K1R2: Wicked City
In the 1950s the "wickedest city in America" was not Las Vegas but Phenix City, AL. Located just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, GA, and nearby Fort Benning, it was a notorious haven for gamblers, prostitutes (about a thousand in a town of 23,000 people), con men, and murderers. Worse, this cesspool of vice and human depravity was run by a corrupt political and law enforcement machine that thwarted any attempt at reform with intimidation and violence. But the 1954 assassination of Attorney General-elect Albert Patterson, who had vowed to clean up Phenix City, set events in motion that would change this town forever. Atkins's sixth novel (after White Shadow) and the first set in his home state of Alabama is a fictionalized retelling of this chilling murder and its dramatic aftermath. As reflected in Atkins's use of shifting narratives between the first-person voice of Lamar Murphy, a boxer-turned-gas station owner who becomes the town's new reform-minded sheriff, and the third-person perspectives of the criminals who stop at nothing to hold onto their power, this is the classic Western tale of good vs. evil, "played out not with horses and Winchesters but with Chevys and Fords and .38s and switchblades." The result is a gripping, superb crime story, all the more remarkable because it really did happen.