Janalanhenderson.com is proud to have John Raspanti join our ranks for a review of The Devil's Garden. John has written pieces for glasshousepresents.com, and hopefully will be featured with us in future installments.


Devil’s Garden
A review
John Raspanti

Author Ace Atkins mixes a little noir, a little fiction and a lot of true crime in his exceptional novel, Devil’s Garden.

Come back with me to San Francisco, September 1921: It’s Labor Day weekend and silent screen superstar Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle is throwing the party to end all parties, which incidentally does end something at least for awhile…Arbuckle’s career. The wild party at the St. Francis has got girls, booze and one dead actress named Virginia Rappe. The DA says the Arbuckle killed her. Problem is that there’s no evidence to support that finding. No matter, William Randolph Hearst wants to sell newspapers. He creates the term ‘yellow journalism’ by spreading rumors and innuendo about Arbuckle all to sell more papers. The DA begins to feel the heat. They are soon building a case against Arbuckle using manufactured evidence and out right lies. Whether he’s guilty or innocent has no bearing on Hearst. The whole country gets caught up in the Arbuckle scandal. But what really happened? Why can’t anyone at the party agree on anything? Why is Hearst so interested in the case?

With jazzy dialogue Atkins builds the novel around three towering individuals: the childlike Arbuckle, the egomaniacal Hearst, and a Pinkerton shamus named Hammett. Called Sam here he’s hired by Arbuckle’s team to investigate and find the truth. Narrator Hammett assiduously begins to uncover who is behind the case to get Arbuckle, and more importantly the ‘why’are. Atkins also does an amazing job of bringing back to life the 1920’s San Francisco. The city itself is not only a background of the story, but another character rich and alive and full of venom.

Atkins also supplies Hammett with some sly Spade like observations that will make most hardboiled aficionados grin like a drunk in a bar…

“You’re only somebody if you get your picture made and people pay a nickel to take a look. The rest of us are just deadbeats.”

“I like a city where you can walk and get to know the neighborhoods and back alleys. A real city you can know on your feet.”

As a compelling and riveting detective story Devil’s Garden is great entertainment. The writing and storytelling are superb, as historical fiction it transports the reader back to the streets and alleys of San Francisco, and later to the mansion of Roscoe Arbuckle and his wife Minta.

This one is not to be missed…

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