Nick Travers is back where it all began.
Years after The Philadelphia Inquirer proclaimed Crossroad Blues “an impressive debut by a promising new talent,” the acclaimed crime novel is back in print.
A modern, Southern re-invention of The Maltese Falcon, Crossroad Blues won noir fans with its nod to the masters and thrilled readers with a wild ride along Highway 61. It’s here that we first meet Nick Travers, an ex-New Orleans Saint turned Tulane University blues historian. Nick searches for the lost recordings of 1930s bluesman Robert Johnson—and a missing colleague—and finds trouble at every turn.
The cast of characters includes a red-headed siren, an Elvis-worshipping hitman, Johnson’s ghost, and the Mississippi Delta itself. A decade later, Crossroad Blues still sings.
The legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson has been used for fictional purposes before (e.g., in Walter Mosley's RL's Dream), but Florida journalist Atkins takes full, fresh advantage of Johnson's life, music and strange death in his first mystery. Despite the weight of two overused genre staples (the New Orleans setting and an ex-sports star as hero), this lively debut sparks hope for an ongoing series. It wasn't an injury that turned Nick Travers, who played for the New Orleans Saints, into a part-time detective and full-time expert on the blues. "Nick had been thrown out of the NFL for kicking his coach's ass during a Monday Night Football game," the third-person narrator tell us. Now he teaches the occasional blues history class at Tulane, works on his biography of Guitar Slim and plays his harmonica at JoJo's Blues Bar--a place so deftly described that it should be real even if it isn't. When a Tulane colleague disappears on a quest for a hitherto unknown Johnson recording in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood, Travers goes to look for him--and walks into a murderous mess of colorful sociopaths. Among them are a deadly teenage Elvis lookalike and a slimy record producer who not only orchestrates violent crimes but, worse, dares to use the blues as a marketing ploy. This tale's a pleasure for both mystery and RL fans.
12 bars of awesome
Really enjoyed this book. Will read all of Ace’s books. As a working musician and songwriter, I appreciated the quality of research and the school in’ on Delta Blues.