Raymond Benson is known for his original James Bond 007 novels. He has also penned bestselling and award-winning novels as David Michaels. I really enjoyed reading and reviewing his novel, The Black Stiletto, so I was excited when the publisher sent me his new novel about this late 1950’s super-heroine, The Black Stiletto: Black & White.
If you haven’t seen our review of the first book in this series, click here to read it.
I don’t know about you but I don’t normally think of 1950’s women as kicking butt. Instead I envision the TV commercial housewives who cleaned like it was some kind of Olympic competition while wearing a beautiful dress and high heels. Right, like that’s not unrealistic or anything. So if you’d like to read about someone who busts that stereotype, check this one out! One lucky reader will win an advance readers’ copy (ARC) of The Black Stiletto: Black & White!
Judy Cooper is the Black Stiletto or, rather, she used to be. Now she has Alzheimer’s and resides in Woodside North, a nursing home in Riverside, Illinois. She’s progressed to the point that she doesn’t even recognize her son, Martin Talbert. Martin is trying to learn more about who she was as the Black Stiletto in the late 1950’s. To do that, he’s been going through her diaries and any other documents he can find to help him understand the Black Stiletto part of his mom better. He’s learned that she fought crime across New York City and was seen as a vigilante by the police and as a scourge by the mob, even though she was seen as a heroine by most of the city’s citizens.
SPOILER ALERT: The Black Stiletto: Black & White picks up where The Black Stiletto left us. If you haven’t read The Black Stiletto yet, this review is likely to provide spoilers even though I’ve tried to limit them as much as possible.
“And she was my mother.
And I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not the only one who knows.”
One of the things Martin uncovers in the strongbox his mom kept is an old reel-to-reel film tape marked March 1959. It shows his mom in her Black Stiletto costume and mask, demonstrating her martial arts moves for the camera. At the end of the reel, she removes her mask and reveals her identity. He finds that very puzzling. He can’t believe she would have knowingly done such a thing, since it would have put her in great danger. Unfortunately, the copy he finds is not the only copy in existence and soon he is being blackmailed by the slimy son of the man who shot the original footage.
“The vintage 8-mm projector whirred, the reels rotated, and the brand-new bulb cast a flickering image on the bare wall. The film was over fifty years old, so the quality wasn’t great. It was in black-and-white of course…A tall woman in a black costume stepped into the frame…A male mannequin dressed in street clothes stood across from her. She assumed a position, prepared herself, and then leapt into the air, kicked her right boot forward, and struck the mannequin square in the chest…The woman’s eyes sparkled through the holes in the black leather…There she was. The Black Stiletto. Unbelievable.”
“Her speed was uncanny. She moved like a cat, graceful and lithe.”
Martin continues to read his mom’s diaries, trying to uncover clues of how to identify and stop the blackmailer. It’s a New Year, 1959. Alaska is admitted as the 49th state and Cuba’s rebellion results in Fidel Castro taking over as its leader. Judy Cooper is still fighting crime and working at the gym, while continuing her martial arts training under Soichiro Tachikawa.
“I’m still a little shaken by what happened last night, dear diary. The Black Stiletto made her first appearance of ’59 and it was an eventful one. I didn’t sleep at all once I got back to my room.”
Judy’s fascinated by Dr. Martin Luther King and his speeches about civil right. She’s angered by the huge disparity she sees in how different races are treated everywhere in the country. It’s no accident that her crime fighting takes her into Harlem and right into the clutches of Carl Purdy, Harlem’s heroin king. Purdy has not only taken much of the drug business away from the mob but Judy learns he’s also kidnapped Soichiro’s daughter and is holding her for ransom. When Judy goes to Harlem to rescue Soichiro’s daughter, she uncovers a lot more than she had bargained for.
“Then one day she didn’t come home. For weeks, Soichiro didn’t know where she was. He reported it to the police, but they were no help. Finally, two Negro men came to visit him at the studio. They told him Isuzu was ‘safe’ in Harlem. One of the men said she would continue to be safe as long as Soichiro paid $5,000 a month for six months – and then they would see to it that she came home…the gangster changed the terms as few days ago. Now Soichiro has to pay $10,000 for three more months before Isuzu can come home.”
The Black Stiletto is a really fun kick-butt heroine for her times, and has the kind of sassy, snarky attitude that lets you know she takes no prisoners. In The Black Stiletto: Black & White, she also has a love interest who’s a very unlikely person for her to get involved with – and who I liked a lot. This man had me crossing my fingers that things would work out for them because I thought they would make a perfect couple despite their differences…and I’m not going to tell you whether it works out or not. Ha!
The juxtaposition between the present day, with her son’s frantic attempts to continue to protect her identity, and her crime fighting days, as chronicled in her diaries, makes for a fast-paced, fun read. If you like comic book heroines, you’ll like Judy Cooper ne the Black Stiletto. The Black Stiletto: Black & White is perfect for a light summer read at the beach!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Black Stiletto is available free for Kindles from May 15, 2012 to May 30, 2012, so click here
to download it to your Kindle.
The Black Stiletto: Black & White is being published on May 30, 2012; however, it should be available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
I’d love to get your comments on The Black Stiletto series, Raymond Benson, and/or this review.
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One lucky reader will win an ARC of The Black Stiletto: Black & White by Raymond Benson!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 6/2/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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