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Dirty South [Hardcover]

Ace Atkins
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 19 2004 Nick Travers
What would you do if you only had twenty
four hours to save the life of a friend?

Searching for lost souls and solving problems was never Nick Travers's intention when he started doing favors for his buddies. A former football player who sometimes teaches blues history at Tulane, Nick would rather just watch the Louisiana rain and listen to old Muddy Waters records.

But when music mogul Teddy Paris, a former teammate from the New Orleans Saints, visits Nick and asks him to help find $700,000 taken from a rap prodigy, Nick can't turn down his friend. The missing money will pay a bounty on Paris's head that was set by a crosstown rival, a street-hard thug named Cash.

Nick soon finds himself lost in the world of Gucci-lined Bentleys and endless bottles of Cristal champagne. He sets out with fifteen-year-old rap star, ALIAS, seeking a team of grifters that conned the kid. But uncertainty, the constant threat of violence, and a phantom grave robber haunt their search. When a killer hits too close, Nick takes ALIAS with him to the Mississippi Delta, where he comes under the protection and guidance of Nick's mentor, blues legend JoJo Jackson, and his wife, Loretta.

Soon Nick, JoJo, and another old-school Delta tough guy do battle in the Dirty South rap world where money, sex, and murder threaten to take down Paris's empire and destroy ALIAS. As cultures clash, the story winds its way through the infamous Calliope housing projects, the newly built mansions of New Orleans's lake-front, and ultimately to the brackish muck of the Bayou Savage.

Dirty South is a thrilling tale of friendship, betrayal, revenge, and trust from a fresh and hip new voice. Take a ride to the other side of New Orleans, away from the neon gloss of Bourbon Street, to see what the dirty south is all about.

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From Publishers Weekly

This richly atmospheric yet action-starved crime drama is the fourth installment in Atkins's New Orleansâ€"based series featuring Nick Travers, a former professional football player turned amateur sleuth. Here, Travers agrees to help an old football teammate, now a wealthy music mogul, find nearly $1 million conned from one of his record labels' marquee stars, a 15-year-old rapper known only as ALIAS. Travers meets with ALIAS, but the brooding, self-involved punk is either too embarrassed to say how he got swindled or may have something more to protect than just his pride. Prowling the seedy side of New Orleans, Travers rubs up against social extremes - rival record producers, street urchins, old athletes and wealthy agents who make sport of separating entertainment stars from their money. In the process, Travers attracts a long list of enemies, several of whom make it openly known that he'd best butt out if he knows what's good for him. Atkins (Dark End of the Street) writes with the same lean prose and descriptive acumen that earned him praise for earlier efforts. Yet the plot of his latest is thin, sluggish and confusing (exactly who is the corpse-like figure who tries to kill Travers on two separate occasions?). Fans of the Delta blues will appreciate Atkins's inarguably deep musical knowledge - Travers teaches blues history at Tulane in his spare time - yet those looking for a good yarn may find themselves hopelessly tangled by the end.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In his Nick Travers books, Atkins has demonstrated that writing a mystery is a lot like playing the blues: innovation and virtuosity are less important than the ability to find a comfortable groove. Reading him is like settling into the passenger seat for a curb-crawling drive from the staccato noise of New Orleans, through the slow funk of the swamp, to the dusty twang of the Mississippi Delta. And wiseass Travers, "roots music field researcher" and ex-pro footballer, is just the guy to steer the car and tune the dial on the dashboard radio. Here, Travers' former teammate is now a rap producer who needs big bucks to call off a death threat--and someone just conned his 15-year-old prodigy out of half-a-million bucks. After blues- and soul-related mysteries, this foray into the world of MTV and BET is a logical development. The new guard doesn't know their booming beats and angry rhymes have roots in the past, and Travers has a hard time realizing that rap might just be the blues of a new generation. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars Atkins is the real deal. July 14 2004
Since retiring from professional football, former New Orleans Saint Nick Travers has divided his time between teaching blues history at Tulane University, researching an oral history of the blues, and performing favors for friends in trouble, favors which usually place him in grave danger. In this, the fourth book in the series, amateur PI Travers is approached by ex-teammate turned record producer Teddy Paris, and asked to find a con artist who bilked the up and coming young rap star known as ALIAS out of several hundred thousand dollars. Travers proceeds to do what he does best, asking questions that eventually provoke violent responses. His pursuit of the truth leads him to the dark heart of New Orleans, where he witnesses some sad extremes of human behavior from friends and enemies alike.
Reader's reactions to Dirty South may depend on whether they've read previous adventures. For those familiar with the series, the current installment may feel like a holding action, wherein Atkins takes stock and engages in some extended character development, positioning his cast for future stories. For those new to the series, the book might be perceived as a curious hybrid of a Robert B. Parker and a James Burke novel, if only in subject matter and themes. In either case, readers will find themselves in the hands of an accomplished stylist, one whose straightforward, understated prose will transport them from their own milieus to that of modern day New Orleans. They'll also pick up some interesting tidbits about Travers' beloved blues music in the bargain.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unquestionably Atkins's Best Novel to Date April 18 2004
Recently, a gentleman at a major record company played his weekend's voice mail recordings for me. The messages were all from erstwhile rappers, all in rhyme, and had the common theme of "give me a deal." Most of them did not even leave contact information, and some of them exhibited an undercurrent of desperation. While not all rappers come from impoverished or humble beginnings, certainly many of them do. The music provides them with the promise and, more often than not, the illusion of a way out of their circumstances.
Music has been one of the primary themes of all the novels of Ace Atkins. His creation of Nick Travers as a blues scholar and occasional rumpled knight is somewhat unique. While the previous Travers novels have been primarily concerned with blues and soul music, DIRTY SOUTH, Atkins's latest offering, concerns the rap/hip hop industry. DIRTY SOUTH, in keeping with the subject matter of the music, is much grittier and darker than his previous work. It is also unquestionably his best to date.
Nick is reluctantly dragged into the hip-hop scene by Teddy Paris, a former teammate of his on the New Orleans Saints professional football team. Teddy and his brother Malcolm are living large as the heads of Ninth Ward Records, a wildly successful New Orleans rap label named after the somewhat notorious Crescent City neighborhood (referred to locally as "The lower Nine -- where they don' mind dyin'"). Teddy is in a huge jam. His latest star, a fifteen-year-old rapper named ALIAS who has grown up quickly and hard, has been scammed out of $500,000 in Ninth Ward Records money by a team of operators that nobody seems able to locate. Teddy, desperate for money, borrows a half-million dollars from a local hard-case named Cash.
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Full disclosure: I've only read a couple of crime novels, the last one around '99 because I was told an English Bulldog played a prominent role in "The Last Good Kiss." Before that, my prior crime novel was read in high school when assigned "The Thin Man" for class.
More full disclosure: I've met Ace Atkins, bought "Dirty South," and am now celebrating my liberation from the world of pencil-necked academics who are scandalized by plots and carefully heroic character development.
"Dirty South" is commendable for its twists and action, but more is to be commended in the author's minimalism, nuanced description, characters and observation. An intelligent reader will understand that Nick Travers' POV is, like the rest of humanity, limited. Ace Atkins steps around the necessarily limited singular point of view by cleverly crafting scenes in minds of other characters. Appropriately, all characters' memories and perceptions of similar events are interpreted differently.
The author's strategy is also well-paced. Few novelists are able to create subplots within the text and manage the strings so successfully. Readers who might need to pause for breath after a high note will settle into pleasures of descriptions of New Orleans, blues music and Nick's complicated relationship with his girlfriend. The reader can almost hear the riffs of a Muddy Waters song in rolling passages, an indication of prose excellence.
Ace Atkins also made another strong decision within the work: while Nick Travers is the "good guy," he is not super-human. An excellent choice on the author's part to underscore the character's temptation by an attractive woman, his frustrations in trying to trust people around him, his confusion with regard as to whom he can trust.
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