In the music clubs on the South Side of Chicago, the blues—once as strong as the backs of the neighborhood's working class—has lost its hope and its voice.
Christmas Eve on the South Side of Chicago: a grey coldness envelops the crumbling housing projects and tattered neighbourhoods. Seventy miles away – locked in a scarred prison cell – waits Ruby Walker, a woman who in every way is the South Side. More than forty years ago, she – like several million blacks during the Great Migration – boarded the Illinois Central from Mississippi to what she believed was the promised land. She became one of the greatest blues singers the city had ever known – only to lose it all after being convicted of murdering her lover and producer, Billy Lyons, in September 1959. Decades later, Walker agrees to an interview with Nick Travers, blues historian from Tulane University, but the interview comes with a demand that he check out what she calls the truth behind Lyons’s last hours. With a tale studded with irresistible characters like the hateful Stagger Lee, and two beautifully named sociopathic females, Fast Lovin’ Fannie and Butcher Knife Totin’ Annie, Ace Atkins has produced another atmospheric and entertaining murder-mystery set in the sleazy romance of blues country.
“If the streets of Chicago’s South Side could talk, they would probably speak in the cracked voices of the bluesmen who shuffle through Ace Atkins’s soulful mystery Leavin’ Trunk Blues.”
—The New York Times
“A major player in the mystery genre.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“Atkins… evokes the atmosphere of steamy New Orleans and gritty Chicago with vivid, sensual writing.”
—The Albuquerque Tribune