Mid-1950s, and the post-war American dream has come into full focus in Southern California. Suburbia, freeways, fast food, television and nuclear paranoia. James Stone, a career cop in LA, is along for the ride – until he becomes enmeshed in an LAPD scandal that costs him his job, his wife and his home.
He finds himself exiled to Bakersfield, California, the only place he can still find work as a cop. It’s a mean little town. Hot, flat and dry. Dominated by agribusiness and oil and little else. But it’s also brewing the flip side of the American dream, with wild honky-tonks playing the first electric music, motorcycle gangs, the Ku Klux Klan, and test pilots from nearby Edwards air base slumming on weekends.
Stone works homicide and his first case is a murdered young girl found floating face down in the Kern River. It puts him in touch with Christine Harmon, who contracts as the county’s forensic pathologist and runs a small clinic on the side. At the time, woman doctors are almost non-existent, and Stone finds Harmon’s spirited independence fascinating.
His investigation takes him deep into the local bar scene, where young players like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are just getting their start. But then a second homicide pops up, a very sticky one for this ultra-conservative, bible-thumping community. A wealthy businessman is found murdered in his home, apparently the victim of a vicious young drifter living at a seedy motel bar on the edge of town.
With the aid of Dr. Harmon, Stone follows a trail of depravity and corruption that reaches into the highest levels of the local business and legal community. And once again he finds himself caught up in a scandal that threatens to ruin him – and this time maybe even kill him.
Title: Bakersfield: A Crime Novel
Publication date: October 15, 2018
List Price: US $19.95; UK £15.95; EU €17.95
Size: Trade paperback, 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
282 pages; Black & White