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Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Darktown (2016)

by Thomas Mullen

Series: Darktown (1)

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It's 1948 and the City of Atlanta has just sworn in its first black police officers. Their operations are strictly controlled and restricted: they are there to police the black population of Atlanta only and have no jurisdiction at all over any any white people. With outright hostility from the white officers on the force, they are not even allowed to set foot in the Police Headquarters but are sidelined to the damp basement of the YMCA. Any requests for information or reports must be channelled through their white sergeant.

Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith are patrolling their beat at midnight when they come across a car which had driven into, and knocked over, a lamp-post. They have no jurisdiction against the drunken driver, who is white, so they phone for a squad car to make an arrest when the driver flees the scene. A black girl in the passenger seat of the car had seemed distressed, but had disappeared by the time that the squad car had caught up with the driver, only to reappear again, very much dead and clearly murdered, some days later. But why did the officers in squad car driven by Dunlow, one of those most opposed to the introduction of the black officers, not even give the car driver a ticket. And why is Boggs's sergeant McInnis rewriting his reports to remove all mention of the driver, identified as an ex-policeman called Underhill. The police department certainly isn't interested in discovering who really killed the young woman, so Boggs and Smith start to do a little detective work on their own...

What drew me into this book was its historical setting and the depiction of the huge difficulties faced by Boggs and Smith just trying to do their job. I'm assuming that there is a reasonable degree of historical accuracy (someone more knowledgeable please correct me if there isn't), and of course I knew that the American South was segregated, but even so I found the level of segregation and racism really shocking... ( )
  SandDune | Mar 10, 2019 |
It turned out to be very different from what I normally read. Personally, it bothered me because I grew up in the 60's when racial issues were constant. However, the writing is great, and I applaud the author for what I felt was very candid information from that time frame. ( )
  ohgranny | Mar 3, 2019 |
After WWII, officials in Atlanta deigned to allow eight black men to become policemen (beat cops) on the force, a first for the city. Well, under certain conditions that is: they were only allowed to serve in the black areas of the city, they needed to report to a crudely set up station in the Y and were never to set foot in the actual police station which was limited to whites only, and they couldn’t actually investigate any crimes. It is under these conditions that we meet rookie policemen Lucius Boggs and Thomas White when the narrative begins.

It quickly becomes apparent that there is a monumental amount of graft, corruption and outright murder going on among Atlanta’s finest and the upstanding black rookies are disturbed enough by the death of a young black woman to ignore the edicts of those in charge and look into the crime in front of them even though that poses an enormous risk to them personally.

I listened to this on audio and the reader, Andre Holland, a black actor, was pitch perfect and lent a dramatic authenticity to the narrative that made it all the more enjoyable. But he had fabulous material to work with. This was an elegant police procedural that highlighted the inherent racism in the city. On the one hand I was outraged and on the other found the story itself immensely compelling and satisfying. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Highly recommended. ( )
  brenzi | Jan 3, 2019 |
Loved it - made me angry and sad ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 28, 2018 |
Dark, indeed. This is a police procedural quite unlike any others you may have read. The protagonists are Tom Smith and Lucius Boggs, two of the first black cops on Atlanta's municipal police force. It's 1950, and neither their white colleagues nor the black community they are policing are happy about their existence. They wear the uniform and badge, and carry guns, but don't have cars, and must call for white back-up if they arrest anyone. They are forbidden to enter police headquarters, working out of the drippy dim basement of a YMCA in a poor black neighborhood. They are subject to humiliation, harassment, and false charges. They watch white cops taking pay-offs from brothels and forcing confessions from suspects to close cases regardless of facts. They witness white-on-black brutality occur routinely without consequence. They are not allowed to investigate anything. But when a black girl from the country ends up shot to death and tossed on a garbage dump shortly after Officers Smith and Boggs saw her running away from a white man's car, these men decide to risk their careers and their lives, breaking the rules to find out how she got there. Often a very uncomfortable read, but impossible to leave alone. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Jun 26, 2018 |
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"I must tell you, it was not easy for me to raise my right hand and say, 'I, Willard Strickland, a Negro, do solemnly swear to perform the duties of a Negro policeman.'"

--Officer Willard Strickland, Atlanta Police Department, Retired, in a 1977 speech recalling his 1948 induction as one of the city's first eight African American officers.
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It was nearing midnight when one of the new lampposts on Auburn Avenue achieved the unfortunate fate of being the first to be hit by a car.
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"Responding to orders from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers: they aren't allowed to arrest white suspects, drive squad cars, or set foot in the police headquarters. When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up dead, Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it. Their investigation sets them up against a brutal cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood as his own, and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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