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Wicked City


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About the Author

Ace Atkins is the New York Times bestselling author of the Quinn Colson novels, the first two of which--The Ranger and The Lost Ones--were nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (he also has a third Edgar nomination for his short story, "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"). In addition, he is the author of several New York Times bestselling novels in the continuation of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Before turning to fiction, he was a correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times, a crime reporter for the Tampa Tribune, and, in college, played defensive end for the undefeated Auburn University football team (for which he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated). He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.


In the 1950s the "wickedest city in America" was not Las Vegas but Phenix City, AL. Located just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, GA, and nearby Fort Benning, it was a notorious haven for gamblers, prostitutes (about a thousand in a town of 23,000 people), con men, and murderers. Worse, this cesspool of vice and human depravity was run by a corrupt political and law enforcement machine that thwarted any attempt at reform with intimidation and violence. But the 1954 assassination of Attorney General-elect Albert Patterson, who had vowed to clean up Phenix City, set events in motion that would change this town forever. Atkins's sixth novel (after White Shadow) and the first set in his home state of Alabama is a fictionalized retelling of this chilling murder and its dramatic aftermath. As reflected in Atkins's use of shifting narratives between the first-person voice of Lamar Murphy, a boxer-turned-gas station owner who becomes the town's new reform-minded sheriff, and the third-person perspectives of the criminals who stop at nothing to hold onto their power, this is the classic Western tale of good vs. evil, "played out not with horses and Winchesters but with Chevys and Fords and .38s and switchblades." The result is a gripping, superb crime story, all the more remarkable because it really did happen. Highly recommended for all popular fiction collections. [See the Q&A with Atkins on p. 78.--Ed.]--Wilda Williams, Library Journal Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Praise for Wicked City

"Atkins is a proud torch-bearer of a literary tradition that includes William Faulkner--but there's nothing derivative about this novel, only emergence of a great new voice in American fiction."--Chicago Sun-Times

"Gritty, well-plotted, fascinating...Atkins' unflinching storytelling echoes the best of James Ellroy and James Crunley."--South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"A hot read that's got adroit reportage in the right places--and juicy pulp in the better places."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Wicked City is Ace Atkins' best novel."--The Washington Post

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