PCC Alumni Publishes Noir Novel

By Mountain.Barber|September 28, 2016Student Writing|

Grant Bywaters’ novel The Red Storm is making serious waves in the mystery genre.

The novel, published last year while Bywaters was a student at PCC, is set in Depression Era New Orleans, following the adventures of black private investigator and former boxer William Fletcher as he tries to locate the estranged daughter of an old acquaintance. His investigation soon starts stirring up dangers from all corners, and Fletcher quickly finds himself caught between two warring crime syndicates and the police.

Bywaters is strongly influenced by classic noir detective authors like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The Red Storm, while heavily influenced by classic noir, is also very much its own beast. The vast majority of noir detective novels feature white male protagonists, so one featuring a black protagonist who has to confront not only the bad guys but the racism of the police is a refreshing break from the traditional mold.

Bywaters is currently finishing up his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Portland State University. He previously attended courses at PCC’s Rock Creek and Sylvania campuses; before that, Bywaters worked as a private investigator for a number of years, an experience which helped give The Red Storm a much more realistic grounding than many mystery novels.

The protagonist William Fletcher lacks an office of his own, instead meeting clients at a local diner. According to Bywaters, this is common practice. Unlike Sam Spade and many other fictional P.I.’s, most private investigators don’t have offices of their own—it’s just an unnecessary expense. Bywaters personally used his car as his office during his stint as a P.I. Fletcher frequently finds himself mired in paperwork, which also comes directly from the author’s experience.

Bywaters finds amusement in the works of authors who don’t understand the actual role of private detectives- authors who have P.I.’s ordering around cops always make him laugh.

Bywaters is traveling to New Orleans in mid-September for Bouchercon, a yearly convention for writers and fans of mystery and detective novels that has run since 1970. Bywaters has been nominated for a Shamus award for Best First Private Eye Novel, presented yearly during an awards banquet at Bouchercon. Interestingly enough, a short story called “The Runaway Girl From Portland, Oregon” by C.B. Forrest is also up for the award in the short story category.

Grant Bywaters is currently working on the sequel to The Red Storm. Sadly, there won’t be any Mardi Gras scenes in it, but William Fletcher’s past as a boxer will be coming back to haunt him.

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