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.
Posts Tagged Chicago
V.I. Warshawski, the 1981 movie starring Kathleen Turner, was a barely-memorable flop. So when I picked up my first Sara Paretsky novel several years back, I wasn’t expecting much. My thought then, and all the way to her fifth book, Blood Shot, is this: How the hell did Hollywood screw things up so badly? While Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich pen likable female detectives, Paretsky brings to life a whiskey-drinking, die-hard Chicago sports fan that happens to be a female detective. She’s tough and sexy and also a damn good gumshoe. In Blood Shot, Vickie, as she’s known to her friends, seeks the long-lost father of a friend, but soon finds herself in the middle of an industrial cover-up. She crosses paths with a rich Chicago industrialist, the mob and a South Chicago alderman with myriad Windy City political connections. The result? Warshawki delivers on a case that many of her male counterparts would have either turned down or quit and Paretsky once again shows that Hollywood’s loss is the mystery reader’s gain.