I hate throwing in the towel on books. I feel guilty if I can’t get through one, and I will struggle to the end of even the most difficult stuff. And I wanted to like Stakeout on Millennium Drive; I really did. It is, after all, a book set in Indianapolis, by a native writer, Ian Woollen. We just don’t have enough of those, so I was hoping to write a glowing review of a “must read” book. He even sent the book to IndyScribe so we could review it. It’s a murder mystery, and I love those.
The premise of the story is that a police officer shooting has occurred on “Millennium Drive” (a fictional street the approximate location of which I wasn’t able to determine) witnessed by a reporter named Kurt Blackwood on a ride-along with said policeman, Louis Garcia. Blackwood is a bit of a crackpot and writes for a fictional alternative local paper — the “Whipping Post” — where he writes a tinfoil-hat column called “Naptown Nuggets” (that name alone made me want to reject the book). Officer Garcia gets shot and killed by a woman as he tries to knock on her door to break up a domestic dispute between her and her husband. Despite the testimony of the reporter, the inquiry into the shooting determines the husband fired the gun, and that the incident was an accident, so the case is closed.
But Blackwood, who hears the voice of the slain policemen in his head, believes that the real facts of the shooting were covered up because there was some connection between the quarreling couple responsible for the shooting and the Mayor of Indianapolis, a fictional character that seems to be modeled on former mayor Steve Goldsmith (references to privitization and corruption abound). So Blackwood begins a stakeout of the street to gather more information, and at the same time begins writing reports on his progress in the form of long, rambling, disjointed letters to the Assistant Deputy Mayor of Indy (Randall Fleck), whom Blackwood conveniently has dug up some dirt on. The novel is composed almost entirely of these letters, with some short snippets of narration about Fleck’s reaction (or non-reaction) to these epistles.
You can see my problem, can’t you? If you were given a bunch of nutty ramblings about something you didn’t have a reason to care about, would you sit and read them? Even if they were conveniently bound in book form?
Woollen inserts a lot of interesting Indianapolis history into Blackwood’s ramblings through the character’s backstory; his family were long-time residents and had connections to early local architecture and culture movements. But I was bothered by the character expressing scathing feelings about the city. Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, of course, but I wondered why an author would bother to set a book in a city that they appear to strongly dislike.
And as the letters to Fleck progress, Blackwood seems to lose track of his goal of ferretting out the truth as he interacts with the “colorful” characters of Millennium Drive, who hang out at his van and talk to him, and later invite him into their homes, instead of calling the police as anyone with an ounce of sense would do. He even becomes friends with the woman who shot officer Garcia and contemplates attempting to sleep with her. The point at which Blackwood begins a discourse on his sexual proclivities was one of my stopping points. I tried to power through it, but I got as far as the street’s pro-wrestler native american attempting a spirit-cleansing to exorcise the spirit of Officer Garcia from Blackwood’s head before I had to stop.
There was every reason for me to enjoy this book, but I couldn’t wait to put it down whenever I had it in my hands, and I dreaded picking up again. I even began cheating on it with other books on my to-read list. If you want to tackle the book, let me know how it wraps up. I wouldn’t mind knowing how it ends, but I just can’t devote the time to get there myself.