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review 2019-05-17 01:31
Emotional read...yes this stuff really did happen in the last century
Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

This is such a great powerful read. On one hand you feel like going into the book and start punching every bigot you see since they’re such awful hateful people. Yet on the other hand, you feel for Boggs and Smith. They’re trying so hard to elevate themselves and make everything a better place for the community and pretty much for their race. Yet they’re non stop met with opposition from both sides and it’s disheartening to see yet the most awful thing about all of this is, this all happened in the last century. It’s mind blowing and horrible how humans are but it’s a reality we all must know and be aware of.


The plot itself was very interesting and the pace is steady. There’s plenty of characters to read about and the supporting characters gives the story plenty of substance. The emotions and tensions are dutifully felt in the book and you can only read on with the feeling of hopelessness as Boggs and Smith attempt to try and do their jobs as best as they can but they’re thwarted at every turn. It’s amazing they stick with the job, and admirable because of the amazing amount of strength and grit they display to go through all the obstacles they face while trying to do their investigation.


The plot was also good at showing both sides of the story. Besides Boggs and Smith you also have Rakestraw who seems more moderate thinking than the rest of the characters, his behavior is certainly different and he tries to be understanding - however still maintaining his superiority mentality. It’s a start I suppose to eradicate this kind of behavior in a character but you can’t help but feel frustrated as this type of hatred and belief that is so deeply ingrained in everything; in society, thinking, in life. It’s horrible to see and to think this type of behavior still persists in other forms and methods.


Definitely recommend this read despite the awful things some characters do in the book. It’s eye opening and gripping read. It will elicit powerful emotions but it’s accurate and detailed. No sugar coating here but the truth. Worth the read.

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review 2018-08-20 17:28
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway a very long time ago. I kind of wish I had read it a few years ago when things in the US weren’t quite so openly depressing but alas I read it now and it hurt my heart so much.


Dark Town is a mystery and an unflinching look at race relations in the not so long ago past. Even worse, much of it is depressingly still very relevant today. It takes place in the 1940’s when segregation and racism was on full awful display. And if today’s news gets you down, reading this book right now sure won’t help your state of mind. There is so much prejudice and hatefulness in this story that it will make you angry and sad. This is not a book you want to pick up thinking you’ll escape into.


A murder occurs and the author delves deep into everyone involved in the situation. What is uncovered is a whole lot of cover ups, corruption, and other assorted ugliness. It’s very well written and the descriptive language is so very excellent.


"A harsh word would knock him over"& "He hit the door like it owed him money."


You should definitely read it if you enjoy a good gritty historical murder mystery. But I’m warning you, it’s probably going to make your blood boil.

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review 2016-09-11 20:38
Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

What a great book. This truly showed the emotions, the bigotry, the racism and the lack of education of our country during this era. And it showed it in such a personal way. These characters actually came to life and you could feel those police officers fear. What a scam. Call them officers, dress them up and give them no rights to be officers. They couldn't drink on or off duty, couldn't visit the whore houses off duty (only on duty if duty called), yet the white officers could do it all. They couldn't even pull over a white person or arrest a white person. Even when they saw one run into a light pole.

This was a very tense and powerful book and one that I could not put down. I just could not believe the things that were going on and this wasn't in a podunk town. This was big city Atlanta.

There were layers of corruptness going on in this book and villains were everywhere you looked. I absolutely enjoyed reading this book (not the subject) but it did bring to light a sordid history that I'm sure a lot of people would like to keep hidden.

Huge thanks to Atria Books for approving my request to read and review this book and to Net Galley for providing the e-galley in exchange for an honest review. Definitely recommend it!

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review 2016-09-09 15:01
A historical time so far and yet so close to ours. And a great yarn.
Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

Thanks to Net Galley and to Little, Brown Book UK for offering me a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This novel combines an intriguing plot (a police-procedural thriller about an African-American young woman murdered in mysterious circumstances that many want to cover up) with a tense and little explored historical background, post-WWII Atlanta, a place where racial tensions were alive and well. The story takes place shortly after the first African-American men have taken their posts as police officers. The Atlanta of the time is a segregated city, with white and black neighbourhoods, and where the poorest and most criminal area is known as ‘Darktown’. Nobody wants to police it, but the business is booming.

The new members of the police force have a badge and a gun, but can only police the African-American neighbourhoods, cannot enter the police station, are bullied by the white police agents, command no respect, have access to no resources and are stabbed in the back at the slightest opportunity.

The story is told in the third person from several points of views. Most of the story is told in alternating chapters from two of the police officers’ points of views: Rake, a white rookie whose partner is a racist and corrupt police officer who uses force, threats and intimidation to control criminals and peers alike, and Boggs, an African-American policeman, the son of a preacher who is one of the influencers of the well-off African-American community in Atlanta. Rake tries to be a good and ethical policeman but finds it difficult to confront the status quo, and although he tolerates the African-American policemen, he is not pro-equality. For him, the best case scenario is that they keep out of each other’s way. Boggs knows they are only there as a political gesture and any excuse will be good to get rid of them, but he takes a stand and decides to investigate the death of the young African-American woman white detectives don’t care about, no matter what the consequences. There are also brief chapters told from other characters’ points of view, but this is always relevant to the story and I did not find it confusing.

The plot is complex, with several murders, police corruption, false clues, and the added difficulties of the partial sources of information and the obstacles that Rake and Boggs find at every turn. There are many characters that appear only briefly and it is important to be attentive to the story not to miss anything, and towards the end, the author cleverly keeps some of the clues under wraps (you  might have your suspicions but it’s not easy to guess the whole story and wrap it all up).

The action of the novel is kept at good pace,the writing has enough description to make us feel as we were sweating with the characters (and we can almost feel the violence in our own bodies), without ever being overdrawn, and there are quite a few chapters that end in a cliffhanger and makes us keep turning the pages. There is also a well accomplished underlying sense of threat and darkness running through the whole story and it’s impossible to read it and not to think on how much (and also how little) some things have changed.

The main characters have doubts, weaknesses and don’t always do the honourable or “right” thing but that makes them easier to relate to, although not always likeable. I missed having more of a sense of their personal lives (Rake is married but we know next to nothing about his family and although Boggs lives with his family, most of the focus is on the job) but that fits in nicely with the genre. Apart from an African-American Madam, the victim, and a woman who helps divulge some useful information, women don’t have much of a role in the story as seems to correspond to the period. Some of the secondary characters are odious whilst others are all too human, and at times become casualties in a war they never enrolled in.

A well-written story, with a complex plot, set in a relatively recent and turbulent historical period that will make you think about race, discrimination, and progress.

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review 2016-09-07 22:10
Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

By: Thomas Mullen 

ISBN: 9781501133862
Publisher:   Atria Books

Publication Date: 9/13/2016

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++


A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Most Anticipated Book of 2016! Worth all the hype and more. CONGRATS, to Mullen: Landing Amy Pascal & Jamie Foxx Team For 1940s TV Crime Drama About Race ‘DARKTOWN.’

Thomas Mullen has brilliantly crafted a cast of unforgettable characters in DARKTOWN with a mysterious murder, a southern black woman in 1948, amid strains of the civil rights movement.

Top Cop Procedural Thriller and Best Cover of 2016!

A gritty cop procedural, in which the streets of 1948, the sweltering heat and humidity of an Atlanta, GA summer- a city just as dangerous for black cops, as for criminals.

The city’s first African American officers. An induction- However, unfortunately, here in the South, these officers were not respected, or treated equally as the whites. NO where close. Second class citizens, only moving a little from the back of the bus, and now in, even greater danger.

Meet Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner Tommy Smith.

From different backgrounds, their office was in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. Off color jokes were made and slang terms relating to their “walking a beat” compared to the running of laps, or paperwork/lifting weights, in relation to their ramshackle headquarters (hot in the summer, cold in the winter).

Things were as good as they could be for a Southern Negro in Atlanta, or were they settling?. Were they any different in Alabama or North Carolina? How long would it take to walk to Chicago where so many people had ventured for in search for a better life? Were there choices?

The novel chronicles the case of a black woman who turns up fatally beaten after last seen in a car driven by a white man, which deepens the divide in the police department.

Atlanta police officers were ordered to abide by a strict moral code—no drinking, even at home, and no womanizing—but that had not entirely sunk in with Tommy Smith. The Negro officers dutifully avoided alcohol, as they knew all too well that a witness could report them and get them suspended, but for Smith the idea of suddenly becoming a chaste man was altogether too much.

Boggs had always felt marked for something bigger, a curse of being raised by a reverend. The son of a minister, and though he had chosen not to follow in his father’s footsteps, the idea of tomcatting across town the way his partner did was utterly foreign to him.

The white officers were the worst!

One day they would most likely run over them and insist it was an accident. They had been officers for just under three months, walking the beats around Auburn Avenue (the neighborhood where both had lived all their lives save the war years), and the West Side, on the other side of downtown.

Although Atlanta’s eight Negro officers had not yet been entrusted with squad cars (hello), they did have uniforms, (yippee) plus fire arms, (living on the edge) which terrified a number of white people in Atlanta and beyond. They were not detectives, only beat cops. They had no squad cars and were forbidden from entering the white headquarters. They could not conduct investigations. By the time they walked to a call box to call in a report, and the whites came, they did nothing but laugh in their faces.

White people were not often found in Sweet Auburn, the wealthiest Negro neighborhood in Atlanta—Possibly in the country. Adventurous whites looking for gambling, or whores in the darker parts of town would normally troll along Decatur Street by railroad tracks, a half mile to the south.

On the West side of town was where most of Atlanta’s colored neighborhoods were in dire conditions. The end of the war had brought a population to the city with farmers fleeing sharecropping to find something only slightly less horrible. Families packed into one room apartments with poor living conditions, no garbage collection or enforcement of housing codes.

The novel revolves around an investigation. A woman, light-skinned and young, in her early twenties, in a canary-yellow sundress, was with a white man in a car driving reckless.

Colored officers only patrolled the colored parts of town, where whites were infrequent visitors. This man said Boggs did not have the power to arrest him when they stopped him. They were worried about the girl. The Buick took off almost running them over.

“Stop, or I’ll call the real cops.” Smith shook his head, “Funny how that don’t work.”

Atlanta, GA. Two parts Confederate racist to two parts Negro to one part something that doesn’t quite have a name. Neither city or country but some odd combination, a once sleepy railroad crossing that had exploded due to the wartime need for material and the necessities of shipping it. The South was very good a providing cheap, non-unionized labor. So the town continued to grow.

Twenty blocks away we meet Officer Denny Rakestraw and partner Lionel Dunlow. Rake had seen Dunlow beat at least a dozen men (usually blacks) rather than arresting them, and instructed those on what to say to stand witness at a trial. From bribes from bootleggers and numbers runners, and madams.

Dunlow ranked high on Boggs’ and Smith’s list of most hated white officers. They were called "jungle moneys” and verbally and physically abused daily. Dunlow never arrested white men. Only blacks. Boggs was smart and the white officers made fun of his prolific writing skills, when writing reports.

Dunlow falsified reports, beaten people, re-typed their reports, eliminating critical information, murder, racial injustice, corruption. They were not even allowed to identify bodies in the morgue. A detective had to be present. How could they bring him down?

Rake had survived against steep odds for years in Europe—from threats collaborators and spies. Back home in Atlanta, however, he was finding the moral territory more difficult to chart than he expected. Rake refused to play along with Dunlow’s sick games. He was smart.

Could he be an ally for Boggs and Smith- Someone to count on to get in places they couldn’t? Could he be trusted? Rake’s mother never permitted the N word to be spoken in their house growing up. He grew up respecting everyone, no matter their color.

The colored officers were only allowed to work the 6-2 shift, and there were only eight of them, so the white officers had occasion to visit what was now the colored officers’ turf. No white cops had ever had Auburn Ave. beat. Now they seem interested.

The woman they had seen earlier in the yellow sundress with the white man turns up dead. In a garbage dump surrounding by decaying food, hardly recognizable. A six- year old boy Horace saw the pretty lady in the yellow dress running. The lady was banging on someone’s door. The white man had stopped to find her.

Smith and Boggs had seen her in that car with the white man who hit her and they were not able to help. A desperate search for answers for this girl and her unknown family. The white officers couldn’t care less about a dead colored girl, especially one found in a dump.

The man’s name was Brian Underhill (a former cop) and he was selectively left out of the report. They were obsessed trying to find out more about the mysterious Black Jane Doe. A yellow dress, a heart-shaped locked, and a birthmark on her right shoulder was all they had to go on.

What was the connection between Underhill and Dunlow?

A colored girl, Lily Ellsworth. What was her story? What had led her to her death? Only Boggs and Smith had seen her the night she died. July 9 in Darktown. Their heart broken for her and the cruelty of whites. Someone had taken advantage of a situation. A white man named Brian Underhill (former cop)—what was he hiding? What about the family and the connection? Justice!

From murder, corruption, and conspiracy. 



Also purchased Audiobook narrated by talented Andre Holland (currently listening). Highly recommend.

The dark underbelly of Atlanta. Black cops were denied overtime and made far less than white cops, and when they had been needed in a courtroom, the judge even refused to let them enter in uniform. They had to carry their uniforms and change in a custodial closet. Everything they had to encounter was dangerous.

Worn down, fighting against every turn, Boggs and Smith have no other choice than to break a few rules, even risk being fired to get to the bottom of this cruel murder. Will they have some help?

Smith says to Bogg: “Remind me why we are doing this?” “To be upstanding citizens and paragons of our race. To provide a good example for colored kids. There weren’t better jobs.”Give me more . . . .
•“Maceo Snipes” shot in the back for being the first Negro voter in Taylor County.
•“Isaac Woodard” War veteran blinded two years ago by SC cops for daring to wear his Army uniform.
•“The Malcolms and Dorseys” Two married couples including another vet and a pregnant woman, ambushed and murdered on a bridge over the Apalachee River.

Smith opened his eyes. “Give me those keys.”

WOW, Mullen delves deep – from suspense, mystery, crimes, racial injustices, dirty law enforcement, and a changing world in the South--amid city politics and police corruption.

If you have read any of Karin Slaughter’s books set in Atlanta, from women to racial cop corruption- fans will devour Mullen’s ride through DARKTOWN.

In Slaughter’s Cop Town, set in 1970 Atlanta, the city was still bubbling over with racial and political unrest. From women, blacks to whites. A divided town. Look where we are today in 2016? Almost 70 years later. We are still dealing with similar racial issues.

When reading DARKTOWN set in 1948 Atlanta, compared toCop Town set in 1970 Atlanta---“There is still nothing pretty about this divided cop town. But in exposing its ugliness, Slaughter forces us to question whether times really have changed.

There was no precedent to follow, no Jim Crow Guide to Colored Policing. They had survived into adulthood by proceeding warily, yet now they were expected to walk with heavy step and newfound power through their neighborhoods. In some parts, they were expected to vanish.

It is no surprise the much anticipated DARKTOWN is more than just a fictional crime thriller- infused with historical details and timely controversial subjects. It has been picked up by Hollywood! Deadline. So Excited.

Interview with Mullen:

“I’m always looking for tensions, these differences between people. Subtle differences between the different black characters, the different white characters. You’re not going to find they’re all the same.” And with widely varying backgrounds, influences, and experiences, they make the story rich and deep. There are veterans and non-veterans, a sense of duty or lack of it, bigots and outright racists.

“The backgrounds of the characters inform their world views,” says Mullen. “When I’m doing my research, I’m trying to keep my antenna up to spot those differences.”

Indeed, Mullen accomplished his goal in a bold way, and hoping we hear more from these unforgettable courageous characters. Entertaining and Insightful. His best yet!

Having spent my entire career in Atlanta, in the media industry, I love revisiting the vibrant city, from past to present, watching these areas come alive again today. In some ways, we have come a long way, and others- we are back living in the darkness.





A Conversation with Thomas Mullen, author of “Darktown”


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/1/3/Darktown-A-Novel
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