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Review: Attica Locke’s Pleasantville is a potent blend of political and courtroom dramas

AtticaLockeTo an avid reader, one of the prime services of literature awards, in particular the long and short lists, is as guide through the forests of books published around the world. If I hadn’t studied the long list for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction I might easily have completely passed by Pleasantville by American writer Attica Locke. If I hadn’t read Pleasantville I would have missed what I know will remain one of my top books of the year.

Part political drama, part crime and courtroom thriller, Pleasantville is set in 1996 in the run-up to the mayoral elections in Houston, Texas. Axel Hathorne, former police chief and scion of a powerful black political family, is well placed against his opponent, the current white female Attorney General Sandy Wolcott. The prize of being the city’s first black mayor is tantalizingly within his reach.

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