Nick Travers

Created by Ace Atkins (1970--)

Former New Orleans Saint NICK TRAVERS blew his pro football career when he punched out his coach out (LIVE! ON NATIONAL TELEVISION!). So now he's a professor of the blues at Louisiana's Tulane University and a sometime-harmonica player down at the local bar who makes like a private eye.

In his debut, the well-received Crossroad Blues (1998) he looks into the disappearancce of a colleague. Seems his pal was hot on the trail of some long-lost recordings by Robert Johnson in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood, when he disappeared.

Along the way, Nick comes across the usual murderous mess of greed, corruption and secrets. And, oh yes, a psychopath who thinks he's Elvis.

It was a pretty impressive debut, making masterful use of setting, and Nick Travers is an intriguingly flawed hero, a wannabe P.I. worth getting to know.

Or at least that was my initial impression. Unfortunately, the usual amateur sleuth conventions started to wear thin as the series progressed, and all the goofy killers and obligatory blues name-dropping didn't seem quite as fresh anymore.

Something else that bugged me -- or maybe it's just me? -- but the occasional potshots at white boys playing the blues started to grate. That seemed a tad hypocritcal, given that the author is himself a white boy and that the books themselves often seem not so much the blues as merely about the blues -- more about the trivia than the feel. There's a lot of smoke and some serious heat, for sure -- but the books never quite burst into flames.

And that's too bad, because at his best, Atkins is a good writer, with a definite knack for atmosphere, a solid feel for character and a nice touch with plot. And he get dibs for originality. So I'm still at the crossroads about this series.

That first Travers novel, Crossroad Blues (1998), was Atkins' first novel. In 2001, he earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his investigation into a 1950s murder, which in turn inspired his 2006 novel White Shadow. The book was followed by which was followed by three more history-based crime novels, including Wicked City, Infamous and Devil's Garden, in which Atkins imagined Dashiell Hammett investigating the notorious Fatty Arbuckle murder/rape case.

In April 2011, it was announced that Atkins would be continuing the Spenser series after the death of Robert B. Parker, and despite my initial reservations, he's genrally done a great job. Even better, though, is he's continued writing a new series featuring Sheriff Quinn Colson of Jericho, Mississippi.

UNDER OATH

  • "More, please."

-- Dick Adler, Amazon.com

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" (2008, Crossroad Blues) . Kindle it!

Written, and promptly forgotten back in the late nineties, this short story was eventually rescued from an old floppy disc and published in 2008 in a special, 10th anniversary edition of Crossroad Blues, the first Travers novel.

COMICS

  • NICK TRAVERS, VOL. 1: LAST FAIR DEAL GONE DOWN....Buy this book
    (2016, 12 Guage Comics)
    Written by Ace Atkins
    Artists: Marco Finnegan, Chris Brunner

First of a proposed series of graphic novel adventures.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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