CLBR #325: Pam Kelley, Author of Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South

Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South

Pam Kelley


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We continue our Miami Book Fair author’s series with my discussion taped this fall with Pam Kelley, author of Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South.  In Money Rock, Kelley, a former award-winning reporter for the Charlotte Observer,  looks back at a seminal event in the “War on Drugs” in Charlotte that she covered  – the 1985 Piedmont Court Shootout involving Money Rockey one of Charlotte’s most successful cocaine dealers.   In the process, she makes us all reflect on lessons learned from the cocaine epidemic and the war on drugs in the New South.

The saga begins in 1963 when a budding civil rights activist named Carrie gives birth to Belton Lamont Platt, eventually known as Money Rock, in a newly integrated North Carolina hospital. Pam Kelley takes readers through a shootout that shocks the city, a botched FBI sting, and a trial with a judge known as “Maximum Bob.” When the story concludes more than a half-century later, Belton has redeemed himself. But three of his sons have met violent deaths and his oldest, fresh from prison, struggles to make a new life in a world where the odds are stacked against him.

This gripping tale, populated with characters both big-hearted and flawed, shows how social forces and public policies—racism, segregation, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration—help shape individual destinies. Money Rock is a deeply American story, one that will leave readers reflecting on the near impossibility of making lasting change, in our lives and as a society, until we reckon with the sins of our past.

“A diligent exposé . . . . A fascinating and hard-hitting story about drugs, crime, faith, and retribution.”
Kirkus Reviews       

kelley_pam_deborah_triplettPam Kelley

Website  / Tw: @pamkelleyreads 

Pam Kelley started her career at a wonderful afternoon newspaper, the Charlotte News, where she covered murders, many zoning hearings, and, on one memorable night, a wreck that spilled chicken necks all over Trade Street. She reported for more than 30 years at the Charlotte Observer on wide-ranging subjects, including higher education, books, and family issues. She co-authored an investigation of group homes for mentally ill children that prompted the governor to order statewide inspections. And she spent a year writing stories about a fifth-grade teacher and his students in one of Charlotte’s highest-poverty schools. She first met Money Rock in 1986, when she was covering a cocaine-related shootout in Piedmont Courts, the public housing project pictured on the book’s cover.

Her awards include honors from the National Press Club, National Education Writers Association and the Society for Features Journalism. She contributed to a subprime mortgage exposé that was a 2008 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Pam grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, then headed south to UNC-Chapel Hill, where she earned a BA in journalism. She has an MFA in nonfiction from Goucher College. She lives with her husband, Trent Foley, in Cornelius, North Carolina. They have two grown children.