Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wicked City-Ace Atkins

Wicked City
Ace Atkins
Putnam, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399154577

1954 Phenix City, Alabama, just across the Chattahoochee state boundary from Columbus, Georgia has a population of 23, 305; most of which are law abiding citizens, but running the town is the redneck mafia; affectionately called the Phenix City Machine. The economy is fueled by illegal activity although a group of concerned citizens, the Russell County Betterment Association (RBA), want gambling and prostitution stopped and the sale of illegal alcohol (moonshine to you northerners) controlled.

Alabama’s newly elected State Attorney General Albert Patterson is in town when someone assassinates him, gangland style. The RBA membership is outraged by the hit and led by former professional boxer Lamar Murphy are determined that the killer and his employers, who everyone knows run the redneck mafia face a jury not of their peers as they demand justice. Tensions mount between the RBA and Phenix City machine until they boil over when Lamar is named temporary sheriff and marital law is imposed by the National Guard. High noon has arrived at Phenix City.

As he did with true 1950s events in Florida (see WHITE SHADOW), Ace Atkins does likewise with Phenix City, Alabama (see When Good Men Do Nothing: The Assassination of Albert Patterson by Alan Grady). The story line focuses on the abuse of power by avariciouse souls sponsoring and tasting vice and those courageous enough to challenge them; the ultimate civil war between the RBA and the redneck mafia. Thus readers obtain an interesting historical account in which decadence and corruption rule a WICKED CITY, but with so many players involved and bribes making it easy for some to switch teams, it is difficult to keep score; still Mr. Atkins brings to life a town so depraved that nearby Fort Benning brass suggested artillery shelling it back to the mud age.

Harriet Klausner

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