“Down for the Count, A Gulf City Saga,” by Lynn Long, Professional Press, 2015, 343 pages, $14.99 (Trade Paperback)
It is the late 1940s in Gulf City, a port town on the Upper Gulf Coast. Wilson Wood is a sports writer for the city’s newspaper, a man more interested in feeding his various appetites than in succeeding at his job.
“Down for the Count, A Gulf City Saga,” by Galveston-author Lynn Long follows both Wood and Gulf City, in this new mystery novel.
Wilson Wood majors in drifting. A one-time prize fighter, Wood claims to have achieved a Bachelor of Arts in “we never want to see you again,” and ended up on the sports desk following a string of jobs which ended badly. Now he is covering local fights on the seedy side of Gulf City. His editor wants Wood to develop his talents, but Wood is resisting putting in the extra effort required.
Then a local boxer, Rocket Richards, gets murdered. Wood knows Richards and is assigned to write a background feature. Then Wood realizes police are more interested in closing the case quickly than actually solving the murder. They want the docket cleared, and Richards is not that important.
Reluctantly, Wood begins investigating, seeking to find who really killed Rocket Richards. Wood follows clues revealing the killing was due to a dark underside of Gulf City Richards accidentally bumped against. Wood becomes obsessed with learning the truth, despite the effort involved or personal danger.
The novel is an homage to the noir mysteries of the late 1940s. Long captures the time and the characters of that era perfectly. Wilson Wood is not a twenty-first century man placed in 1948-49. He shares the attitudes and prejudices of mid-twentieth century men. His views, liberal for his times, would be viewed as Cro-Magnon today. Long’s uncompromising accuracy adds authenticity to this work.
Gulf City is a pastiche of virtually every major port city on the Upper Gulf Coast from Galveston, Texas to Morgan City, Louisiana. Long never reveals which state his tale takes place in, an ambiguity which adds texture to its gritty, equivocal atmosphere.
“Down for the Count” is an impressive first novel, delivering an exciting, fast-paced mystery.