Woken in the middle of the night by a call from a panicked woman whose husband had just been arrested, Ken Williams, an African-American attorney based in Brooklyn, is drawn into a murder case that turns out to be more complex and dangerous than he bargained for. Powerful political forces are at work sending innocent people to prison. Williams’ client may be next. In his provocative debut novel, Race to Judgement, Frederic Block, a longtime federal court judge, provides readers with a gripping legal thriller that takes a hard look at racial tensions and corruption in New York’s largest borough.
According to Block, Race to Judgement is “reality fiction,” loosely based on a number of high-profile cases he handled during this twenty-three years on the bench. These include the Crown Heights riots and the trial of mafia boss Peter Gotti. The character of Ken Williams is based on real life lawyer Ken Thompson who, in his meteoric rise to Brooklyn District Attorney, unseated the long-term incumbent, involved in a spate of phony convictions.
As the story progresses, Williams takes on additional clients including the falsely accused JoJo Jones who has languished behind bars for years as well as Deborah Hyman, a young Hasidic woman, the unfortunate victim of sexual abuse. Each step of the way, Williams discovers more and more evidence of corruption leading straight to the DA’s office. Williams soon begins to receive death threats, his office is firebombed, and he is arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge for disobeying a police officer.
With Race to Judgement, Frederic Block has not only created an exciting novel, but he also provides an insider’s look at the New York criminal justice system – from the deplorable conditions at the Rikers Island prison to the mistreatment of African-American prisoners to the practice of stop-and-frisk which has disproportionately targeted minorities.
Block has also created a stellar array of characters whose quirks, ambitions, and hobbies add comic relief to the novel. Ken Williams, for example, is more than just a lawyer. He’s an accomplished piano-player who composes country music and performs in local bars. The actual songs were written by Block, and the sheet music is included in the book. Recordings are also available for download, adding a special twist to the novel.
Judge Frederic Block was appointed United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York in 1994 and assumed senior status in 2005.
For more information, visit www.fredericblock.com