Los Angeles, 1963: African American Korean War veteran Harry Ingram earns a living as a news photographer and occasional process server: chasing police radio calls and dodging baseball bats. With racial tensions running high on the eve of Martin Luther King's Freedom Rally, Ingram risks ending up one of the victims at every crime scene he photographs. When Ingram hears a call over the police scanner to the scene of a deadly automobile accident, he recognizes the vehicle described as belonging to his good friend and old army buddy, the white jazz trumpeter Ben Kingslow, with whom he'd only just reconnected. The LAPD declares the car crash an accident, but when Ingram develops his photos there are signs of foul play. Ingram feels no choice but to play detective, even if it means putting his own life on the line. Armed with his wits, his camera, and occasionally his Colt .45, Harry Ingram plunges head-first into the seamier underbelly of LA society, tangling with racists, leftists, blackmailers, gangsters, zealots and lovers, all in the hope of finding something resembling justice for a friend.
Phillips’ knack for making the past feel immediate is on point in the well-plotted One-Shot Harry, his first novel about Harry Ingram ... Phillips vividly depicts 1963 L.A ... Phillips’ insight into racism, attitudes toward Black veterans, the Civil Rights movement, Black press and politics of the 1960s elevates One-Shot Harry. Readers will look forward to more camera work from Harry, and Phillips.
... an edgy time travel ride back to L.A. in the spring of 1963 ... Phillips has conjured up the best of all possible guides to this watershed moment ... fast-paced, tough, wry and smart, but what makes this novel a singular sensation is the diverse cityscape of mid-century L.A. that Phillips summons up. More than simply scattering cosmetic references to African American newspapers or notables like Dorothy Dandridge, and (eventual) Mayor Tom Bradley, Phillips takes readers deep into another world and time: its jokes, home furnishings, baloney-meatloaf-and-hot-dog-heavy meals; its hateful slurs, 'invisible' racial boundaries and cautiously hopeful possibilities.