Al Hooper

Truth in fiction


One Last

Adam Cole is out
of work and out of prospects when he arrives in the isolated valley town of Yakima, Washington, a sweltering backwater with a quick-trigger reputation.

He has a job offer there. But the town and the climate are not his cuppa. And yet his West Coast newspaper has folded, and there isn’t much of a market for a veteran scrivener who’s been around the block a few times, and has the scars to prove it.

So he reluctantly signs on with the
Yakima Epitaph. Aptly named, as it turns out. When a chain of violent events erupts around him, Cole appears to be both the catalyst and the target.

What he doesn’t understand is why…

One Last Shot is the latest entry in a riveting series that includes Flynn’s Last Stand and Cole’s Last Chance. It is both a character-driven crime novel and a mature love story, re-creating a time and place that echo today’s social tensions and conflicts.

REVIEW:  One Last Shot (2018)

Newspapers, mystery:
a gripping page-turner

Reviewed by freelance journalist Ed Stover in the Yakima Herald-Republic, July 25, 2018.

For the Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. -- It’s Monday, Aug. 6, 1973, and Adam Cole, an over-the-hill, between-jobs newspaper reporter driving an aging Plymouth Belvedere has just arrived in Yakima to consider an offer at a struggling twice-weekly newspaper called the
Yakima Epitaph.

Uh-oh! thinks Cole, the protagonist of “One Last Shot,” Al Hooper’s latest crime-mystery novel.

Jesus, I thought. I’ve wasted another day of my life.

For a minute or two I sat at the wheel. ... It was a hundred degrees out there, or close to it. I wore the lightest short-sleeved shirt I owned and it stuck to me like duct tape. Despite my prescription sunglasses, I had acquired an indelible squint after crossing the Cascade mountain range and descending into the valley.

I wondered what I was doing here.

Then I wondered why I wondered.

Simple answer: I was out of work. ...

Cole’s dubious introduction to Yakima gets more interesting very quickly. First, he meets a beautiful woman,
Epitaph ace reporter Sharon Miller:

When I walked in, she stood up and came around the desk, greeting me with a warm smile. Very pretty lady. Red-blonde hair, green eyes. In her 40s probably, but with the kind of bone structure that keeps a good-looking woman good looking for life.

Cole learns from Sharon that
Epitaph publisher Jason Howard, the man who hired him, is in Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital after being beaten to a pulp by assailants unknown. Sharon’s explanation: The Epitaph’s editorial stance supporting the United Farm Workers union has provoked a violent response from local farmers.

Hooper’s whodunit quickly evolves.

Cole soon has his own violent encounter with a local farmer, an obnoxious redneck named Bronco Benny Cleve. Then there is a murder, followed by more rough stuff where we learn that Cole, a decorated World War II veteran, is more than adept in the martial arts. Then there is another murder, plus we meet a couple of professional hit men whose interests have nothing to do with farm labor, but everything to do with the Sinaloa drug cartel.

In other words, Hooper has served up a page-turner. And readers familiar with the Yakima Valley (particularly those who were around in the 1970s) are going to relish the local references: the old Chinook Hotel, Sambo’s (now Mel’s Diner), various street names and actual historical events; i.e. Cesar Chavez and the UFW marches.

The notorious 1975 Gabby Moore/Morris Blankenbaker/Angelo Pleasant murder scandal, made famous in Ann Rule’s book “A Fever in the Heart,” is also used to good effect.

What Hooper has done is what good writers do — write about what he knows.

Now 88 and living in the Seattle area, he’s a retired journalist who came to Yakima in 1965 to work at what was then the
Yakima Morning Herald, owned by the Robertson family. When he left in 1975, he was managing editor. By that time, the paper had been sold to a chain and he was managing editor of what is now the Herald-Republic. His wife of 48 years is the former June Meyn of Yakima.

Like Cole, Hooper was an itinerant newsman who worked on newspapers large and small throughout the Northwest, including British Columbia. When he began, reporters and editors were using typewriters. He experienced the transition from “hot lead” to “cold type,” and by the time he’d retired in 2005 the newspaper industry had entered the digital age.

Like Cole, Hooper also knows something about the martial arts. He holds a black belt in karate and studied under the late Yakima karate master Morris Mack, who died in August. So when Cole uses his martial arts skills to deal with the bad guys, there is the ring of authenticity in Cole’s every move.

“One Last Shot” is the third novel in a mystery series featuring Cole. The first two entries are “
Flynn’s Last Stand” and “Cole’s Last Chance.” So how much of Adam Cole is really Al Hooper? Did Yakima grow on Al Hooper the way it does on Adam Cole?

“Pretty close,” says Hooper. “My two previous newspapers had folded during the period covered in ‘
Flynn’s Last Stand’ and ‘Cole’s Last Chance.’ My emotional response to Yakima was as honest as I could make it.”

Nevertheless, “One Last Shot” is still a crime novel: “Adam Cole’s mental floundering is incidental to the developments that erupt around him,” says Hooper.

In the novel, the so-called “
Yakima Republic” takes more than a few hits. Cole, Miller, Howard and others on the Epitaph staff are derisive about the fictional daily newspaper. Do their views reflect Hooper’s own experience when he worked at the real-life Herald-Republic?

“Well, I was managing editor of Yakima’s daily newspaper during the period covered in the book,” said Hooper. “So any disparaging assessment lands squarely on me. I play no favorites.”

Hooper has written two other novels set in Yakima. One is “
Martial Law in Yakima,” an adult mystery. The other is “Hidden Valley,” which Hooper describes as a “dinosaur-centric” novel for kids 9 to 90.

“So it’s fairly obvious that Yakima has never left me, or me Yakima,” he says.

Ed Stover is a retired newspaper journalist who lives in Yakima with his wife, Lynn. These days, he hikes, writes and tries to keep track of his kids and grandkids.

One Last Shot: An Adam Cole Novel” by Al Hooper, is available from and other major retailers. It costs $9.99 in paperback and $4.99 for the Kindle edition.

REVIEW:  One Last Shot (2018)

(Carol McGraw has won numerous awards as a reporter with the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, among other prestigious newspapers. She also toils as a freelance book reviewer.)


Adam Cole, the self-acknowledged journalism relic who gets himself into harm’s way with pen and gun and heart, is at it again. Or should I say Al Hooper is at it again, creating his third Adam Cole crime novel that can’t be put down.
I know it takes time to write novels (it’s been about two years since the last?) and I know Hooper has to take time out to eat, but I could binge on Adam Cole until my house fell down around me.
Right up front I have to tell you, it’s frustratingly enjoyable the way Hooper sets up the tension and you want to read ahead to see what happens. But of course if you do, you miss the non-telegraphed twists of plot, the wry prose, the mean-spirited machinations of villains who say humorous things like: “Who might you be, mister.”
The bad guys serve up vivid murder and assaults, but this book is not just about human carnage. There are things to be learned about the Vietnam War, Leyte Island in 1944, spousal abuse, drug cartels, migrant workers, martial artist Bruce Lee’s philosophy, the death knell for newspapers. This may sound like a hodgepodge but every subject has a reason for being there.
Adam Cole is a muckraking columnist at a community newspaper in Yakima, Washington, banished there because of layoffs and newspaper closings.
The paper is called the Yakima Epitaph, brilliant for sure given the ongoing gutting of newspapers. He captures perfectly the 1970s, a time when greedy corporations and self-serving politicians are just beginning their worst assault on the Fourth Estate.
I’m a journalist, and the author has the newspaper world down to the tiniest detail, including a watering hole “where reporters gathered to solve world problems and plot the demise of a despised editor.”
The Epitaph publisher keeps a revolver in his desk not to save himself from his small staff, but from more vengeful characters. As the plot thickens, Cole makes good use of the as well as moves learned at the feet of Lee. His columns enrage strike-busting fruit growers as well as a mega cartel distributing cocaine.
His take on Yakima is painfully accurate for that era (I lived there in the 1970s): the sweltering heat, the insular “Everyone good knows everyone bad because they grew up together,” and telltale fashion commentary. Sideburns were out of style everywhere else, but were “then only reaching the conservative Yakima Valley. “
The writing is finely tuned, with delicious descriptions: “foul canards”; “indentured locals”; “domestic drama that soon became public property.”
And while most authors might lazily write that a guy got a beer out of the refrigerator, Hooper puts it this way: “I liberated a Labatt’s from the refrigerator.” That kind of attention to even inconsequential lines, and conversations about a variety of important subjects (still very timely today) take the mystery genre where other authors don’t often go.
Longtime fans of the Adam Cole books will be heartened to hear that Cole’s love interest Amy Constantine is still in the picture and the romance is problematic for reasons I won’t reveal here. And his friend with the memorable name, Whipper Billy Walker, still has Cole’s back even from hundreds of miles away.
Hooper’s other novels in the Adam Cole series are “Flynn’s Last Stand” (screen heartthrob Errol Flynn is being extorted); and “Cole’s Last Chance” (where Vietnam war protesters who flee to Canada become targets).
Me, I’m already waiting for number four. And while I wait I think I will have some fun and read them all again. I might know where the stories are going this time around, but the writing captivates anew.