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Move Over V. I. Warshawski; Buffalo Gets Its Own Crime Novel Heroine

Her name is Absalom Kearney but you can call her Abbie.

You may want to start soon because she's the homicide detective heroine of an extremely unusual series of crime novels set in Buffalo whose first --Stephan Talty's "Black Irish" (Ballantine, 336 pages, $26) -- is being published Tuesday Feb. 26. It's set in what the book's publicity calls "the working class Irish-American enclave of South Buffalo." (No stranger to best-sellerdom if you consider Tim Russert's memoir "Big Russ and Me.")

Ballantine spokesperson Lisa Barnes says that current plans are for at least one more Abbie Kearney crime novel, with her, in the next one, "hoping for a quieter life" and  buying a "house on Elmwood Avenue" which the author describes as his "favorite street in Buffalo."

The author of "Black Irish" is Buffalo-born Stephan Talty previously known for the non-fiction books "Mulatto America," "Empire of Blue Water," "The Illustrious Dead," "Escape from the Land of Snows"

and "Agent Garbo."

In the Ballantine Publicity material, Talty describes himself as a former Miami Herald police reporter who considers his hometown of Buffalo as "the original Detroit." Explains Talty in the publicity interview "At the beginning of the 20th century, many people was going to be the next great world city, another New York or Berlin. I was told growing up that there were more millionaires per capita there than anywhere else on earth. It had opera houses and museums and, like Detroit, it was the place to make your fortune.....

"Then it fell apart. The great future never arrived but sometimes you turn a corner in Buffalo and you stumble across one of those monuments to its past....We rose fast and we fell fast. But Buffalo got there first. I'm grateful I grew up in South Buffalo; it was an intense, colorful, memorable place. It had its dark side too, as every city does, and as every city in a crime novel has to have. But I go back a few times a year and always look forward to it."

"Black Irish" begins with Harvard-educated Abbie Kearney, struggling for respect in the Buffalo police department and investigating the corpose of Jimmy Ryan "found in a local church basement" (according to the press release.) It's all somehow related to a South Buffalo neighborhood known as "the county," as if it were an extra county from the old country (or should that be ould?).

Not all of the advance word about Talty's novel is worshipful but there's no question that it's major literary news of a sort in our city when such a crime novel series has begun by a writer every bit as apparently dedicated to his Buffalo youth as Lauren Belfer was in her when she wrote "City of Light."

By coincidence, the Buffalo bookshellf which adds "Black Irish" on Tuesday will soon see Tom Reigstad's "Scribblin' for a Livin'" from Prometheus Books , which was reviewed on Sunday's book page and  which I consider the definitive book on Mark Twain's Buffalo residence. A good month, then, for the Buffalo bookshelf, to put it mildly.

--Jeff Simon


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