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

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Nick Travers has found a full life after a short-lived career as a professional football player for the New Orleans Saints. Travers returned to school, earned a doctorate and became a roots music field researcher specializing in the blues. He has become especially good at finding people, a skill that comes in handy in his field research.

Teddy Paris, a former team mate of Travers and now a successful music mogul, asks Travers to turn his skill in finding people to finding money that was conned from Paris' new young star, a rapper named Alias. In addition, Paris' life has been threatened by a local gangster who wants $700,000 to pay off a debt. It's Paris' money or his life. Travers can't turn his old friend down and starts looking for the con artists. When the body of Paris' brother, Malcolm, is found hanging from a tree, Travers takes Alias to Mississippi and the safe home of JoJo and Loretta Jackson.

DIRTY SOUTH is a novel of extremes. The haves and have nots. Bentleys upholstered with rabbit fur, fleets of cadillacs and the Grey Ghost -- the pickup truck Travers drives that needs constant work. Fast boats, fast women and drugs. The slums to mansions on the lake to Travers' warehouse home. Cristal champagne and Dixie beer. Dirty, smelly bayous filled with alligators. Friendship and betrayal. Rap music versus the Blues. This is certainly not the New Orleans the travel bureau would like the ordinary tourist to see.

Atkins' writing is clear, economical and deeply observant. There is an underlying sense of foreboding throughout the novel. There are layered deceptions at every turn. Atkins writes with enormous sentiment about the duplicity of human behavior. The novel moves quickly and is an easy read, but the ending seemed rushed and confusing. Once again the real star of the novel is the lesson the reader gets about music -- this time about Rap music and the Blues. I'm still a fan of Atkins and Nick Travers and feel good about Nick and his further exploits in music.

Reviewed by Lane Wright, February 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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