By: Jan Engoren
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” Boynton Beach author Robert Brink said, making a comparison to Charles Dickens’s novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.”
“This perfectly describes the debut of my book, “Blood On Their Hands,” Brink said, noting it coincided not only with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the outpouring of sentiment after the police killing of George Floyd.
In a time of Black Lives Matter, police brutality, defunding police departments and equal justice under the law, his second crime novel, published by Touchpoint Press, sheds light on these topical issues.
Under the “worst of times” category, promotional tours and book signings were canceled.
Under the “best of times” category, the subject matter of his book – the brutal police beating of a black man, Alec Monceau, and the themes of racial injustice and bigotry – are more relevant than ever.
He goes on to cite a spate of unwarranted shootings of black men and women, including
Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks.
Brink uses the plot of racial injustice as the catalyst for his suspense-filled narrative that is at once compelling and surprisingly humorous.
“I got the idea for this novel from the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie “Gran Torino,” and used elements from my favorite comedy, “My Cousin Vinny,” he said.
“This is a story for anyone who relishes good crime fiction, especially legal thrillers,” Brink says. “But it’s for anyone who loves suspense sprinkled with humor.”
In “Blood on Their Hands,” a racist attorney (Hiram Garbuncle) eventually finds salvation after defending a black immigrant from Trinidad, brutally beaten and framed by police.
In the book, Garbuncle exploits a quirk in the criminal law, one in which the defense attorney serves as a witness for the defendant.
“It’s very rare, but can be done,” says Brink who spent hours researching the issue and speaking to other attorneys about the issue.
Some of the most thought-provoking and entertaining scenes to write included the cross-examination dialogues during the trial scenes.
“You have to put yourself into it and think how can you trip this guy up,” Brink said. “That was challenging but a lot of fun. I really enjoyed writing those scenes.”
A mid-westerner by birth and Floridian by choice, Brink is a former journalist and worked at the Palm Beach Post covering police reporting and criminal trials, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tampa Tribune and the Joliet Herald-News in Illinois before setting his sights on writing crime novels.
“I’m fascinated by true crime stories,” said Brink, whose last book was “Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died,” about a Standard Oil career executive, Richard Kreusler, who was gunned down at the front door of his Palm Beach home in 1976.
Brink says a number of filmmakers have expressed interest in this book, thanks in part to some recent developments in the case.
His previous books include the coming-of-age novel “Breaking Out,” “The Way It Was: Short Stories and Tall Tales,” and “A Tale of Two Continents,” a ghost-written memoir.
In between masked trips to Costco and Publix, Brink is already fast at work on his next book, about a Florida woman nicknamed, “Wicked Wanda,” who led a life of crime and married a man on death row.
After he was beaten to death by guards, she sued the Florida prison system and inadvertently instigated prison reform. Brink said another filmmaker intends to produce a documentary based on his as-of-yet, unfinished book.
Novelist and journalist Mark Spivak, who worked with Brink at Palm Beach Illustrated, said the crux of a good thriller is building the suspense to a crescendo and Brink has done that with this book.