Title: Darktown (2016)  
Author: Thomas Mullen  
Publisher: Simon & Schuster  

Book jacket: Responding to orders from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith will risk their new jobs, and their lives, while navigating a dangerous world — a world on the cusp of great change.  

Joe says: This is historical fiction at its best. Give Darktown a read!

Darktown is historical fiction at its best.

Thomas Mullen presents a vividly real, not-too distant past of post-WWII Atlanta. In the 1950s, as more of a PR event than actual progressive behavior, the Atlanta PD recruited African-American patrolmen. Of course, any actual authority was totally denied to them.

What happens in the pages of Darktown is standard noir fare – a man out of his element, a complex murder mystery, corrupt power – but Mullen’s setting is distinct and unique, not to mention depressing in ways that pre-Civil Rights tend to be.

Mullen’s writing style is a pleasure to read. He creates fantastically-believable, yet flawed as all humans are, characters that are ripe and real, that both dream and are subdued.

Darktown book review

For this setting in the Atlanta summertime, the sun, and its heat, is just as much of a presence as are the story’s heroes and victims. Such as officers Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, two of the new Atlanta patrolmen who call Darktown their beat. Boggs and Smith must deal with racism and social inadequacies, not only from the scores of white policemen, but also the community they desperately want to protect and serve. There is a fine line in playing the role of guardian and savior, a balance Boggs and Smith must learn, especially as they begin to look into the murder of a young African-American woman.

Their chase of murder most noir – in the name of justice – sends Boggs and Smith from the brothels of Darktown, to not-so pastoral farms, and inside senatorial estates. Mullen amplifies that sense of being Black and in the South and all its ironic injustices.

Mullen takes the reader both on a tour of 1950s Atlanta as well as into the justifications of Darktown’s central characters – Smith and Boggs, as well their white counterparts, Rakestraw and Dunlow – whose inner drives, and demons, are not as simple as black and white. Murder may always be a dark deed, but is justice always bright? Mullen, in a most excellent story, crafts his answer.

Give Darktown a read!

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