LEAVIN' TRUNK BLUES by Ace Atkins
A NICK TRAVERS MYSTERY
Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Minotaur, July 2000
Fifty years ago, Blues legend Ruby Walker was sent to prison for killing her lover. Nick Travers has been picking up stories that there is something more here than a jealous rage but what can he do after fifty years? When Ruby agrees to an interview, Nick decides he has to go. As a professor of Blues history, interviewing Ruby is too much to pass up. When she asks him to help clear her name he agrees. What possible danger could there be after all these years.
In LEAVIN' TRUNK BLUES, Ace Atkins (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of Ace Atkins novels) takes us into the hard world of modern-day Chicago slums and projects. Once, Chicago was the home of the Blues, the promised land for sharecroppers from the deep south come to find their fortunes. Now it has become something terrible, almost alive itself. Legend has it than one man, Stagger Lee, was largely responsible. He brought Crack to the streets of Chicago. He drained the life from the children. He took over the high-rise housing complexes and turned them into death traps. Yet did Stagger Lee even exist, or was he a convenient urban myth. As Travers investigates, he comes to believe that Stagger Lee remains a powerful presence in Chicago, part of the cancer that ripped the heart out of the city and the Blues that Travers loves.
Travers struggles to put together the truth about Ruby and long-dead Billy Lyons. At the same time, he struggles with his own mortality. Travers' former lover lives in Chicago and he longs to look her up, yet fears the consequences if he does. Only his love for the Blues keeps him going.
LEAVIN' TRUNK BLUES is a complex story with an intriguing cast of has-been Blues artists. Travers, a white man in a black world, provides a useful fish out of water viewpoint character. The young prostitutes, Annie and Fannie, with their wish to become Betty and Veronica from the Archie comic series, provide a Blues counterpoint to the old men and women who left their best days behind in the fifties, back when Ruby was sent to prison for a murder she never committed.
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