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DIRTY SOUTH
by Ace Atkins
Avon, April 2005
362 pages
$7.50
ISBN: 0060004630


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

"I woke up this morning,

The blues was in my head,

I said I woke up this morning,

The blues was in my head.

When I turned the pages,

I discovered that old music was dead."

For those who like the old-fashioned country blues, the fourth Nick Travers story will come as a surprise. Where before Ace Atkins had his hero, the roots music field researcher and part-time instructor at Tulane University, following in the path of Robert Johnson and other blues greats, here he becomes involved in the multi-million rap music industry and millionaire child stars produced by the ghetto.

Travers gets drawn into the music of the present through his old friend and former football team-mate, Teddy Paris. Paris and his brother Malcolm are co-owners of a music company, Ninth Ward Records. Their star, a 15-year-old rapper ALIAS, has been conned out of half a million dollars which Teddy covered with a loan -- one that he had to pay back in 24 hours or pay the penalty.

This story is one of double crossing and duplicity in which no-one is quite what they seem, and everyone is under suspicion as Nick trawls the run-down Calliope housing projects and other parts of New Orleans where tourists don't normally go in search of the con-men.

As the plot weaves in and out, Nick's narrative is intercut with that of ALIAS, the surly, ambitious teenage singer at the centre of the action sought by rivals in the music business. While he represents the values of modern disaffected black youth, Nick's old friends JoJo and Bronco are rooted in the past.

The tension between the generations is one part of a complicated story of greed, murder, and mayhem which Travers negotiates accompanied by his newly acquired dog. In the background is a woman who hardly features, but waits for him, and it is to her Nick turns at the end. As Travers quits his university job (not that he ever seemed to do much there) and moves on, the crossroads are left behind: as JoJo says, ³Blues ain't nothin' but a botheration on your mind.²

Is this the last Travers' story? I hope not, but the purists may want him to get back to the old 12-bar blues.

Reviewed by Neil Wynn, June 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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