A hot August night lies heavy over the Carolinas.
Looking no further, the deputy takes the man to the station and presents him to the chief as the logical murderer. But then it turns out that the suspect, Virgil Tibbs, is, in fact, a police officer from Pasadena, California. The chief calls his counterpart in Pasadena and discovers that Tibbs is not only a police officer, but a skilled homicide investigator. The Pasadena chief offers to loan Virgil's services to Gillespie, if he can be of any help. The notion that he might accept help from a black man is clearly anathema to Gillespie, but he has no idea how to solve this crime on his own and, given the high profile of the victim, Gillespie knows that if the murder is not solved he will most likely be out of a job. At one level he simply wants to get out of town as quickly as possible and get back to Pasadena where he doesn't face the kind of prejudice and discrimination that confronts him in South Carolina.
Additionally, this short, classic detective book lead Ball to write a series of cases featuring lead homicide investigator Virgil Tibbs. Because rural Wells, South Carolina's police force is largely inexperienced, the wealthy friends and family of victim Maestro Enrico Mantoli insist that Tibbs stay and assist Wood and Gillepsie in solving the case. From the outset, it is obvious that Tibbs is a far superior cop than Wood or Gillepsie yet he is regarded as a lesser individual because of the color of his skin. Ball wrote an entire series featuring Tibbs, but the remaining books took place in California rather than South Carolina, where Tibbs points out that he is free to walk down the street.
He arrests Virgil Tibbs at the train station because he's a black man with a wallet full of cash. The mayor and police chief accept the offer, figuring that Virgil can be the scapegoat if the crime is not solved. Virgil wins the respect of the police chief, but Bill does not offer him a handshake as he drops him off at the train station.
He goes a little overboard in drawing the distinctions between the Southern characters and Virgil Tibbs, but he has an important point to make and he makes it If you are ever doubting that race relations have made enormous progress in the last 50 years, read this book and feel the knot in your stomach when Mr. Tibbs comes into a diner and is denied a glass of milk. It has been decades since I saw the movie and reading the book has made me want to see it again.
I've seen several less than positive reviews of this book written by those who were disappointed in the character of Virgil Tibbs after having seen the film. Unlike the movie, the relationship between African-American detective Tibbs and southern white cop Sam Woods is the primary focus, and that with Sheriff Gillespie is secondary. A notable feature is the way various points of view are presented in the novel, hard to express in a film. In this way it is easy to see how the racist beliefs of the characters in the novel arise in the minds of uneducated men, to the point that we pardon them, rather than loath them, quite an achievement for an African-American author.
Virgil Tibbs in the novel seemed to be a more subdued presence, I was expecting more fire from his character.
At only 158 pages it shows that you don't need to write a long novel to write a great one.
A tak jsem si ekl, e spojím píjemné s uiteným (tedy nco jako kdy vysáváte nahej a náhle se dlouze zadíváte na násadu vysavae). A ne jen tak ledajakej, protoe Viril je nco jako ernej Colombo. Prost blbí bílí policajti chodj po stanici, zatímco Blackombo vdycky dorazí a na závr ekne nco ve smyslu: "No dobe hoi, ale vimli jste si, e ten lovk je levák?" BOOM.
It won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America and was made into an Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Sidney Poitier; the film had two sequels, and spawned a television series several decades later, none of which were based on Ball's later Tibbs stories.