From the New York Times bestselling author of the Quinn Colson series comes a “noir crime classic”(Mystery Ink) about one of the most notorious towns in American history.
When crime-fighting attorney Albert Patterson is gunned down in a Phenix City, Alabama, alley in the spring of 1954, the entire town seems to pause for just a moment—and when it starts up again, there is something different about it. A small group of men meet and decide 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 die, and unexpected heroes 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, 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.