The Dying Crapshooter's Blues
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The Dying Crapshooter's Blues

by David Fulmer

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On a cold December night in 1920s Atlanta, a drunken white cop shoots a black gambler in one of the worst parts of town, and a cache of jewels goes missing from a mansion in one of the best. Joe Rose—rambler, gambler, and professional thief—has just hit the city. He soon finds himself caught in a three-sided puzzle that involves a black-hearted police


On a cold December night in 1920s Atlanta, a drunken white cop shoots a black gambler in one of the worst parts of town, and a cache of jewels goes missing from a mansion in one of the best. Joe Rose—rambler, gambler, and professional thief—has just hit the city. He soon finds himself caught in a three-sided puzzle that involves a black-hearted police officer called "the Captain," the pimp and crapshooter Little Jesse Williams, and a wicked beauty named Pearl Spencer. Behind it all is Atlanta, the city once nothing but dust and ashes, now the richest, busiest metropolis in the South, mixing sin with success and vibrating with mayhem and music. In his acclaimed Storyville series, David Fulmer brought the jazz-soaked streets of New Orleans to life. Now he brings us another absorbing mystery in a new setting raucous with music and rich with history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a raffish and deceptively simple novel . . . distinguished by a level of detail that makes a vanished world live again."—The Washington Post Book World

Patrick Anderson
There is nothing urgent or timely about the novel, and that, really, is the point. Set in Atlanta in 1923, it's populated by gamblers, pimps, whores, blues singers, thuggish cops and the occasional plutocrat. It carries us back to a simpler era, when men shot and stabbed one another but no one was blowing up cities or bringing down buildings. Fulmer set three previous novels in early 20th-century New Orleans, and he is skilled at re-creating the sights and sounds of the South of a hundred years ago. His mostly lowlife characters are diverting without being alarming. Call it escapism, call it nostalgia, but Atlanta in 1923 was a lot more fun than watching Kiefer Sutherland huff and puff through his one-man war on terrorism.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this departure from his New Orleans novels featuring Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr (Rampart Street, etc.), Fulmer paints the sprawling vitality of 1920s Atlanta with broad strokes. Joe Rose, an itinerant love 'em and leave 'em-style thief of uncertain racial extraction who moves uneasily in both black and white Atlanta, finds himself in the middle of a murderous mess that highlights the city's rampant racism and corruption as well as the stark contrasts between privilege and poverty. A white cop guns down a Negro gambler, Little Jesse Williams, while a jewelry robbery mars a Yuletide party at one of Atlanta's finest mansions on the other side of town. Joe gets caught in a vise operated by a brutal detective, Capt. Grayton Jackson, intent on "solving" the crime in the quickest way possible. Little Jesse expires over the course of days, Joe promises to discover why he was shot and the odious Jackson squeezes Joe to recover the stolen jewels or pay the price for the crime. Occasionally florid writing clouds this otherwise vital effort from Shamus-winner Fulmer. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Gambler and thief Joe Rose hits 1920s Atlanta amidst music and mayhem in this new series from the author of the Storyville series. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Washington Post Book World
"A raffish and deceptively simple novel. Distinguished by a level of detail that makes a vanished world live again."

The Tennessean
"[Fulmer] spins an intriguing tale of police corruption, covetousness, conspiracy and crime."

Jazz and Blues Report
"Fulmer weaves the musical threads as an indispensable element of the narrative as a whole, and if Blind Willie McTell is a secondary character here (to Joe Rose), Fulmer presents us with a fictional McTell that comes across as a real person. If you want a good mystery, read and love jazz and blues, you won't go wrong with David Fulmer, especially this excellent novel."—The Jazz and Blues Report

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


From down the alley, a voice cut through the falling night like a honed blade.
 Sharp whispers were not such an odd thing in the shadows off Decatur Street, nor was it so strange when two shapes abruptly animated and split apart, like stage actors who had just heard the call to places. Swept by the swirling wind, they kept their faces hidden and disappeared in opposite directions. Then it got quiet again.
Central Avenue was on fire. The gambling and sporting houses along the street that stretched south from the rail yards pulsed with light and motion this December night, as men who were low on funds tried to win some in advance of the holiday, and those who had received something extra in their pay envelopes went looking for a woman and a drink to spend it on. Coarse laughter rumbled over the sounds of tinny brass and clunking pianos from the horns of Victrolas. Though shades were drawn, there was no doubt what kind of commotion was going on inside the houses. It looked to all the world like a typical Saturday night on Atlanta’s scarlet boulevard.

 And yet a certain unease was hanging about, a guest in a bad humor. The veteran rounders sniffed the air like dogs catching a bad scent. Sports who knew better snarled at each other over card tables, and fisticuffs broke out left and right. In the upstairs rooms, the sporting girls bickered back and forth, hissing with venom. The whiskey in the speaks tasted a little raw even for moonshine, and too many of the gamblers couldn’t get a decent hand or make the dice roll their way to save their souls.

 Still, the action on the avenue never missed a beat on this, one of the last Saturday nights before Christmas. Those who believed the rumors that business was going to be shut down after the first of the year bet harder at the tables or ponied up for lookers who had all their teeth and spoke in complete sentences instead of one of the homely and sullen country girls who did it for a half-dollar and never smiled. No one with sense could deny there was something in the air.
On this same night, less than two miles distant, the Payne mansion was splendid in its annual yuletide glory. Every window glowed with festive light, and the ten-foot blue spruce trees on either side of the front door were festooned with little globes inside which cheery candles flickered. Even the tall wrought-iron fence that surrounded the corner property was draped in ropes of holly. Indeed, the massive two-story brick in Greek-revival style with solid columns at its portico had been decorated with such élan that the society scribblers would fairly swoon as they filled their columns with the kind of fawning attention to detail that would make their readers think they had been there. The charity Christmas party was such an event that every year brought rumors that certain unexplained deaths among the affluent class had actually been suicides over being left off the guest list.

 The night had brought a bustle of excitement that rippled in and out the heavy front doors with the guests, dressed to the nines, the women aglitter in gems and swathed in gowns from the Davison and Neiman stores, and the gentlemen stiff in tuxedos of inky black. Music from an eight-piece orchestra was barely audible over all the gay chatter and clinking of glasses.

 Outside, a line of automobiles stretched along the Euclid Avenue and Elizabeth Street curbs in four directions. There was not a single Model T in their number; indeed, it appeared that a parade of luxury models had come to a stop: Duesenbergs, Wintons, Chryslers, Whippets, Cords, and a dozen other marques, their nameplates basking in the glow of the streetlights. Chauffeurs were de rigueur, of course, and so Negroes in fancy livery stood around stamping their feet and clapping their gloved hands against the cold. Every few minutes, a pint bottle of homemade whiskey would appear, make a round, and go back into hiding.

 Local wags would note that half the automobiles had either been parked there purely for show or had owners who were impossibly lazy, as their homes were within a few minutes’ stroll.

 Inside the house it was such a hectic event, with so much frantic activity, that no one paid attention when one of the colored maids passed a slip of paper to another, who gave it a quick read and with an absent smile folded it into her apron pocket.

 The second maid, dark skinned and sharp featured, made her way to the door that led from the bustling, overheated kitchen to the basement stairs. Keeping her face intent, as if on a pressing errand, she stepped through the door and closed it behind her. She lingered in the basement only a minute and was not missed.

 The party bubbled merrily on until the stroke of midnight, when tradition demanded a toast. This year, the glasses were raised to the great city of Atlanta, to those upstanding citizens who had made such generous donations to the Christmas fund, surpassing the previous year’s, and finally to new mayor John Sampson for his exemplary efforts in maintaining their safety and protecting their interests. With that, the couples in their tuxedos and furs began to take their leave. The foyer rang with hearty farewells as the guests went out the door and down the walk to their waiting automobiles.

 It was when the last of the wraps were being collected from the second floor that Mrs. Charles Payne stepped into the master bedroom and noticed a zebrawood jewelry box that had no business being out sitting atop the dressing table. Lifting the lid, she found it empty, cleaned of a half-dozen pieces of her best jewelry. She let out a gasp and called faintly, then louder, and one of the maids ran down the hall and down the stairs to fetch her husband.
Copyright © 2007 by David Fulmer

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Meet the Author

DAVID FULMER's first novel, Chasing the Devil's Tail , was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize and the winner of the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel. Fulmer lives in Atlanta.

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