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Dirty South    by Ace Atkins order for
Dirty South
by Ace Atkins
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

If a writer writes of what he knows, Ace Atkins must live a very adventurous and exciting life. For his first novel, Dirty South, is just that exciting and adventurous. Nick Travers teaches blues history at Tulane University. It's a natural for him, as he loves blues and in his past life he played football for Tulane. Friends made in that environment remain friends. When fellow teammate Teddy Paris asks Nick for help in tracing the money conned from a fifteen-year-old rap star, Nick complies.

It turns out that Teddy, a music promoter, has more troubles than first meet the eye. Nick spends his days and nights prowling the streets and dark alleys of the New Orleans a tourist doesn't want to see (the Calliope housing projects would definitely not be on my must visit list). Dirty South actually the name of a type of music introduces the reader to characters who, in real life, one would cross the street to avoid. However, in the book, they work well with the plot and each other. If you're uneasy, lock your doors and windows. But read on.

Atkins has plied his craft well. His novel is tightly written, each scene falling quickly into the next. The suspense builds quickly and maintains its pitch to the very end. The author knows the streets of New Orleans well if he doesn't, he surely fooled me. The city becomes another character. The exploration of the world of the recording industry left me with my mouth hanging open. A fifteen-year-old with $1,500,000 is surreal. The kid owns a Mercedes he's not old enough to drive! Because of his age, his character is one not developed fully, as it wouldn't yet be in real life.

Grave robbers flit in the background and the scene in the Bayou Savage almost had me swatting at mosquitoes. I got slightly confused at times, not understanding some of the patois of the area and the shortened words of the industry, but I kept reading because it was a good story. I wanted to plow on to discover what happens to all these wonderful and frightening people I had been allowed to know.

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