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‘Restoration Heights’ doubles as noir mystery and gentrification study

September 25, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Restoration Heights” author Wil Medearis. Photo by Holly Frisbee
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When debut author Wil Medearis adopted Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as his home, he became a living witness to the effects of gentrification and the tensions it creates between the community’s more privileged newcomers and less fortunate locals.

Inspired by the mismatched dynamic of race, class and wealth he saw at play, Medearis penned “Restoration Heights,” a noir tale of mystery and power that echoes Raymond Chandler and James Baldwin, creating a nuanced, unique narrative of New York City and the people within.

Reddick, a young, white artist, lives in Bed-Stuy, a historically black Brooklyn neighborhood besieged by gentrification. He makes rent as an art handler, hanging expensive works for Manhattan’s 1 percent, and spends his free time playing basketball at the local Y rather than putting energy into his stagnating career. He is also the last person to see Hannah before she disappears.

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When Hannah’s fiance, scion to an old-money Upper East Side family, refuses to call the police, Reddick sets out to learn for himself what happened to her. The search gives him a sense of purpose, pulling him through a dramatic cross-section of the city he never knew existed. But the truth of Hannah’s fate is buried at the heart of a many-layered mystery that, in its unraveling, shakes Reddick’s convictions and lays bare the complicated machinations of money and power that connect the magisterial townhouses of the Upper East Side to the unassuming brownstones of Bed-Stuy.

“Restoration Heights” is both a mystery and an in-depth study of the psychological fallout and deep racial tensions that result from economic inequality and unrestricted urban development. With his prose, Medearis captures the spirit of New York by cracking its veneer of inclusivity and adding a touch of the unknown the city always seems to possess.

Medearis holds an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. His artwork has been featured in galleries in Richmond, Philadelphia, and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He has worked as an adjunct professor, tended bar at a country club, refinished furniture for an antiques dealer and hung art inside the homes of some of the wealthiest art collectors in Manhattan. “Restoration Heights” is his first novel.

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