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by Ace Atkins

With overwhelming acclaim from reviewers, readers, and peers alike, first-time novelist Ace Atkins hits a high note with Nick Travers, mystery fiction's first blues hero. An ex-football pro, Nick's days are now as languid as the Big Easy itself-he teaches the History of Blues at Tulane and occasionally plays the harmonica at JoJo's Blues Bar in the French Quarter. But when a colleague disappears into the Mississippi Delta while researching 1930s blues legend Robert Johnson, Nick's life takes a tailspin. On the trail of the lost professor, Nick also delves into Johnson's mysterious death, and suddenly finds himself with two baffling mysteries on his hands, each more convoluted than the mighty Mississippi.
Download Crossroad Blues (Nick Travers) epub
ISBN: 0312971923
ISBN13: 978-0312971922
Category: Mystery
Subcategory: Mystery
Author: Ace Atkins
Language: English
Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (February 15, 2000)
ePUB size: 1840 kb
FB2 size: 1597 kb
Rating: 4.9
Votes: 219
Other Formats: lit mobi docx doc

Ace Atkins is one of the best writers in America today, with his novels on the life he lives and loves capturing the world of New Orleans and the Delta, and when he's writing the "Spenser" series, he can emulate the late Robert Parker to a frightening degree. His series featuring blues historian Nick Travers is a look at Atkins' love of Delta blues, the purest and most revered form of the style that gave us virtually everything that it would take to make rock and roll music. Before country fans get upset about the lack of contribution they gave to rock and roll, we know that the African Americans of the Delta and other southern regions liked a lot of pop radio and country, too. It is this melding, with perhaps a dash of jazz that would produce R & B and eventually rock and roll, soul, funk and metal.
Travers is sent on a quest to find a fellow who claims to have known blues icon Robert Johnson personally, and just maybe has several acetate demos of nine songs that Johnson allegedly cut right before his death. Atkins takes us on a perilous journey as Travers on the one hand tries to pursue the old man and the records legitimately and the bad guys are willing to do anything to get their hands on these supposedly priceless records, and murder is just one way to get what they want.
As a fan of Delta blues myself, I note that Ace Atkins has his blues history down pat; through Travers' character he lets the reader know he (Atkins) is very good at his history, and it is far better than mine, as while I have all Johnson's recordings, some very early Lonnie Johnson, no relation, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charley Patton, I have a lot of work to do to even try to catch up.
But "Crossroads Blues" is a superb book, and like Atkins' other series with Quinn Colson that takes place in upper Mississippi hill country, the author's love of his home state and its mythology is impressive indeed, and the stories move fast. Blues fans who also like good fiction will love "Crossroad Blues", and people who like Grisham and his tales of the fictional Clanton, Mississippi, the little town of Jericho Mississippi is a much more ugly place, like Grisham without the filter. You can't go wrong with Ace Atkins, especially if you're a Grisham or Robert B. Parker fan, and I recommend in his series books you start with the first installments.
Ace Adkins' "Crossroad Blues" is that rare novel that combines great writing and believable characters with an engrossing history lesson - in this case the enigmatic Mississippi delta blues legend Robert Johnson, murdered under mysterious and yet unknown circumstances in 1938. Only 27 at the time of his death, Johnson's music not only inspired rock greats from The Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton to Jim Morrison, but also the details of his life have been the source of myth and wild speculation, including an apparently widely held view that Johnson sold his soul to the devil - a notion that has certain substantiation through his twenty-nine recordings that survive him. "Crossroad Blues" is a fictional tale of another nine lost recordings thought to exist - the first in a series of four Ace Adkins novels featuring Nick Travis, a former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman turned Tulane University blues historian.

Adkins is a talented writer, capturing the fetid bayous and decayed grandeur of the Deep South with all of the steamy atmosphere of James Le Burke, but none of the attitude. Here is a guy with a love of the blues, an earthy passion for the culture, and a respect for residents of the tin shacks and seedy New Orleans back alleys - and the chops to capture it all in molasses slow-and-sweet prose. In this, his debut, Adkins introduces Travers, the Saint sidelined by a spectacular altercation with an unpopular head coach. When an obnoxious music professor from Tulane goes missing in Mississippi's delta country on a quest uncover some missing Robert Johnson lore, Travers reluctantly agrees to fetch him. From JoJo's Blue's Bar in New Orleans to cinder block juke joints in the delta, Adkins' writing is pitch-perfect - as close as words can get to reproducing Johnson's slide guitar and reedy thin tenor. Nick Travers is delightfully unpretentious, his lusty affair with red-headed blues hottie Virginia Dare provocative, his interactions with JoJo owner "Joseph Jose Jackson" and his elderly buddies vivid - but the real star here is Robert Johnson, shrouded in riddle; a ghost-like presence that fills the pages and draws the reader back into these unlikely roots of rock-and-roll. Keeping the action and intensity at a Mississippi-fevered pace is a dastardly cast of villains: the sleazy LA record-producer turned blues club owner, his hit man "Sweet Boy Floyd," but most interesting of all, Jesse Garon, a sadistic teen with an unhealthy Elvis obsession. Adkins takes the reader through a grand tour of tar papered hovels and country crossroads, traveling time and geography through blunt-edged violence and grisly murder to a white-knuckled climax and satisfying conclusion. In short, American crime fiction combined with music history for a uniquely entertaining read - one for the short list.
Atkins can do much better and often has. The basic problem is that Nick Travers is a cardboard cut-out of an interesting guy. Ex-football player with a graduate degree in the Blues is a good start, but where is the introspection that makes a character interesting. Woman and colorful black people adore him, but why? He drinks. He makes somewhat funny comments. He hits and gets hit. He has sex with an interesting woman and stumbles through to a conclusion. Meh.
Two points up front - I'm not a Blues fan, and I like my protagonists to be likable. Much of this book is a history and discussion of Blues, the mystery seemed almost a side show to the discussion about Blues, and Blues musicians. It was well-written, the author is good at building atmosphere, and drawing you in with realistic conversations, but I just couldn't warm up to the subject. The protagonist - Nick Travers, was not a person I'd want to sit and have a beer with, so that made it even harder for me to get into the story. The mystery part of the book (and it was a small part) was less than compelling - at the end I was left shaking my head thinking - yea, so what? But because the story was so wrapped in Blues history, I may have missed the importance of the reason behind the quest, murders, and ending.

It wasn't bad, and I will give the Nick Travers series another try because I really loved the two Quinn Colson books, but Crossroad Blues was a minor disappointment for me.