Talk show host Tamron Hall has the book of the week with her debut novel about a crime journalist seeking justice for Black female victims of a serial killer.
As The Wicked Watch, published by HarperCollins’ William Morrow and Company imprint, is the first of a series in which Tamron said she plans to write six books.
“For Jordan, she is a much braver reporter than I was at the beginning of my career,” she said at the National Black Book Festival recently held live on Facebook in conversation with author Rhonda M. Lawson. “First of all, she has a background that I don’t have; she is a forensic scientist who has found herself tapped to be a reporter… I wanted to created this protagonist who had this level of expertise that’s not often seen in thrillers.”
The book centers on Jordan Manning who arrives at a Chicago news station with her eye on the anchor chair. Jordan’s forensic science background blended with her journalistic prowess motivates her to cover murder victims, particularly Black women. But when she comes across the case of a Black girl abandoned in a parking lot, the lack of coverage elsewhere and the collective amnesia drives Jordan to seek who is responsible for the girl’s murder.
Timing of the novel’s release this week coincides with the national discussion around missing and murdered women of color falling out of the media spotlight. The conversation was sparked by the death of White blogger Gabby Petito that dominated headlines over the last month.
Pulling from her real-life experience as not only a reporter but also as the sister of a murder victim, Tamron said she wished she exhibited the boldness of her main character.
“She’s able to call things out in the newsroom and call out things when she goes in, for example, what appears to be a crime scene from this perspective,” Tamron said of Jordan at the book festival. “She also recognizes through something that happened to her in her past the sensitivity that family members of victims deserves. And in this case, she befriends a mother who is looking for justice and she does cross lines between what is the lane a reporter should occupy versus what is the lane a human should occupy.”
Covering crime impacts Jordan’s relationships and love life and stimulates distrust with others, Tamron said, also adding that a reporter’s support system and mental health may not be stable while they’re working on traumatic stories. The National Association of Black Journalists provides resources to Black journalists coping with everyday stressors inside and outside the newsroom.
Since the book festival mainly serves self-published Black authors, Tamron said she would like to highlight more of this population who wouldn’t be recognized in mainstream media. She also acknowledged that her ties with her talent agent who connected her to a literary agent then a publisher is a privilege many authors of color do not have.
“Like in any industry, I believe we are underrepresented on the agent level; I don’t see a lot of Black book agents,” she said, adding she is a newbie still navigating the publishing industry. “You have to have advocates in the room, and we need more advocates of power whether they are agents or publishers in the rooms to make sure Black content creators, Black writers are represented.”
Tamron is also planning a children’s book inspired by her infant son Moses.
The second book in the Jordan Manning series is in the works, she said.