A hard-boiled crime novel with a heavy dose of history

'Darktown' by Thomas Mullen
'Darktown' by Thomas Mullen
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Frank Reiss, the owner of A Cappella Books in Atlanta.

For the last few months, Reiss has been selling out of Thomas Mullen's crime novel, "Darktown."

Mullen lives in Atlanta, and the city's tense history fuels his new plot.

"All of his books have a touch of the historian in them," Reiss said of Mullen's work. "They're not really historical fiction, per se, but he sets them in interesting historical eras and then uses his novelist's imagination to run with it."

"Darktown" opens in 1948, when "the mayor of Atlanta has just, for the first time, created an all-black police unit. That's the setting of the story and what gets it going. But it really is just an old-fashioned, hard-boiled crime novel, in the Raymond Chandler mode. It's a great read."

"I grew up in Atlanta and I've never read anything that opened my eyes as much to the racial tensions and settings, pre-Civil Rights era," Reiss said.

"Atlanta has always had the reputation as being relatively moderate and progressive in the South, and it is, and it has been. But as this book illustrates, there were always simmering racial tensions. Right after World War II, a lot of veterans returning home had served with African-Americans in the army, and then they're back in the segregated south."

"It really makes for a very interesting and provocative setting for a novel."

Darktown Darktown

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