To order...

To find out more about Howard Owen or order his books, please ask your local bookshop or click the links below:

The Permanent Press publishing company

Booksignings & Book Clubs...

If you're interested in having Howard call into your bookclub meeting or if you would like to host a booksigning, please send us an email.

Read my blog

Howard Owen is a novelist and journalist...

Struck by either an epiphany or a midlife crisis, Howard Owen wrote his first novel, "Littlejohn," at the age of 40. The first draft took him about 100 days. At the time, Owen was sports editor of a daily newspaper. He is now editorial page editor of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He has never taken a sabbatical, adhering instead to a schedule that includes about an hour a day for writing or revising. He finds that it is possible to do great things with an hour a day, every day. Owen's tenth novel, "Oregon Hill," published in 2012, won the Hammett Prize for best crime literature in the U.S. and Canada, given by the International Association of Crime Writers. The sequel, "The Philadelphia Quarry," came out in July of 2013. The third Willie Black mystery, "Parker Field," will be published in June of 2014.

Parker Field

Here's advance praise in the first two pre-pub reviews for the next Willie Black mystery, coming out in June. This is the third Willie Black mystery. The first, Oregon Hill, won the Dashiell Hammett Prize for best crime literature in the U.S. and Canada.

Publishers Weekly

Parker Field:

A Willie Black Mystery

Howard Owen. Permanent, $28 (224p) ISBN



      In Hammett Prize–winner Owen’s enjoyable

third mystery featuring biracial  Richmond,

Va., newspaper reporter Willie Black (after

2013’s The Philadelphia  Quarry), Willie         

rushes to the scene of a shooting in Monroe

Park. The victim turns out to be Les Hacker,

the 79-yearold boyfriend of Willie’s drug

-toking mother, Peggy. The single rifle shot

that severely wounded Les, who was once a

minor league baseball player, appears to have

been deliberate. While Les is in the hospital,

Jumpin’ Jimmy Deacon, a baseball nut, tells

Willie stories about Les’s career with the 1964

Richmond Virginians and the colorful

contingent that made up that team. Willie

senses a good story, but discovers some strange

mortality figures when he begins searching for

the starting nine. The deliciously flawed Willie

must contend with ex-wives and offbeat friends

like Awesome Dude, not to mention an

adversarial relationship with newspaper

management and Richmond police chief L.D.

Jones, on his way to righting another injustice.




Parker Field:

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof

Owen, Howard (Author)
Jun 2014. 224 p. Permanent Press, hardcover, $28. (9781579623616).

Who would want to shoot Les Hacker? The former catcher for the Richmond Virginians minor-league baseball team is a genuinely nice man, although a bit addled at the age of 79. He’s also the longtime boyfriend of reporter Willie Black’s mother, Peggy, making him the closest thing to a stepdaddy Willie has ever known. Skeptical about the shooting suspect, Willie is intrigued by the 1964 Richmond Vees starting lineup, most of whose members have died well before their time, with only Les and the former right fielder still living. And then Willie figures out that whoever has sent puzzling numerical postcards to the players’ survivors has been keeping score. In his third outing (after The Philadelphia Quarry, 2013), Willie faces the possibility of personal loss while puzzling out the mystery of who shot Les and why, leading to a deadly confrontation. Baseball (and the consequences to players of sowing wild oats) adds a welcome dimension to this series, which is already notable for its strong characterizations, Willie Black prime among them.

— Michele Leber




The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers is pleased  to announce that
 Oregon Hill, by Howard Owen (Permanent), has been named the winner of the organization's annual HAMMETT PRIZE for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing.
The winning title was chosen by a group of three distinguished outside judges: Rob Dougherty, Manager of the Clinton Book Shop, in New Jersey; Janet Groth, author of The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker; and Edward D. Miller, professor of Film and Theatre (CUNY), and author of Tomboys, Pretty Boys, and Outspoken Women: The Media Revolution of 1973. The judges selected from among five finalists nominated from the hundreds of crime books published in 2012. These five titles were selected by the organization's nominations committee headed by J. Madison Davis.
Other books nominated for the 2012 HAMMETT PRIZE were Defending Jacob: A Novel(Delacorte), by William Landay; Truth Like the Sun: A Novel (Knopf), by Jim Lynch; Patient Number 7 (McClelland & Stewart), by Kurt Palka; and Alif the Unseen (Emblem/Canada; Grove/US), by G. Willow Wilson. 
Mr. Owen was awarded a bronze trophy, designed by West Coast sculptor, Peter Boiger.  The award ceremony took place on October 1, in Somerset, New Jersey, during the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s  (NAIBA) Fall Conference.


Willie Black is back in "The Philadelphia Quarry" a sequel to be released in 2013

The Philadelphia Quarry
To be published July 2013

Black is back. Willie Black was last seen, in Oregon Hill, risking the final tattered remnants of his checkered career – and his life – to free a man almost everyone else believed was guilty of one of Richmond’s most heinous murders.

Willie’s still employed by the city’s daily newspaper, still covering the night police beat with its DDGBs and dirt naps, still avoiding the hawk that periodically swoops down to pluck away a few more of his colleagues in a business that was foundering even before the Great Recession. He still drinks too much, smokes too much and disobeys too much. The only thing that keeps him employed: He’s a damn fine reporter. Even his beleaguered bosses would concede that.

In The Philadelphia Quarry (which will be published in July of 2013), Willie puts himself on a collision course with a part of Richmond that a boy growing up in Oregon Hill could only experience through illicit midnight sorties at the city’s most exclusive swimming hole. The Quarry was where Alicia Parker Simpson identified Richard Slade as her rapist, 28 years ago. Then, five days after DNA evidence freed Slade from the prison system in which he had spent his adult life, Alicia Simpson is shot to death at a stoplight en route to her gym.

Hardly anyone doubts that Richard Slade did it. Who could blame him? But Willie has his doubts. When the full weight of the city’s old money falls on him, trying to quash the story, he only becomes more determined to get at the thing that always seems to get him in trouble – the truth. The fact that Richard Slade is his cousin, a link to his long-dead African-American father, only makes Willie more tenacious.

In the end, Willie will be drawn back to the Philadelphia Quarry, where it all started so long ago and where the truth lies, waiting to pounce.

The New York Times said Willie "speaks the local language, a crisp and colorful urban idiom we can’t wait to hear again." Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Willie Black deserves a sequel." Publishers Weekly added, "Readers will hope that Willie will soon return."

By popular demand, Willie’s back, and he’s not backing down. 

Here's what the pre-pub reviewers are saying about The Philadelphia Quarry

Kirkus Reviews

Owen’s (Oregon Hill, 2012, etc.) hard-drinking Richmond reporter Willie Black has an inside track on a blockbuster crime story that’s "red meat for the on-the-airheads."

Richard Slade, a 17-year-old African-American, spent three decades incarcerated for the 1983 rape of debutante Alicia Parker Simpson, daughter of an old-money Commonwealth Club family. It was a he-said, she-said case relegated to an incompetent public defender. Slade ended up in prison.

 Now Slade is proven innocent by DNA technology. Free only days, Slade is jailed again, charged with Simpson’s murder. It’s another quixotic case for Willie Black, the perfect flawed hero, too often with the bottle, too often defying his bosses.

 Willie long ago lost a prime beat and was shuffled to night duty, but when

an innocent guy takes the fall, Willie thinks first with his wrong-side-of-town, chip-on-the-shoulder mindset. Owen’s secondary characters are superb. Kate, an attorney and Willie’s ex-wife No. 3, allows Willie to rent her Prestwould condo and keeps him out of court when he picks up a DUI. She’s also on Slade’s case, seconding spotlight-hound Marcus Green, eager to prove "the racist system can’t do it."

 Willie’s marijuana-loving mother, Peggy, reappears, as does venerable Clara Westbrook, one of the Richmond elite and now a resident of Prestwould. Peggy offhandedly reveals that Willie and Slade are distantly related through Willie’s light-skinned African-American father, and Clara gives him the down low on Alicia’s society-maven sister and schizophrenic brother.

Against a backdrop of advertising-suppressed investigative print journalism, Owen uses race and class, coupled with a Faulknerian family tragedy, to provide a powerful narrative engine. While the complex noir drama keeps the pages turning, crime-fiction buffs might identify the actual rapist early in the narrative, but the murderer and motivation complete the storyline perfectly.

A quick-flowing crime drama that will have fans eager for Willie Black to right another injustice.



Narrator Willie, who charmed readers in Oregon Hill (2012), is a hard drinking, old-style newsman who still takes notes with pen and pad and takes his chances with the powers-that-be to get at the truth. A well-plotted mystery elevated above the norm by Owen’s mastery of character development and his creation of a compelling hero.

Publishers Weekly

Richmond, Va., reporter Willie Black proves himself a dogged, flawed, and tarnished knight of the Fourth Estate in Owen’s strong sequel to 2012’s Oregon Hill, a Hammett Prize finalist. Owen has a knack for creating quirky but credible characters, from homeless “Awesome Dude” to Simpson’s aristocratic older sister, Lewis Witt. 

Virginia Living TV Interview

(Howard Owen is the first interview on both the Virginia Living and Germanna Today TV shows. You may see a short commercial first.)

Germanna Today TV Interview

Howard Owen on Virginia This Morning, WTVR Richmond

Please watch this space for more book signing dates... 

Hammett Prize finalist Oregon Hill...

Oregon Hill
Newest Release

Willie Black has squandered a lot of things in his life - his liver, his lungs, a couple of former wives and a floundering daughter can all attest to his abuse. He's lucky to be employed, having managed to drink and smart-talk his way out of a nice, cushy job covering (and partying with) the politicians down at the capitol.

Now, he's back on the night cops beat, right where he started when he came to work for the Richmond paper almost 30 years ago. The thing Willie's always had going for him, though, all the way back to his hardscrabble days as a mixed-race kid on Oregon Hill, where white was the primary color and fighting was everyone's favorite leisure pastime, was grit. His mother, the drug-addled Peggy, gave him that if nothing else. He never backed down then, and he shows no signs of changing.

When a co-ed at the local university where Willie's daughter is a perpetual student is murdered, her headless body found along the South Anna River, the hapless alleged killer is arrested within days.

Everyone but Willie seems to think: Case Closed. But Willie, against the orders and advice of his bosses at the paper, the police and just about everyone else, doesn't think the case is solved at all. He embarks on a one-man crusade to do what he's always done: get the story.

On the way, Willie runs afoul of David Junior Shiflett, a nightmare from his youth who's now a city cop, and awakens another dark force, one everyone thought disappeared a long time ago. And a score born in the parking lot of an Oregon Hill beer joint 40 years ago will finally be settled.

The truth is out there. Willie Black's going to dig it out or die trying.

Raves for Oregon Hill:

Willie Black is all business — newspaper business. In OREGON HILL (Permanent Press, $28), Howard Owen’s world-weary crime reporter covers the night beat for a hard-pressed daily in Richmond, Va. When Willie’s number comes up for downsizing, he wins a reprieve by chasing the terrific story he’s working on here — about a headless corpse tossed in the South Anna River. Owen has recruited his sick, sad and creatively crazy characters from a rough neighborhood cut off from the rest of the city when the expressway was built. If anyone is watching out for the forgotten citizens of Oregon Hill, it’s Willie, who grew up there and speaks the local language, a crisp and colorful urban idiom we can’t wait to hear again. -- The New York Times

 Owen knows his setting, his dialogue is spot-on and his grasp of the down-and-dirty work of the police and news reporters lends authenticity to the narrative. This is Southern literature as expected, with a touch of noir, and with a touch of Dennis LeHane’s Mystic River. Willie Black deserves a sequel. -- Kirkus

 The deft and surprising plot builds to a satisfying ending. Readers will hope that Willie will soon return in a sequel. --Publishers Weekly

 Owen is a careful, precise writer, creating characters so real that we have to keep reminding themselves they’re fiction, and stories so haunting that they stay with the reader long after the books are back on the shelf.--Booklist

 Oregon Hill is a wondrous trip into the world of sarcastic newspaper reporters, bad cops, and murder most foul. Mr. Owen writes in a captivating voice, his acute observations granting authenticity to the bullet-speed pace of the story. Newspaperman Willie Black is masterfully created, ink and dark humor coursing through his hardboiled veins. It is hoped that this is the beginning of a series of books starring Willie and crew. Bring on the sequel!--New York Journal of Books

 Reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen’s Basket Case, Oregon Hill is as smart as it is thrilling, a true literary page-turner.--Small Press Reviews

Previous Works...

The Reckoning
December 2010

George James and Freeman Hawk, a Richmond patrician and a hard-luck North Carolina scholarship student, were unlikely friends. But as Vietnam-era college students, that’s what they became. They were going to “quit the club” and go to Canada together. One did, and one didn’t. Now, in the post-9/11 21st century, they are thrown back together, to make their peace at last. But who’s chasing Freeman, and who is he, really? And what is going to become of George’s son, Jake, a prime candidate for downward mobility?

“The writing is precise and economical; not a scene is wasted. Another fine novel from a consistently interesting writer.” --Booklist

“Owen provides us with a story whose stakes are as high as they are within reach. As a result, the tension throughout the novel is palpable. As readers, we hope for the best for Jake even as his unguided trajectory hurdles him toward apparent disaster. Reminiscent of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and “The Nuclear Age,” “The Reckoning” is ultimately a coming of age tale for a generation raised on constant (if unfair) reminders of its failure to measure up to the overblown glories of the past.” --New York Journal of Books


Littlejohn McCain, humbled by age and haunted by tragedy, goes out on the hottest day of his 82nd year to put himself in God’s hands and reflect on a life in which tragedy and redemption lie hidden beneath an exterior as quiet and humdrum as a Presbyterian hymn.  Saddled with a learning disability, scarred by his role in his brother’s death, deeply affected by the horrors of World War II, Littlejohn tells the reader everything, including the secret of the beautiful Sara.

“Littlejohn is a beautifully written novel, and Howard Owen has created a character as fully rounded in his quirks and imperfections, his quiet determination and bravery, as any in recent fiction.” --Washington Post
“A warm and generous novel, a heartfelt celebration of the human spirit.” --The New York Times

Rock of Ages

Eleven years after her father’s death, Georgia McCain is back in East Geddie, North Carolina, racked with Baby Boomer guilt and stumbling along between marriages.  In this return to the terrain of the best-selling Littlejohn, Littlejohn McCain’s daughter, here to sell the family farm, tries to come to grips with the place she couldn’t wait to escape. She’s brought along her drifting son, Justin, and his pregnant girlfriend. Making her life more interesting will be an overweight psychopath, taboo-flouting lust, a murder mystery and a tall, thin ghost wandering the perimeter of her once and now-again home.


“Rich in character and place, this murder mystery is also a haunting odyssey toward redemption and repatriation.” --Publishers Weekly

 “This sequel to Littlejohn is beautifully written and should appeal to readers of Southern fiction and to genre fans who favor character-driven crime stories.” --Booklist

Fat Lightning

Lot Chastain, who has dreams of eating the oily, flammable pine kindling known as fat lightning, is generally avoided by the people of Monacan.  He is, in the local parlance, full of meanness.  But when the image of Jesus appears in the moss-covered boards of his barn, thousands of tourists flock there. Soon, seduced by a flimflamming female gospel preacher, Lot begins to capitalize on Jesus on the Barn and heads down a dark path that will cause his smoldering core to burst into flames.

“A wise, warm, deeply satisfying story that resonates with imagery invoking the spiritual tradition of such Southern writers as Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.”--Publishers Weekly
“Owen is a master storyteller and a writer to be watched.”--Library Journal

The Measured Man

Walker Fann is from the right family. He married the right girl. He lives on the right street on the right side of town. But something’s gone wrong.  Maybe he could have gone on forever enjoying the world that three generations of Fanns had built for him and his progeny.  But the voice of Mattie Gray, the shy, pretty girl who shared his life and then left it, haunts him, pressing to win his soul. When a 13-year-old boy dredges up a ghost from Walker’s past, he knows he must at last be measured. He will have to decide between the expedient thing and the right thing.

“A journey of the soul that warms and cheers.” --Kirkus Reviews

"[A] nicely plotted novel inhabited by real people living in a real--and thus complex--world. Fann's struggle to come to grips with his own limitations is well and plausibly detailed." --The New York Times

Answers to Lucky

Tommy Sweatt, a North Carolina trucker driver with a fifth-grade education, has a teeth-grinding desire to amount to something.  In his twin sons, he sees the vehicle for his family’s deliverance, and he pushes them toward his concept of greatness. When Lucky is crippled by polio in 1954, he becomes a non-person to his father, who turns all his attention on the unscathed twin, Tom Ed. Forty years later, with Tom Ed running for governor and Lucky working as his unpaid driver, all that Tommy Sweatt sowed is about to be reaped.

“The spiritual progeny of Robert Penn Warren’s Willie Stark is alive and charming the pants off everyone in the wonderful new novel “Answers to Lucky,” a 1990s version of “All the King’s Men.” --GQ
“A completely engaging story about the family ties that bind—tight—and the ego-pricking legacy of growing up poor.” --Kirkus Reviews
“A quietly powerful narrative, a poignant study of sibling rivalry and family dysfunction.” --Publishers Weekly

Harry and Ruth

Ruth Crowder Flood has always told Harry Stein not to torture himself, not to let his life be ruined by what might have been.  But he can’t help it, and neither can she: They both know just how much can be lost by one bad decision. Now, late in the game, Harry is dying, and he wants to tie up a few loose ends. As the second defining hurricane of Ruth’s life closes in, the time seems right.

“A winning story of human frailty and renewal.” --The New York Times

The Rail

Before he sabotaged his life, Neil Beauchamp was special, the glorious Virginia Rail who terrorized American League pitchers.  He lived and flourished in the world of privilege, adored and accommodated.  Then, it was gone. The only thing worse than spending your life earthbound, he would learn, is landing hard and knowing you’ll never fly again.  Now, long after the fall and just out of prison, the Rail has a chance at redemption, a chance to, for once, not fail those who love him.

“The pace is leisurely, the revelations apt and unexpected, and the coverage of professional baseball rings absolutely true.” --Publishers Weekly
“With this rich, multi-layered narrative focusing on a major league baseball star fallen from grace, Owen adds another volume to a remarkable body of work.” --Richmond Times-Dispatch

Turn Signal

No one thought Jack Stone of Speakeasy, Virginia, was the kind of man who would try to solve his problems with a .38.  But here he is, on a train to New York, armed and dangerously determined that somebody is going to read his damn novel. Jack once had dreams of bigger things, but here he is, a long-distance trucker with a shaky home life and one last chance to be special.  All that New York editor needs is a little persuasion.

“A poison-pen letter to the publishing industry from Owen, whose loser protagonist hits the big time once he stops playing by the rules.” --Kirkus Reviews

Richmond Noir

"Richmond Noir" is a collection of all-new stories by a variety of accomplished authors. Each story is set in Richmond, Virginia. In Howard Owen's The Thirteenth Floor, a political reporter reassigned to the night police beat investigates a murder-by-gunshot in his own apartment building.
About Owen's story, "...a well-done contemporary fair play whodunit..." -- Publishers Weekly

Howard Owen

Howard Owen Biography...

Award-winning writer Howard Owen was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree and earned a master’s degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Howard's first novel, "Littlejohn," was published by The Permanent Press in 1992. Random House bought and reissued it as a Villard hardcover in 1993 and a Vintage Contemporary paperback in 1994. It was nominated for the Abbey Award (American Booksellers) and Discovery (Barnes & Noble) award for best new fiction. It has sold, in all, more than 50,000 copies. It has been printed in Japanese, French and Korean; it has been a Doubleday Book Club selection; audio and large-print editions have been issued, and movie option rights have been sold.

Other kudos for Howard Owen and his books:


·       Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly.

·       Included in "The Best Novels of the Nineties: A Reader’s Guide."

·       Included in the LA Times Book Reviews’ "Recommended Titles" for 1997.

·       Several of his novels have been Booksense selections.

·       Owen won the 2002 Theresa Pollak Award for Words.

·       His short story, "The Thirteenth Floor," was included in "Richmond Noir” in 2010.


Howard lives in Richmond, Virginia, with his wife Karen who is also an award-winning writer and editor.


Questions or comments? Get in touch with us at:

Copyright 2011 - 2013

All rights reserved.