They Can't Take Your Name: A Novel (Paperback)
On Our Shelves now
Laced with atmospheric poetry and literature and set in the heart of Denver's black community, this gripping crime novel pits three characters in a race against time to thwart a gross miscarriage of justice—and a crooked detective who wreaks havoc…with deadly consequences.
What happens to a deferred dream—especially when an innocent man's life hangs in the balance? Langston Brown is running out of time and options for clearing his name and escaping death row. Wrongfully convicted of the gruesome Mother's Day Massacre, he prepares to face his death. His final hope for salvation lies with his daughter, Liza, an artist who dreamed of a life of music and song but left the prestigious Juilliard School to pursue a law degree with the intention of clearing her father's name. Just as she nears success, it's announced that Langston will be put to death in thirty days.
In a desperate bid to find freedom for her father, Liza enlists the help of Eli Stone, a jazz club owner she met at the classic Five Points venue, The Roz. Devastated by the tragic loss of his wife, Eli is trying to find solace by reviving the club…while also wrestling with the longing to join her in death.
Everyone has a dream that might come true—but as the dark shadows of the past converge, could Langston, Eli, and Liza be facing a danger that could shatter those dreams forever?
About the Author
Robert Justice is a Denver native. His first novel, They Can't Take Your Name, was named a runner-up for the 2020 Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland Award. He believes that together we can right wrongful convictions.
Praise for They Can't Take Your Name:
"Passion and energy . . . infuse this story."
“Propulsive tension . . . A taut tale of perverted justice.”
“A soulful study of dreams deferred.”
“[A] nice balance between characters...[I] look forward to what Robert Justice writes next.”
"A gripping, powerful, moving story of hope and determination, and the unwavering strength to right a wrongful conviction before it's too late. Robert Justice's remarkably fluid, lyrical writing is unflinching in its exposure of hard-hitting truths, life after loss, and racial injustice, told through the compelling stories of three interconnected characters. Not only will you be transfixed by this book, but reading it will change you."
—Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of Woman on the Edge
“Robert Justice’s THEY CAN’T TAKE YOUR NAME is powerful—the kind of debut you relish reading. A relatable, riveting look at the lengths one will go to in the hopes of achieving something we all take for granted. Justice has arrived.”
—Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Secret Identity and Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall
“Justice has established his chops as a solid contemporary crime novelist right out of the gate. His story of three courageous people of color fighting for the life of a wrongfully convicted man, set primarily in corners of Denver, Colorado where crime fiction rarely fears to tread, will hook you from the first page and not let you go until the last.”
—Gar Anthony Haywood, Shamus and Anthony award winning author of In Things Unseen
“A riveting story of injustice and redemption, this unforgettable novel will stick with you and change the way you view the world. Like a solo by Coltrane, Robert Justice pushes the boundaries of character, setting, and plot, exploring themes of injustice and bias in the criminal justice system. It’s also a tale of love and loyalty, and the struggle to remain honorable in oppressive circumstances. A fantastic debut.”
—David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Anthony and Thriller Award-winning author of Winter Counts
“Riveting! A gripping tale of wrongful incarceration and the lengths someone goes when the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is unjustly ripped away. Robert’s compelling prose and characters make this narrative all too realistic and will linger long after reading. A phenomenal debut by a crime novelist to follow.”
—Kim Johnson, award winning author of This is My America
"A powerful read that elicits all the feels. A story of racial injustice, wrongful conviction, and raw family love and loyalty make this novel unforgettable. Robert Justice has done a splendid job of dropping the reader right beside Langston as he awaits his fate on death row, inside Billie's heart as she searches for truth that will set her father free, and alongside Eli, as he struggles to find a future worth living. You will not put this book down without being changed...wanting change...or seeking truth and justice for the faces some find invisible. A must read!"
—Angela Pisel, author of With Love From the Inside
"Robert Justice’s saga about racial injustice is both hard-hitting and poignant; a story of a daughter’s love for her wrongfully-convicted father, a grieving widower’s desire to create a space for his community, and a shared journey to expose the painful truth that justice in America often depends on one’s skin color. The words of poet Langston Hughes and writer/scholar Ralph Ellison form an emotional and unifying thread in this complex story and reminds us that millions of our nation's citizens continue to feel 'America was never America to me.'"
—Mandy Mikulencak, author of The Last Suppers