When he was just six years old, Zachary Lazar’s father, Edward, was shot dead by hit men in a Phoenix, Arizona parking garage. The year was 1975, a time when, according to the Arizona Republic, “land-fraud artists roamed the state in sharp suits, gouging money from buyers and investors.” How did his father fit into this world and how could his son ever truly understand the man, his time and place, and his motivations?
In Evening’s Empire, Zachary Lazar, whose novel Sway was named one of the Best Books of 2008 by Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, and other publications, brilliantly attempts to reconstruct the sequence of events that led to his father’s murder.
How did Ed Lazar, a fun-loving but meticulous accountant, become involved in a multi-million dollar real-estate scandal involving politicians and Mafia figures? How much did he know about his colleagues’ illegal activities? Why had he chosen to testify against his former business partner, Ned Warren, Sr.? Warren was “a mystery man,” according to 60 Minutes, widely known as “the Godfather of land fraud.”
The day before Ed Lazar was scheduled to appear in front of a grand jury he was killed in a “gangland-style murder,” as reported by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. Four hundred mourners attended a memorial service for him the next day. Evening’s Empire is based on archival research and interviews — introducing a cast of characters as various as Senator Barry Goldwater and Cesar Romero — and is clarified by scenes imagined in the context of this evidence. It is a singular and haunting story of American ambition and its tragic cost.
Of Zachary Lazar’s previous book, Sway, the reviewer for The New York Times Book Review wrote, “This brilliant novel is about what’s to be found in the shadows.” The same can be said of Evening’s Empire’s true story, but here the shadows are very close to home.