Cover image for Dark end of the street
Dark end of the street
Atkins, Ace.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2002]

Physical Description:
323 pages ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Hired to track down a friend's lost brother, Nick Travers finds himself in the casinos of Tucina, where he meets up with the local mafia, a zealous gubernatorial candidate with shady connections, and an Elvis-obsessed killer.

Author Notes

Ace Atkins was a correspondent for The St. Petersburg Times and a crime reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series based on his investigation into a forgotten murder of the 1950s. The story became the core of his novel White Shadow. He is the author of approximately 20 books including The Ranger, The Lost Ones, and Lullaby.

In 2011, he was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the adventures of Boston's private eye, Spenser. His books include Robert B. Parker's Wonderland, Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot, and Robert B. Parker's Kickback.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Atkins' Nick Travers series does for the blues what Bill Moody's Evan Horne novels do for jazz. Both series star musicians with a taste for history and crime solving. The harmonica-playing Travers, a former New Orleans Saint defensive end, is a "blues tracker" --he specializes in hunting information on and recording oral histories of long-lost or dead blues musicians. This time he widens his range a bit to track sixties soul singer Clyde James, the brother of Nick's second mother, blues singer Loretta. Soon the hunt for James becomes part of a larger picture involving the murder of a coed's parents and the Dixie Mafia's plans for gambling in Tennessee. Jumping from New Orleans to Memphis to Tunica, Mississippi, Nick unearths skeletons from a motherlode of closets, all the while finding time for pithy musical analysis ("Motown was black music for white teens; Memphis soul was black music for blacks" ). The head-banging is a mite cartoonish this time, but the musical ambience and the amiable cast more than compensate. Toe-tapping good fun for anyone who cares about the blues. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

As a follow-up to the well-received Crossroad Blues, Atkins offers another fast-paced, hot and heavy Southern suspense yarn that only occasionally defies credibility. Nick Travers, a former professional football star who now teaches blues history at Tulane University, is approached by an old friend who wants him to locate her brother, Clyde James, a once famous blues singer who hasn't been seen for some 25 years and may be dead. In a seemingly unrelated event, a young woman visits the home of her parents who were murdered a few weeks before, collects some papers from a hidden safe, then is accosted by two thugs who take her to a Mafia-owned casino and try to force information from her that she doesn't have. Travers happens to be at the casino seeking word of Clyde James and spots the trussed-up woman on a TV monitor. He rescues her, killing a man in the process, and the two go on the run. The action doesn't let up, moving between Memphis and New Orleans as a plethora of Dixie mobsters, hit men, Klan-like Sons of the South and unsavory gubernatorial candidates are stirred and shaken. Some of the characters border on caricature, especially two of the villains, a woman named Miss Perfect and an Elvis-look-alike hit man. The only other false notes in this otherwise sharply observed thriller come in the confusing finale, a not very believable sting operation. Major ad/ promo; 9-city author tour. (Oct. 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Dark End of the Street Chapter One Saturday night New Orleans, Louisiana When I was a kid I used to keep one eye open while I prayed. It wasn't that I lacked faith in God or wanted to show any disrespect to the folks in church, it was just that I was curious about human nature. In that one silent moment, when everyone's power was turned to their deepest wishes and desires, I tried to imagine what everyone around me wanted. The more I watched and later learned about death, the more I believed all those desires were fleeting. And really kind of sad. In the end, everyone just wants some kind of miracle. His own private resurrection. I kept thinking about those weird life patterns as I walked behind the old scarred mahogany bar of JoJo's place in the French Quarter, and reached deep into the brittle frost of a dented Coca-Cola cooler. I searched for my fourth Dixie. JoJo's Blues Bar had closed about thirty minutes ago. It was late. Or early. Dark as hell. Tables had been cleared and stacked with inverted chairs. Stage lights cast red beams on microphones and a lone upright piano. Over by the twin Creole doors, beaten and weathered with time, only the faintest orange glow came from the old jukebox pumping out Otis Redding's "Cigarettes and Coffee." All that remained were four of my closest buddies in a back corner booth, underneath a poster of the American Folk and Blues Festival 1965, celebrating with one of my former friends. Well, I guess Rolande was still a friend. But he was dead. So did that mean we weren't friends anymore? Didn't seem to matter to JoJo. We guessed Rolande had died about an hour ago, collapsed into his Jack and Coke with a thin smile on his lips. He was a wiry scruffy man who'd worn a scrunched Jack Daniels baseball cap for at least the last decade I'd known him. Rolande still wore it in death, just drooped a little farther down in his eyes. "Bring the bottle, Nick," JoJo said. "Shit, son. Don't you learn nothin'?" I swung back behind the bar, a Marlboro drooping lazily from my lips, and grabbed a half-empty bottle of Jack. I plunked it before JoJo and settled into the booth crossing my worn Tony Lamas at the ankles. Joseph Jose Jackson -- a.k.a. JoJo -- had to be in his late sixties by now. Black man with white hair and neatly trimmed mustache. Black creased trousers, white button-down shirt rolled to his elbows. Hard to explain the completeness of my relationship with JoJo. To begin with, he was a surrogate father, harmonica teacher, and all-around Zen master on life. I asked, "On the house?" JoJo pulled out a well-worn wallet from Rolande's coat pocket and said, "Ain't no such thing." The men laughed like tomorrow held more promise than today, all was right in the world, and God was watching down from heaven with a smile on His bearded face. On JoJo's left sat Randy Sexton, my colleague and head of the Tulane University Jazz and Blues Archives. I'd known Randy since my early retirement from the Saints when I returned to Tulane for a Masters in music history. Randy was usually physically out of step with his subjects -- a white man with a big head of curly brown hair -- but always spiritually in tune. He was the author of about a million books on early New Orleans jazz players and had been featured in Ken Burns's Jazz documentary series. Always cracked me up when Randy got drunk. This man was one of the most respected music historians in the country, but sometimes I swear he acted about thirteen. "Fuck, man," Randy said. "I'm wasted." I was sandwiched by a three-hundred-pound black man named Sun on the one side, and a transsexual tattoo artist named Oz on the other. Sun was crying for his lost friend, his straw hat shredded to bits in his almost-ham-sized hands. Eyes red, damn near sobbing. "Rolande always love you, Nick," he said, kind of blubbering. "Remember that night when you dumped that Gatorade on your coach's head?" "Yep." "Well, he love you for that. Love you for tellin' the man to go fuck hisself." I smiled and said, "Oh, I try." Oz didn't seem to be listening. He was just singing along to Otis's ballad to a late-night love. He had on his standard black lingerie with thigh-high stockings. On his face he wore white pancake makeup and black lipstick. He'd strolled into the bar just minutes after a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie was his obsession. His life. Based every decision on what Dr. Frank-N-Furter would do. "Good Lord, pour the man another drink," Oz said in a recently acquired British accent. "Death is so hard for some people to get over. Isn't that right ... What was his name again?" "Rolande," JoJo said with a slight edge. "Rolande Goodine. You sure remembered it when you need him to rewire that piece-of-shit tattoo parlor." "It is, first off, a house of medicinal cures and potions." JoJo raised his eyebrows and looked over at me. "Goddamn, Nick, I don't mess around with none of them hoodoo fuckers. I don't care about the way he dresses, 'cause whatever gets you through the night and all that, but I will not mess with any of that hoodoo shit. You hear me?" "It's cool," I said. "It's cool. Let's just drink. This is Rolande's last party. He wouldn't want us fighting." I reached across the table and filled everyone's glass to the rim. JoJo looked away from Oz, over at Randy still grinning like a fool, and then over at sobbing Sun. JoJo shook his head. "Goddamn, no wonder he wanted to leave this world. Look at y'all. Like a fuckin' freak show in here." "I know a man who can drive a railroad spike through his nose," I announced. "You want me to call him?" "I know a man in Algiers who'll bring back your friend for fifty bucks," Oz said with pursed lips. "But then Rolando would be a zombie and kind of a grumpy pain in the ass. You know how zombies get." "Nick!" JoJo yelled. Rolande's head rolled over to JoJo's shoulder, mouth agape. The music stopped. And no one said a word as a brittle wind blew down Conti Street. I could only hear Sun's heavy breathing and a rock band jamming at the new Irish pub a few doors down. Suddenly, the back door burst open and Randy dropped his glass on the hardwood floor. The glass scattered in shards dripping with amber whiskey. And even my heart skipped for a second until I saw it was Loretta, JoJo's wife. Her flat face was full of frustration and ... Dark End of the Street . Copyright © by Ace Atkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Dark End of the Street by Ace Atkins All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.