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by Ace Atkins
St. Martins, February 2000
304 pages
ISBN: 0312971923

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Robert Johnson was a legendary blues figure who died under mysterious circumstances when he was 27. Music historians have always tried to figure out what happened. It appears that one of the music professors at Tulane University, Michael Baker, was chasing down a new lead in the Mississippi Delta. When he doesn't return, one of the other professors, Dr. Randy Sexton, asks blues tracker Nick Travers to go and see if he can find out what happened.

Baker was indeed hot on the trail of some rumored unreleased recordings that were made prior to Johnson's death. They are in the hands of an old albino man, which makes him a target for several other people who want these priceless recordings. Among them is Pascal Cruz who owns a commercial venture in New Orleans that appeals to tourists called "Blues Shack'. He's hired some real dumb thugs to help get the Johnson material, among them a man obsessed with Elvis, Jesse Garon.

The characters never really came alive for me, but Atkins' writing is good, particularly as he paints the local color and describes the old blues scene. The premise of blending fictional characters with a blues legend worked flawlessly.

Jazz was a fluted glass of champagne. Blues was a cold beer. Working-class

music.. .It was a bearing of soul, a soul raw from a deceitful woman, being broke, and a painful loneliness of a man living in sensory deprivation.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, July 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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