Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book: Devil’s Garden, by Ace Atkins (2009)

Why, oh why, have I not read Ace Atkins until now?

Devil’s Garden retells the saga of Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, one of the first and arguably still the greatest of show business scandals. What’s known is that Arbuckle threw an epic party at a San Francisco hotel in 1921. During the bash, would-be actress Virginia Rappe took ill, dying several days later. Accusations flew, abetted by William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Arbuckle stood trial for manslaughter three times. He was never convicted, but his career was destroyed.

With vivid, economical prose, Atkins weaves together multiple viewpoints including those of Hearst and Arbuckle himself. Most impressive is the perspective of young Pinkerton operative Dashiell Hammett, then known as Sam. Atkins incorporates many clues about the writer Hammett would become without detracting from the story at hand. And he finds ways of surprising you even if you’re already familiar with the sad facts of the case.

Nothing is better than discovering an established author who is new to you. I now have Atkins’ Nick Travers series as well as his other historical novels including Infamous, the upcoming one about “Machine Gun” Kelly, to look forward to. Here’s his blog.