From "one of crime fiction's most interesting and passionate voices" (Laura Lippman) comes a new "noir crime classic" (Mystery Ink) about one of the most notorious towns in American history.
Reviewing White Shadow, the Associated Press wrote, "It is as gritty as James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential. And yet, the prose is as lyrical as James Lee Burke's Crusader's Cross. With White Shadow, Atkins has found his true voice." And with Wicked City, it is even truer.
In 1955, Look magazine called Phenix City, Alabama, "The Wickedest City in America," but even that may have been an understatement. It was a stew of organized crime and corruption, run by a machine that dealt with complaints forcefully and with dispatch. No one dared cross them-no one even tried. And then the machine killed the wrong man.
When crime-fighting attorney Albert Patterson is gunned down in a Phenix City alley in the spring of 1954, the entire town seems to pause just for a moment-and when it starts up again, there is something different about it. A small group of men meet and decide that they have had enough, but what that means and where it will take them is something they could not have foreseen. Over the course of the next several months, lives will change, people will die, and unexpected heroes will emerge-like "a Randolph Scott western," one of them remarks, "played out not with horses and Winchesters but with Chevys and .38s and switchblades."
Peopled by an extraordinary cast of characters, both real and fictional, Wicked City is a novel of uncommon intensity-rich with atmosphere and filled with sensuality and surprise.
Atkins's richly detailed but scattered sixth novel draws on the history of a real town, Phenix City, Ala., which in 1954 was overrun with gambling, prostitution and moonshine. When Albert Patterson, the state's recently elected attorney general, is gunned down on the street, the town's antivice group vows to bring the murderer to justice. Ex-boxer and family man Lamar Murphy leads the charge, with the rest of the Russell County Betterment Association (RBA) following suit. There are crooked characters at every turn, from the lecherous Deputy Bert Fuller, who personally inspects and "catalogues" the city's prostitutes, to Fannie Belle, a brothel madam with a habit of collecting husbands. Even when the town falls under martial law and Lamar is appointed interim sheriff, the "redneck mafia" will do anything to prevent Phenix City from going straight. Atkins (White Shadow) spares no punches in detailing the town's depravity, but the result is less a coherent story and more a snapshot of a bygone era. Readers will struggle with the many names and shifting alliances, while the climax and resolution are anything but surprising. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 09, 2008
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