudy is summoned to a late-night meeting with the police commissioner and gets promoted to chief of Brentwood Park. That's a small, wealthy, mostly white Chicago suburb in this novel, troubled by a series of murders. And Ruddy finds a growing chain of evidence that connects the killing to an unusual suspect - his son, Tommy. Tommy is a serious college student currently reeling from a breakup with his first big love.
Themes of crime and punishment, the nature of freedom and law, parenting, citizenship and community all emerge writ large in this compelling draft that comes to us in a forward-moving style with prose that's easy to engage and characters difficult to ignore. As a proud Catholic Republican policeman, Rudy is a fascinating figure, one of Wright's most interesting inventions. And the enigmatic, brilliant, distressed Tommy is a perfect match for the father as one rises in the world and the other sinks.
If Wright had lived to finish this book, we might have had another masterpiece on our hands. As it stands, this forceful but unresolved novel calls us back to the earlier work of one of our country's literary giants.
BLOCK: The novel is "A Father's Law" by Richard Wright. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
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