Thousands of books are published every year and yet the reading public only becomes aware of a small cross-section of those titles. Marketing teams at the big publishers and the limited space at mainstream media outlets often dictate how widespread knowledge of a particular title becomes. The vast majority of the output must rely on coveted blurbs from established writers, strong word-of-mouth from fellow readers, the author’s active social media presence, and perhaps a top-notch cover design to garner the eyeballs and interest of future fans. When all those elements come together – as is the case with Curtis Ippolito’s Burying the Newspaper Man – a “little” book gets a fighting chance in the crowded marketplace.
Ippolito wastes no time diving into his story, drawing readers in before they even realize what is happening. On the first few pages, California cop Marcus Kemp is patrolling his typical beat – San Diego’s famed Ocean Beach community – discovers a stolen car containing a dead body in the trunk. However, it is not just any body, it’s the body of the man who abused Kemp in his youth back in Texas, leaving scars that have yet to heal. Keeping this fact from his colleagues, Marcus Kemp sets out to figure out why the “newspaper man” is now in San Diego, who killed him and why, and just possibly how he can help this individual get away with a crime that ultimately made the world a safer place.
With that setup, readers are virtually guaranteed to race through the next 220 pages or so. Marcus Kemp is an easy to root for “anti-hero” and the comprehensive look back at his troubled childhood further endears him within reader’s hearts. Readers love to witness a damaged character overcome their challenges in spectacular, albeit realistic, fashion. Even as Marcus makes choices and decisions that seem antithetical to his career in law enforcement, his humanity and heart shine through, making it easy to be on his side. Populating his “investigation” with a cadre of unique and interesting side characters allows Curtis Ippolito to hone his skills at bringing fictional people to life on the written page with just the briefest of salient details and pitch-perfect dialogue.
As important as character development is, Curtis Ippolito’s real ace-in-the-hole is his ability to transport the reader to the various locations central to the storyline. Whether it is the free-wheeling beach communities around San Diego, the iconic downtown corridor (including the convention center), or a historic view of small-town Texas, each setting is brought vividly to life to such an extent that readers can smell the sea air and/or hear the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. This is a writer who understands the power of setting and uses it to full advantage throughout his narrative.
Burying the Newspaper Man is a dark novel, firmly entrenched on the noir side of the crime fiction scale. Sexual abuse is a tricky subject to use as the backdrop for any novel – let alone a first novel – but Ippolito approaches the topic with compassion and respect for the victim, detailing the long-term effects this loss of innocence has on survivors. There is no magic cure-all here as readers get the sense that this journey toward healing and self-love is only just beginning for Marcus Kemp. Whether Curtis Ippolito intends to tell further stories featuring Marcus Kemp remains to be seen, but either way, those who read Burying the Newspaper Man will never forget him.