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by Ace Atkins
William Morrow, March 2004
304 pages
ISBN: 0060004622

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Nick Travers is called upon by Teddy Paris to save his life. Travers and Paris go way back to when they both were New Orleans Saints. While they do not always see eye to eye about issues they are buddies. Paris and his brother own Ninth Ward Records, which is a record producer primarily featuring Rap Artists. Their latest prodigy - Alias - has been scammed out of a million dollars. Paris has 24 hours in which to make good on this debt or his life will be forfeited.

Travers begins his investigation but obviously is unable to find the money in this period. Paris gets an extension on his life but suffers a deep blow to his family. The scam artists Alias fell for were professionals and seem to have some connection with Trey Brill, Ninth Ward Records' banker/ investor. Travers must get to the heart of this investigation even though ultimately his trust will lead to his downfall.

DIRTY SOUTH is a fast-moving look at the music industry through the ideas of Nick Travers. a blues lover, and Alias, an up-and-coming rapper. While their views of life are not identical, there are numerous similarities between the two. While having two narrators can slow down the flow of the book, Atkins is a strong enough writer that he overcomes this problem without effort.

DIRTY SOUTH deals with the major issues that occur in rap music. While New Orleans is not exactly the 'hood' there are still ghettos and poverty. Alias is a 15-year-old boy with no family and more money than he knows what to do with. This vast change would affect anyone and their decision-making skills. In addition, the concept of money itself is at the heart of the book. The idea of what someone will do for money and how money limits morality, are the two major questions underlining the book. While it is commonly understood that rap artists are the ones out to make money, this book demonstrates that the people behind the scenes desire the money more.

The most interesting element to this book is the juxtaposition between rap music and the blues. Blues focuses on the unfairness and roughness of life, while rap does the same. The only difference is that rap frequently blames White America for its problems and the Blues does not assign blame. Blues is obviously the predecessor to rap. Watching this connection be understood by the characters is one of the best moments of the book.

DIRTY SOUTH is Ace Atkins' fourth book.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, December 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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