I read Crossroad Blues, the debut novel by Ace Atkins, several years back and even though I know little about music — and even less about the Blues — I really enjoyed the musical mystery starring ex-New Orleans Saint turned Blues historian Nick Travers. Since then, I’ve discovered that not only did Atkins play football at Auburn, but he also was pictured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated issue commemorating the perfect ’93 season by the Tigers. And, most recently, it was announced that Atkins would continue writing the legendary Spenser novels following the death of prolific author Robert Parker. After reading Leavin’ Trunk Blues, Atkins’ second novel, both of those accolades come as no surprise. The story begins in New Orleans before moving to Chicago — both cities, of course, are Blues meccas — as Travers looks into a murder from the 1960s that has kept a famous female singer in prison for the past 40 years. As Travers tracks down several musicians from that time period — now in their 60s — he runs into a pair of female assassins working for mysterious mob leader and enforcer Stagger Lee. Atkins’ portrayal of Lee, a former pro wrestler from Memphis — another Blues city — reminds me of street fighter turned mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice. (In an interesting coincidence, legendary pro wrestler, The Junkyard Dog, wore a mask and was known as Stagger Lee during a period in the 1980s. This character was widely known in the South during a time when both Atkins and his character Travers would have been teenagers living in that region.) In Leavin’ Trunk Blues, Atkins delivers with a combination of mystery and music history — along with a dash of romance — that will leave you Wantin’ more.
Archive for category Ace Atkins
The debut novel by Ace Atkins, Crossroad Blues introduces Nick Travers, a Tulane University blues music historian who happens to be a former professional football player with the New Orleans Saints. As a non-Southerner not in to blues or jazz, the main theme of the book didn’t really appeal to me at first. And at times, the book seemed to drag, which isn’t uncommon for a first novel. But the more I read, the more I started to enjoy the book. You can tell it was well-researched and you get the sense that both the author and the main character are in store for bigger and better things. And of course there is New Orleans. While I can’t identify with a Southern roadhouse in the backwoods of Mississippi, I sure can with Bourbon Street. And the New Orleans Atkins captures is the New Orleans I remember, both vividly and somewhat hazily: the vibe, the live music and, of course, the sun coming up while you’re still drinking in a back alley, after-hours club that you cannot find the next day during daylight hours. If you’re into music and like mysteries, this book is definitely for you. Even if you’re musically illiterate like myself, you’ll still appreciate the story and you may even gain a greater appreciate for Elvis Presley and the pioneers who originated his style of music.