Legendary soul singer Clyde James has been missing for years and long presumed dead. But even though he’s history, the woods are suddenly full of people looking for him—among them his sister Loretta, the beloved friend of Nick Travers, blues historian extraordinaire. Ex pro-footballer, current part-time Tulane professor, and full-time knight errant, Nick as ever is Loretta’s to command. So off he goes from New Orleans to Memphis at her behest, chasing her will-o’-the-wisp brother. Nick won’t be lonely. Also hunting Clyde are representatives of the Dixie Mafia, the Sons of the South (think gentrified KKK), a pair of unaffiliated thugs named Ransom and Garon, a couple of lowlife pols, and a sweet young thing whose late dad was offed because he was once Clyde’s lawyer. Ruthless, remorseless Ransom is hunting Clyde in order to remedy an oversight. He should have done for Clyde 30 years ago, he now realizes, since Clyde witnessed a Ransom-perpetrated crime. Goran hunts mostly because he’s certifiable. Over the moon about Elvis Presley, whom he seems to think he’s reincarnated, he enjoys killing and might well be in the game even without the price Ransom has put on Clyde’s head. “All I am is a voice lost in a dream,” says Clyde wistfully at one point, a pronouncement that slows down none of his pursuers, who all but Nick, for variously persuasive reasons, want that voice stilled.
Once again, Atkins (Leavin’ Trunk Blues, 2000, etc.) redeems shaky plotting by a colorful cast, especially big-hearted, picaresque Nick.