Casey’s Last Chance
Joseph B. Atkins
Mojo Triangle Books, February 2015
This is one powerful exploration of corruption, random violence and murder in the deep south. In the southern United States during the second half of the Twentieth Century, a wealth of divergent forces warred over various resources using every known technique to corrupt law enforcement and keep poor and minority residents in their places. Industrialists and manufacturers fought against union organizers, the KKK raised flaming crosses against African-Americans and immigrant Latinos, and Martin Luther King led a burgeoning civil rights movement into rampant but peaceful civil protest.
Some of this unrest looms on the horizon in July, 1960, when the novel opens. Casey Eubanks, hustler and poolshark is running from arrest out of Jonesboro, South Carolina for the accidental shooting of his cousin in a local bar. He takes bad advice from an acquaintance and fellow hustler and agrees to a murder contract. He’s supposed to erase a union organizer who is agitating for better pay and better living conditions in a mill in southern Mississippi. When the plan goes awry Eubanks instead murders a local corrupt cop and we’re off on a classic dark run.
The author nails the descriptive elements of the territory Casey travels through and he nails the increasingly dark psychology that drives Eubanks through sleeepless nights in dingy motels and brushes with the law on light-less nighttime deserted roadways. Readers will meet a host of characters all nicely detailed. The mood is somber throughout, even when Casey hooks up with a rogue FBI agent and a free—lance reporter trying to bring down a sprawling ex-Nazi cabal of the worst kind of criminal.
The dialogue is crisp and relevant, the mean streets are the meanest and the pace of the story is compelling. The author not only nails the physical elements of the south, his characterizations are among the most accurate for this kind of novel I have read in a while. Bravo for a gritty, dark and thoughtful novel.