David Fulmer assembles an intricate plot of mystery and corruption in Roaring Twenties Atlanta in The Dying Crapshooter’s Blues, published by Harcourt Books, copyright 2007.
In the 1920s Atlanta, Georgia had a large reputation for having the finest of gambling halls and brothels that anyone could ask for. If you were to go to Central Avenue and Decatur St. you could find any vice that would please you. This is where Joe Rose finds himself on a cold December evening seeing to his friend Jesse Williams who lay dying of a gunshot wound. Officer J.R. Logue had been drinking heavily and had never shot a man before so he wanted to find out what it felt like. Jesse wasn’t doing anything but waiting in the alley for money to gamble with so when officer J.R. saw him he put a bullet through his stomach just to see how it felt to shoot a negro; it did not bother him at all. Jesse, a locally known rounder (gambler) takes some help from Joe, who knows where to find it. A short trip to the local gambling hall and he has acquired enough hands to carry him as well as some of the brothel ladies to attend to his wound and comfort Jesse as he believes he is dying.
Joe finds a doctor, who gives Jesse a shot of strong painkillers, and watches as, with shaking hands, the doctor tries to pull the bullet out. Jesse asks Blind Willie McTell, who was with Joe when he found Jesse, to sing a song over his grave when they lay him to rest. They paid the doctor in cash even though he was not able to pull the bullet out. He did sow Jesse up and left bandages to cover the wound. It was on Joe Rose’s second night back in Atlanta and he is sitting with his friend Blind Willie and “singin’ the blues for his friend who was shot by a redneck cop over nothin'”.
Across town in the more respected neighborhoods, Mayor John Sampson is attending a large ball at the Payne mansion with his wife who insisted they go because it was a charity event and would look good for his political career. They were on their way home when a policeman pulled them over and informed the mayor that while they were partying a burglary was committed at the manse and they must return to give a statement to the police inspector. Many jewels and personal keepsakes were taken from the Payne’s collection and they are baffled as to who could have done this dreadful deed. It had to have been done while their charity banquet was in full swing and everyone is reluctant to point a finger at any of the high society people who were in attendance that evening.
Detective Grayton “Captain” Jackson has been assigned the investigation. He harbors quite personal feelings of resentment towards these wealthy individuals who had no cares for him until they had been robbed of some of their valuables. He hopes that if he closed this case soon he could be considered a hero and possibly given a promotion. Police Chief Troutman had passed him over before but the “Captain” saw this as his opportunity to shine in front of the mayor and the people of Atlanta’s high society. Jackson is so focused on his attempts to merit praise for his ability to solve crimes that he hardly realizes that his assistant, Lieutenant Collins, is performing all the research and interviewing that are needed to solve this case.
One of the most intriguing portions of this fine novel is the facts that David Fulmer presents a number of details about the history and founding of Atlanta. I did not know that it was originally named Terminus, who is the Greek god of surveying. Railroad lines brought commerce and gambling to the city in its infancy, and music supplied it with entertainment.
Dying Crapshooter’s Blues is a darn good book that gives you an in-depth look into the life of 1920s Atlanta, Georgia.
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