Buy the Book
1972: twenty-three-year-old UC student Leah DeMartino is working at
a race track north of Berkeley. She befriends a slightly older
co-worker, beautiful Grace Neville. When Grace's body is found floating in
San Francisco Bay, Leah's life takes an unsettling turn. She comes
into contact with fanatic but charismatic James Ferguson, head of Security
for Oakland's Black Panther Party, and meets good-looking, unpredictable
Ronnie Xavier Jones, recently back from Vietnam. This story weaves
together post-sixties Bay Area themes—the quest for human dignity on the
part of African-Americans, the anger and rage of returning Vietnam vets
who feel disrespected in their own country, the ambiguous role of the US
government, and, above all, exciting new freedoms in love, sex and
Friday, August 20th, 4-6 PM.
Susan Sherrell will be reading from GRACE and signing
her books at Yesterday's Muse,
32 West Main St, Webster, New York, Come join us !
Murder in Black and White
I just finished reading a juicy crime novel, Grace, set in the
Bay Area in the summer of 1972. It's about the murder of the title
character, a race track worker whose body is fished out of San Francisco
(read the rest of Jan Herman's review
Book Party Great Success.
that missed it, Susan and friends at her book party held in Oakland on
November 7th. Click the photo to enlarge.
Press of Seattle has just published the mystery novel GRACE by
Susan Sherrell. GRACE begins in 1972, with rumors of Watergate on the
evening news. In the Bay Area, a woman, Grace Neville, is murdered. The
Oakland Police Dept declares a leading Black Panther party member the
major suspect. Leah DeMartino, a UC Journalism student, has information
which may absolve the suspect, the compelling James Ferguson. She tells
what she knows to the Oakland police, and then decides to write an article
about the discrepancies in the case. This begins her descent into a
dangerous world of possible cover up and conspiracy, as she comes in
contact with other suspects on the political left and right. She learns
more about the ambiguous role of the Oakland police, personified by her
cousin Joey, a lead detective in the investigation.
The novel’s events bear
similarities to real life incidents, among them the imprisonment of Black
Panther member Geronimo Pratt for a murder the FBI had proof he did not
commit, and the death of actress Jean Seberg, caused in part by Cointelpro
harassment for her support of the Black Panther Party.
Ms Sherrell , an Oakland author
and nurse who volunteered in the George Jackson Clinic run by the Black
Panthers in the 70’s, witnessed and heard about many disturbing events in
that period. Her novel conveys the colliding beliefs of a range of
characters from different backgrounds and diverging world views. The
protagonist Leah is told by Ronnie Xavier Jones, a charismatic Vietnam
veteran, “It’s still war over here. You just haven’t faced that yet. “Leah
sees evidence of this internal domestic war in the brutality with which
Grace was murdered, with its possible hate crime motivation, as well as in
her ongoing confrontations with her cousin Joey. The book captures a
tumultuous era in its portrayal of racial politics, love/hate
relationships among black and white Americans, and the terrors of those
caught up in political movements targeted by the FBI’s Cointelpro program.
Leah gradually realizes that in this environment of increasing paranoia no
one can afford to be naive, and few can be trusted. She carries on
writing her article despite the increasing dangers, caught up in events
which carry long range political and historical implications.
Ms Sherrell, whose work has
appeared in East West Magazine, Inquiry, California Magazine, the SF
Chronicle and Writing by Ordinary People ( an anthology ) , is also an RN
with an MBA and a specialty in Diabetes. Her career includes working in
upcountry Thailand, a Cambodian refugee camp, clinics in El Salvador, at
Santa Rita prison and North Oakland County jail in Oakland, as well as in
the George Jackson Clinic and other Oakland hospitals. She used many of
these experiences in GRACE, her first novel.