Bright Writes, Big City
Ex-reporter’s book makes sacramento the star
By R.E. Graswich
Sacramento finally has a contemporary literary character worthy of the city’s cultural diversity, artistic sensitivity and sleazy criminal element.
Our hero’s name is Lincoln Adams. He lives on D Street, earns a fortune as a woodcarving artist, drinks too much and finds trouble. He doesn’t like cars and walks everywhere, especially along Midtown railroad tracks.
Adams is the creation of Andy Furillo, a former Sacramento Bee reporter whose pit bull tenacity and evocative prose pulled readers through thousands of stories about cops and courts and sports.
In his new novel “The First Year,” Furillo unleashes his talents with a bravado mixture of fact, fiction, familiar locations and relentless dramatic twists. It’s a marvelous read.
Vividly drawn characters race through a narrative that leaves readers thirsty for the next paragraph. The book is wildly unpredictable yet cozily familiar. Large chunks are anchored in familiar locations—the Torch Club, Benny’s bar, Shine coffee shop, even Golden 1 Center.
For years, Furillo dreamed of writing fiction. He hammered out three books while working at the Bee, but decided none were good enough to publish. “The First Year” came together quickly, in a burst of energy after he left the newspaper in 2017.
“I loved daily journalism, but it’s so restricting,” he says. “You can’t just say what you want. You can’t move people the way you can with fiction.”
The Bee features prominently in “The First Year,” though it’s called the Beacon. Two key characters are reporters, and their race to expose a Sacramento-based gang of Russian money launderers and hackers forms the story. The Russian mob elements were inspired by testimony uncovered by Furillo in his reporting days at the Robert Matsui U.S. Courthouse.
“That stuff is basically just how it was laid out in the courtroom,” Furillo says. “I walked in and there it was. I just changed the characters.”
The Bee takes a beating in “The First Year.” When reporters aren’t quitting or getting laid off, they are pressured by editors to boost the online clicks their stories attract. As Furillo describes one reporter, “The transition in the business from print to search engine optimization angle wasn’t a good one for Frankie Cameron. Clicks lied. He was a newspaperman.” Sadly, the newsroom scenes aren’t made up.
The book takes flight after the election of President Donald Trump, and is prescient as it pursues connections between the 2016 presidential campaign and Russian hackers, all with a Sacramento backdrop.
Lincoln Adams is the fullest of Furillo’s characters. The hero loves Sacramento. The Grid is his front yard. Honest and loyal to himself and friends, with no interest in personal success, Link is at once cynical and naïve—a mirror on the city that’s shifting around him.
He’s a true flaneur, a spiritual soul who searches for wisdom by wandering the streets, studying humanity, judging no one, dodging headlights and waiting for trains to pass on Q Street.
Struggling to rekindle his artistic spark, Adams tells himself, “When it was gone, it was gone, and it would come back on its terms, when you least expected it. It wasn’t like just pulling a tap to pour out frothy foam with a tint of citrus.”
Furillo is at work on a sequel.
R.E. Graswich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.