Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Read: "Devil's Garden" by Ace Atkins

Read: Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins, 2009, 9780399155369.

Excellent storytelling. Blending the two real life stories of Dashiell Hammet and Fatty Arbuckle with William Randolph Hearst responsible for the whole Arbuckle disaster.

Consumptive and rail thin Sam Hammett works for the Pinkertons in San Francisco. Arbuckle visits town for a bender, Virginia Rappe dies during the party, Arbuckle is accused of murdering Rappe(crushing her with his weight), Pinkerton Agency assigns Hammett as an investigator for the defense. Prosecutor hides witnesses and Hammett runs into a mysterious man giving payoffs to people involved.

I enjoy historical novels and Atkins hit a grand slam with this one. His geographical and personal descriptions, settings, historical details, and most everything else set the reader down in 1921 San Francisco and California. I'm sure Atkins took liberties - a quick look at a Hammett bio seems to counter some family information in the novel - but I don't care.

Hammett's tuberculosis suffers in the damp SF weather and he smokes and drinks too much. He has a wandering eye but tries to keep it in his pants. Sam fears a dark and mysterious man who he ran into during a Pinkerton job in Montana that ended in a lynching. Atkins writes Hammett as a real-life Continental Op.

Arbuckle has been downtrodden most his life and is living high until he is set-up for a fall. Arbuckle banged Marion Davies - Atkins's Davies has a wandering eye - and Hearst sets up Arbuckle for the scandal. Rappe's death is a matter of circumstance due to a back-alley abortion but the prosecutor rolls with it.

Good job with the plotting. This was not so much a mystery as a crime novel.

1 comment:

Ann Flower said...

thanks for sharing the review of "Devil's Garden" by Ace Atkins. I found it interesting and will order my copy soon.