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Wicked City

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  341 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
From "one of crime fiction's most interesting and passionate voices" (Laura Lippman) comes a new "noir crime classic" ("Mystery Ink") about one of the most notorious towns in American history.
Reviewing "White Shadow," the Associated Press wrote, "It is as gritty as James Ellroy's "L.A. Confidential." And yet, the prose is as lyrical as James Lee Burke's "Crusader's Cross
ebook, 368 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Berkley Books
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Flashman by George MacDonald FraserThe Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. BorosonThe Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraRagtime by E.L. DoctorowThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Historical Fiction that GUYS like, too!
118th out of 227 books — 106 voters
In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonTrue Hollywood Noir by Dina Di MambroHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
True Crime--Well Written
184th out of 221 books — 217 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 661)
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Aug 05, 2008 Allan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in Mississippi in the '50s, I was insulated from the harsher side of life. I'd never heard of Phenix City, AL, until a movie came out in 1955 - "The Phenix City Story." I didn't see it (I was just 10 then), but I got the impression this was a real and a bad place...and I was right.

All these years later and I've revisited those days through this strong novel, based on fact, by Southern writer Ace Atkins. I've read some strong stuff in my life - Burke's Dave Robicheaux series contains
Jul 16, 2013 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s something so enticing about fiction that’s almost true. The underlying current of truth is what first drew me to Ace Atkins’ book, Wicked City.

Several years ago, I ran with the Columbus Running Club, from Columbus, GA. Frequently, on our longer runs, we crossed the Chattahoochee River and found ourselves instantly not only in another time zone, but what felt like a different world. That sentiment grew within me, as one of the runners, who had lived his whole life in the area, began to u
Jan 24, 2009 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ace Atkins' novels kind of sneak up on you. They start out slowly and you really aren't sure that you are interested enough in a corrupt small town in Alabama in the '50's to keep reading, but you plug along a bit more and suddenly discover yourself enthralled. You want to know what happens next. You get to know the protagonists and the villains and get a real feel for the town and the events. In today's world it is hard to believe that a town (and State) could be so corrupt in the later half of ...more
Nan Williams
Nov 04, 2015 Nan Williams rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: no-more
The only reason I struggled through to the end of this book was that I well remember the events the book chronicles, and I was hoping for a somewhat accurate historical novel. Since real people, including 2 governors, were major figures in the book, I was expecting a good timeline of events and, quite frankly, was expecting the "hero," John Patterson, to have a bigger role in this recounting.

The title of the book is a clue to the contents: "Wicked City." The purpose of the book seems to be to gi
Jul 15, 2015 HBalikov rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ace Atkins has "dramatized" the people and events that made Phenix City, Alabama, Sin Central during a two decade period ending in the mid-1950s. This wide open city across the river from Fort Benning, Georgia preyed on the servicemen and other visitors with gambling, prostitution and general lawlessness at levels that had never been tolerated in any similar size community.

Finally, many locals got together and demanded a reform government. They thought they had it when Albert Patterson was elec
Jan 07, 2015 Andreasoldier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, mystery, fiction
I picked up this novel because Atkins has picked up Robert B. Parker's torch ("Lullaby" and "Wonderland") and has done a damn good job.
I wasn't expecting much; I should have known better.
This started out slow, and the different POVs were a little confusing at first, but then the stories began oozing together, to reveal a town rotting on the outside but with a small decent core.
This tale is based on truth, and Atkins interviewed some of the players. It's that veracity makes this story of Phenix C
Jan C
May 17, 2010 Jan C rated it it was amazing
Shelves: south, true-crime
Another gem from Ace Atkins. Phenix City was rampant with moonshine, prostitution, gambling. You name it and they pretty much had it. I guess there was a movie about it, too - The Phenix City Story. I don’t think I ever saw it but I guess I would look for it now.

This is Lamar Murphy’s story. It is just after WWII and most of the characters were veterans, some with a significant amount of post trauma stress - they still hear the guns and see the enemy.

Apparently this was a place that was on a cy
Mary McCoy
A sleazy hive of bootlegging, illegal gambling halls, houses of prostitution, political corruption, and dirty cops who turned a blind eye, Look magazine called Phenix City, Alabama the "wickedest city in America." The town's innocent citizens were too afraid to challenge the status quo until 1954, when the Democratic candidate for attorney general, a reformer named Albert Patterson was gunned down in an alley by persons unknown.

Patterson's death marked the beginning of the end for that status qu
May 25, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in history
When I played high schoool football, people used to tell us how crazy and mean people were from East Alabama. After reading this book, little did I know that some of the stuff I imagined wasn't even close to what happened in Phenix City in the mid-1900s.

Situationed across from Columbus, Georgia and Fort Bening -- training ground for Army grunts -- Phenix City was called by national magazines the wickedest city in America. Strip clubs with Tijuana worthy acts, gambling where the house always win
I didn't like this book nearly as much as I wanted to. I bought it after hearing Atkins give a really interesting presentation on characterization at a writers' festival. I was fascinated by how he got into the head of a real historical figure, interviewing the man's widow and walking the paths he'd walked in Phenix City.

But the narrative point of view in the novel was offputting at best and
confusingly jumpy at worst. It begins in the first person as a story told by the future sheriff, and the
My three-star rating should not be viewed as a less-than-warm response to Ace Atkins work. This is an excellent book and accurate rendition of Phenix City Alabama, which back in the 1950s was one of the most corrupt and murderous cities in America. However, I have spent some time in the area and know the story well. Therefore, the book held no surprises for me. That said, anyone who does not know the history of that town and likes a good piece of historical fiction, will find this book an excell ...more
May 29, 2014 AnnieM rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some authors can be read or listened. Ace Atkins is one that is best read.

It was a rich wonderfully colorful story. While it is fiction, Phoenix City could be any southern city in the 1950s.

Dick Hill is a great narrator and captures the feel of the book perfectly.

This is a good author for those who like Woods or Patterson.
Bruce Snell
The second of Ace Atkins books based on true crime events in the southern United States. In 1955 Phenix City, Alabama is called the crookedest city in the country with illegal gambling, prostitution, political corruption, and alcohol but that is about to change when the newly elected States Attorney General is murdered. The national guard is sent in to keep the peace and start an investigation into the rampant crime and corruption, all of which leads to multiple indictments and a general cleanup ...more
Timothy Hallinan
I think Atkins is one of our treasures, and in this book he slices off a big sloppy piece of Florida history in the 1950s -- Italians on the decline, crime-wise, Cubans on the rise; Fidel Castro looming on the horizon in Cuba; and the city of Tampa is deeply unsettled by the brutal murder of Charlie Wall, a former bookmaker and criminal eminence grise known as the white shadow. Who killed Charlie and what did Charlie tell whoever it was? Those questions drive the journalists, cops, and crooks tr ...more
False Millennium
Based on a corrupt town in Alabama in the 1950's. I have no memory of ever hearing of this place, but then, why would I? I know very little about Alabama and the few times I've been there my impression was "sleepy and slow."
Brett Wallach
May 10, 2015 Brett Wallach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't like most books I read. But this is great. Brilliant writing full of passion and compassion. The pacing is...deliberate, and that does take getting used to, but it's worth it!
Aug 05, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery/crime/true crime readers
Recommended to Steve by: read previous novels by Mr. Atkins
Shelves: read-in-2008
This is another ambitious novel which tells a mostly-true story of events in a corrupt Alabama town in 1955. The author alternates between first and third person POV, and at first it is quite confusing when tracking the many characters. But once underway, the story and characters sort themselves out, and the reader is captivated by the story and the masterful writing. As with novels by other good crime writers, there are no truly good or bad characters here; merely people dealing with the horror ...more
Andrew Leuper
Good crime drama in a unique, interesting and well-suited setting.
Stephen Peale
Sep 20, 2015 Stephen Peale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-crime
Reminds me of Hammett's Red Harvest. An enjoyable read.
Andrew Carter
I must be dense, because it took me a long while to get the characters straight. Sense the book was written in the first person, it was a while before I could recognize the name of the story teller.
Aug 18, 2014 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good book with lots of action.
Based on the actual events behind the cleanup of Phenix City, Alabama, starting with the assassination of an attorney general-elect who'd vowed to rid the city of its gambling dens and prostitution rings, as a small group of civic-minded residents and the National Guard work to bust up the "Machine" and the crooked law enforcement officers.

This novel has the feel of early James Ellroy, before he started writing in sentence fragments -- depravity and corruption abound. It's a fast read, but an ex
Apr 29, 2013 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
Despite the lauditory blurbs, this book is not as fun as White Shadows. Perhaps I am biased, as it was nice to read about Tampa rather than Alabama, but although in many ways the books are similar I prefered the former. Atkins seems to enjoy this type of historical fiction, delving into Southern criminality, this time covering the cleanup of the notorious den of vice called Phenix City. The constant shifting of voices and various story lines are a distraction.
Sharon Griffitts
Sep 08, 2012 Sharon Griffitts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suspenseful and fast moving plot with lots of deaths. This novel is based on true incidents in Phenix City, Alabama in the early fifties. It was a time of vast corruption endorsed and aided by all levels of law enforcement. There is a small sub plot involving a teenage love story to include just a little romance. More deaths from gunfire than I like but those who live by force are apt to die by force and justly so.
This was a pretty good book. Excellent description of a very corrupt southern town but with good people willing finally to take back their city.
The book keep up a good exciting pace throughout with believable scenes and details. It has some very violent pieces that might put some readers off and, perhaps, it is a little casual about guns and the resultant deaths.
I have a question--Who da Man?


This is my 3rd Ace Atkins and will not be my last!


Hope Springs by Steven Hunter

Saint Mudd by Steve Thayer

Once again Atkins combines true events with an exciting narrative, especially the shifting perspectives/narratives between the various characters.
Terry Ray
Jun 11, 2008 Terry Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Wicked City is an eye-opening account of a corrupt and decadent small Southern town gone out of control. It is shocking that some of this stuff was going on in the 50s, much less here in Alabama ;)

Atkins, as usual, does a wonderful job of breathing life into his characters, some fictitious, others real. All-in-all a very good read.
Sep 14, 2008 Carrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Different style book for me, but as it was recommended by my husband, I decided to give it a try. It was set in a corrupt town in the 1950's. Basically, its about the good guys vs the bad guys and who will prevail to run the town. I enjoyed it - certainly a good diversion from chic-lit, but nothing too serious either.
Mar 15, 2010 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another half-assed attempt from me at getting a history lesson; awesome.

Based on the true events surrounding Phenix City, AL, Ace Atkins takes us on a ride through the corrupt south of the 50s. Who would have guessed the south would have corruption? This is my 2nd Ace novel and I was not disappointed. On to the next.
Sep 26, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fictional retelling of an Alabama political assassination in 1954. The murder spurred the cleanup of Phenix City Alabama, a vice-ridden cesspool of drugs, gambling, prostitution, which carries some personal resonance with me since Phenix City is across the river from my new home, Columbus Georgia.
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Ace Atkins is the author of eight novels, including his latest, Infamous, from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

A former journalist who cut his teeth as a crime reporter in the newsroom of The Tampa Tribune, he published his first novel, Crossroad Blues, at 27 and became a full-time novelist at 30.

While at the Tribune, Ace earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series based on his investigation into a
More about Ace Atkins...

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