Ex-Beacon editor hits bull’s-eye in ‘One Last Shot’

By Paul Archipley | Sep 26, 2018
"One Last Shot," by Al Hooper

The journalists in novelist Al Hooper’s world are hardened and experienced, but their tough personas are leavened with strains of gentleness, understanding and, of course, love.

All traits are on deck with Hooper’s latest launch, “One Last Shot,” which is his third offering in a series of mystery novels centered on the adventures of longtime scribe Adam Cole.

In “One Last Shot” the action takes place in Yakima and its surrounding countryside where Cole, who long ago moved from a reporter’s beat to a columnist’s musings, finds himself teaming up with an old newspaper colleague to put some life into a struggling bi-weekly.

It opens in the summer of 1973. Hooper plays loose with actual history, painting newspapers as a dying industry when, actually, the ’70s were their heyday. Think Watergate and the Pentagon Papers.

He also makes the crack cocaine epidemic an integral part of the narrative – a good decade plus before the actual crack horrors infested America.

But “Shot” is fiction so, arguably, Hooper can put newspaper industry and cocaine troubles in any decade he likes.

Besides, Hooper’s strengths – including taut prose and snappy dialogue regularly interspersed with plenty of action – make “Shot” a page-turner that keeps readers glued.

Fans who read his first two entries in the series – “Flynn’s Last Stand” and “Cole’s Last Chance” – will delight in finding some familiar characters playing roles again. Most notably, albeit mostly by long distance, is Cole’s long-time love interest Amy Constantine.

Former pro wrestler and current detective agency boss Whipper Billy Walker also plays a peripheral, but important, part.

But it’s new faces who dominate the central roles, including Sharon Miller, a talented reporter who bangs out clean copy for the troubled twice weekly Yakima Epitaph, her boss Jason Howard, who worked with Cole back in the day at a major Los Angeles daily, The Examiner, and Sgt. Manny Ramirez, a Latino cop in the local force who’s seemingly being passed over on the promotion ladder by less worthy officers because, perhaps, of his heritage.

There’s a chorus of other memorable players, some less savory than others, including Bronco Benny, Spider Lang, Carl Sistrom and Blackbeard.

Two story lines keep readers guessing. One follows labor union battles between farm workers and orchard growers; the other focuses on Yakima’s ideal centrality for moving illicit drugs to major cities nearby. Plenty of people get gunned down, both good guys and bad.

Cole, always the cool cucumber, spends his time unraveling the mysteries while trying to avoid eating lead himself.

Along the way, he writes his column, City Lights, which long-time Edmonds Beacon readers will remember was the name of Hooper’s own column back when he was city editor here.

Since retiring from decades of news gathering and editing at more than a dozen dailies and weeklies, Hooper has tapped rich memory banks to help him hammer out page-turning crime thrillers.

His love of newspapering lives on in his novels. When Cole asks the Epitaph’s publisher why he sank his savings into a struggling community paper, Jason’s response is familiar to every journalist who chose the profession.

“I’m on a mission baby,” he said. “This is the most fulfilling gig I’ve ever had. We’re making a difference in people’s lives. How many of us get to say that?”

“One Last Shot” is a worthy successor in the Adam Cole series, perhaps Hooper’s best yet. It’s a fun, fast read, easy to warm up to on a chilly autumn evening by the fire.

All of Hooper’s novels are available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. His website, which lists and describes the novels as well as imparting his singular views on writing, is e-hooper.com.

 

 

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