Ace Atkins is a former reporter for the Tampa Tribune who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He attended Alabama where he was a defensive end on the unbeaten 1993 Crimson Tide football squad. (Ace Atkins Web site|Ace Atkins on Wikipedia)

Books I’ve read by Ace Atkins

1. Crossroad Blues (1998)

Back of the book summary: Nick Travers, an ex-New Orleans Saint turned blues historian at Tulane University, heads deep into the heart of the blues—the Mississippi Delta. In August 1938 outside a Greenwood, Mississippi juke joint, the most celebrated figure in blues history, Robert Johnson, was murdered. Some say he was he was poisoned by a jealous woman shortly after selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Sixty years later, a college professor following rumors of nine unknown Johnson recordings goes missing in the Delta. Travers is sent to find him.

My mini book review: 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.

Books on the Ace Atkins reading list

2. Leavin’ Trunk Blues (2000)

Back of the book summary: In the music clubs on the South Side of Chicago, the blues — once as strong as the backs of the neighborhood’s working class — has lost its hope and its voice. Seventy miles away, locked in a scarred prison cell, sits Ruby Walker. More than forty years ago, she boarded the Illinois Central from Mississippi to what she believed was her Promised Land. She became one of the greatest blues singers the city has ever known, but she lost it all after being convicted of murdering her lover and producer, Billy Lyons, in September, 1959. Decades later, a flickering hope emerges to Walker in the form of letters from a Tulane University blues historian named Nick Travers. She agrees to an interview only in exchange for him checking out what she calls the truth behind Lyons’ last hours. After arriving at Union Station, Travers learns there are those who still want the details surrounding Lyons’ death to remain hidden in the rubble of the blighted neighborhoods — and that Walker’s fate may be the key to finding out who really murdered Lyons.

3. Dark End of The Street (2002)

4. Dirty South (2005)

5. White Shadow (2006)

6. Wicked City (2008)

7. Devil’s Garden (2009)

8. Infamous (2010)