Leavin’ Trunk Blues by Ace Atkins
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. Seventy miles away, locked in a lonely prison cell, waits Ruby Walker. More than forty years ago, she boarded the Illinois Central from Mississippi to what she believed was her Promised Land. She became one of the greatest blues singers the city has ever known, but she lost it all after being convicted of murdering producer Billy Lyons in September 1959. Decades later, a flickering hope emerges to Walker in the form of letters from a Tulane University blues historian named Nick Travers. She agrees to an interview only in exchange for him checking out what she calls the truth behind Lyons’s last hours.
This second Nick Travers novel by Ace Atkins is an adequate follow-up to Crossroad Blues, which was not as violent and a whole lot more interesting. Leavin’ Trunk Blues explores the darker side of the music business and the seamier side of Chicago, none of which appeals to me much. Crossroad Blues had some magic in it that Atkins just hasn’t recreated here. If you really, really love the blues, read this. If not, don’t waste your time.