Cover image for A dangerous road
A dangerous road
Nelscott, Kris.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2000.
Physical Description:
325 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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It's February 1968, and tense race relations in Memphis are beginning to build into real conflict. The sanitation workers' strike has been going on for almost three weeks, and marches are beginning to turn into riots.

African-American P.I. Smokey Dalton is hired by Laura Hathaway, a young white woman from up north, to look into her mother's reasons for remembering Smokey generously in her will. Smokey reluctantly takes the case, as much to satisfy his own curiosity about these people he never knew as because he needs the work. What he uncovers is a thirty-year-old secret so powerful it will shatter both their lives.

Furthermore, this turning point couldn't come at a worse time for Smokey. As February turns to March, then April, Smokey must watch his city crumble around him and deals with the approaching visit of his childhood friend, now estranged from him, Martin Luther King, Jr. - a visit that turns out to be the very destiny of both men, and the city itself.

This wonderful novel launches a unique and atmospheric series, introducing an appealing character in Smokey Dalton and an equally compelling time period in our history.

Author Notes

Kris Nelscott lives on the Oregon coast, where she's working on the second Smokey Dalton novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It's 1968, and racial tensions in Memphis are nearing a breaking point. Smokey Dalton, an African American private investigator, likes to keep the world at arm's length, but when you investigate yourself, it's hard to maintain any sort of distance. His client is a rich white woman from Chicago who wants to know why her mother left $10,000 to a black man in Memphis. Smokey wants to know, too, since he was the beneficiary of the mysterious gift. With the case taking Smokey into some very dark corners of his past, the present makes its own demands: Martin Luther King Jr., a childhood friend of Smokey's, is coming to Memphis, and Smokey is hired to arrange local security. Nelscott effectively mixes history and fiction in this atmospheric first novel. His conspiracy theory on the King assassination works both as credible speculation and as narrative tool. Smokey Dalton has an obvious antecedent in Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins, but he can stand on his own just fine. This has the makings of an outstanding series. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

African-American P.I. Smokey Dalton faces a very personal rendezvous with history when his childhood friend from whom he's been estranged for years, Martin Luther King Jr., is scheduled to speak at a Memphis church in April 1968. This impressive debut novel steeped in the turmoil of the civil rights era. For a long time, for his own reasons, Smokey has been keeping a low profile. Then Chicago heiress Laura Hathaway, a white woman, informs him that he's a beneficiary of her mother's will, and she wants him to find out why. Despite reservations, he agrees to accept the case, curious to learn something about his own past, which seems to be linked in some way to Laura's family. Neither he nor Laura is prepared for the startling and dangerous secret that Smokey unearths during a visit to Atlanta, where he and his old friend Martin grew up. At the same time, Smokey must look after his young friend Jimmy, who is equally in danger and in need of his help. By the end, Smokey, Jimmy and Laura are swept up in events far greater than themselves. Nelscott conveys the feelings of her characters and the anxiety of the times with the vividness of an actual observer. More than just offering a puzzle, this novel encourages self-examination about identity, responsibility and the consequences of choices. Smokey proves himself a man of conscience able to make tough choices. His return will be cause for celebration. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In a manner reminiscent of Walter Moseley, Nelscott features a black private detective in 1968 Memphis. Protagonist Smokey Dalton investigates a wealthy white man for the man's daughter and tries to figure out why he mentioned Smokey in his will. Despite a childhood friendship with Martin Luther King Jr., loner Smokey avoids the swirl of civil rights violence going on around him. His investigation, his attraction to his white client, and his own violent past, however, thrust him into the dangerous center of things. Plainspoken, tell-it-like-it-is narration, a hard-nosed detective, and an eventful era mark this new series beginning. Recommended. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.