praise for lightning men
One of the Top 10 Crime Novels of 2017
--The New York Times Book Review
“Outstanding... Mullen again brilliantly combines a suspenseful plot with a searing look at a racist [1950s] South.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Mullen unfolds his multifaceted plot with a sure hand and lively characterizations. ... An exciting work. Never simplistic, Lightning Men is far from predictable and rich with sociological and emotional detail."
-The Wall Street Journal
"Few other crime writers are as adept at switching between their protagonists' private and public selves, the challenges confronting them on the streets and then domestic difficulties they face off duty. The result is social history made riveting."
-The Sunday Times (London)
"As he did in last year's acclaimed Darktown, Mullen expands the boundaries of crime fiction, weaving in eye-opening details drawn from our checkered history."
"Black vs. White doesn't begin to describe the complexity of the diverse relationships in this sharply observed novel."
-The New York Times Book Review
“Morally complex and boasting more finely drawn characters, this outstanding follow-up to Darktown deepens Mullen's portrait of pre-civil rights America and deserves a place on every suspense reader's list. Here's hoping for many more installments."
-Library Journal, starred review
"Powerful, intelligent and beautifully written, Lightning Men is crime fiction at its finest. ... Every bit as successful (as Darktown) in infusing a complex, subtle and thrilling crime narrative, embracing a bloody turf war between rival drug gangs, with a meticulous, vivid evocation of 1950's Atlanta."
"Mullen effectively uses the police procedural format to shine a light on the daily indignities and violence blacks suffered in the pre–civil rights South, while delivering a plot that never lets up on suspense."
-Booklist, starred review
"Tense and heated suspense envelops Thomas Mullen's second in his Darktown series. ... The pleasure of Lightning Men is in its fully realized characters. ... Addicting."
"An electrifying follow-up to Darktown, Lightning Men is a racially-charged suspenseful police procedural that is as intriguing as it is timely."
"Mullen’s book strikes a frighteningly current note in its exploration of the racial politics of the 1950s. ... Mullen is particularly adept at using his characters’ musings and interactions to fill in the history he explores here."
"Amazingly, it equals the first novel in depth, knowledge and enjoyment. It is certainly one of the best books I have read this year. ... Once you start this story there is no turning back."
“A multilayered thriller . . . an epic of mid-20th century American transformation.”
"Superbly researched. ... Mullen reveals the terrible specifics of horrendous physical and psychological abuse routinely suffered by Black people."
"Lightning Men proves the promise: Thomas Mullen is writing the most compelling new series in crime fiction. This is an extraordinarily talented writer working at the top of his game -- each character, plot thread, scene, and sentence is a carefully crafted gem. Lightning Men and Darktown are must-read novels."
-Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author
praise for darktown
-An NPR Best Book of the Year
-Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
-Finalist for the Indies Choice Book Award
-Nominated for the Southern Book Prize
-Named one of the Best Crime Novels of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews
-Named one of the Best Crime Novels of 2016 by Booklist
-Nominated for two Crime Writers Association Dagger Awards
"A riveting read."
-National Public Radio
“One incendiary image ignites the next in this highly combustible procedural, set in the city’s rigidly segregated black neighborhoods during the pre-civil-rights era and written with a ferocious passion that’ll knock the wind out of you. … Fascinating.”
"Intense ... Gripping. … A complicated crime fiction that melds an intense plot with fully realized characters. At times, Mullen’s unflinching description in exploring the bigotry and hatred the rookie officers experience make Darktown an upsetting read. Yet this authenticity adds to the realism and relevance of Darktown, bringing to mind 2016 confrontations between police and blacks."
"A brilliant blend of crime, mystery, and American history... Terrific entertainment."
"This is high-quality historical crime fiction with a nimble sense of history and well-researched details, quick on its feet and vividly drawn."
“An engrossing account of race and law enforcement in Atlanta that doubles as a crackling mystery story … Despite being a period piece, Darktown serves as pointed commentary on the American tensions of race and the criminal justice system.”
"Movingly depicted scenes and solid character development. ... Mullen is a wonderful architect of intersecting plotlines and unexpected answers."
"Mullen’s epic novel works both as a fast-paced, hard-boiled thriller with the sweep of L.A. Confidential and as a vivid depiction of systemic police racism and corruption, all the while alive to the complexities and subtleties surrounding class, religion and sex within the black community. In this age of Black Lives Matter, a historical crime novel might well be the most topical book of the season.”
-Irish Times, Best Crime Fiction of 2016
Thomas Mullen’s absorbing new mystery, reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow in a genre mood, is about the first black police officers hired by the city of Atlanta in 1948. ... Mullen is a skillful writer, his tale a wrenching recreation of a time whose inexcusable racial imbalances have survived all too visibly into our own America."
"Some books educate, some books entertain, Thomas Mullen’s Darktown is the rare book that does both. … Mullen masterfully creates the world in which (his characters) live. He brings to the reader the stinging heat, the bitter smells, the glare of the sun and the grime of the red dirt that is natural to this section of the country. Even better, he gets inside the souls of the oppressed and the minds of the oppressors. … Darktown is a novel that holds up a mirror to the vestiges of discrimination that remain alive and well today. … Impossible to put down. … You should read Darktown in order to understand the past, but more importantly to understand the present."
"Mullen uses the lens of a twisted murder mystery to unsettle readers with his unflinching looks at racism in post-WWII Atlanta… This page-turner reads like the best of James Ellroy."
-Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)
"The book’s research into Atlanta of the period is thorough and intense, and even though an engrossing crime story is worked into the narrative, it’s the vivid portrait of a post-war southern American city almost consumed with a loathing of black people that makes Darktown so riveting."
"Darktown is a thrilling, fast-paced crime novel, but the complex questions it raises will haunt readers long after the final page."
"This novel is hard to read, and even harder to put down."
-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"The breakneck plot soon rollicks across bootlegging and prostitution (from which the cops take a cut), as well as politics and lynching, a noxious stew sizzling in Atlanta’s summer heat. … A fine, unflinching example of the increasingly widespread use of crime fiction to explore social issues; its plot is gripping."
"Mullen creates a brilliant setting, a sun-drenched city booming after the war, choking on its own unstoppable growth. He has won literary and historical awards for his first three novels, and shows both gifts in great supply here, such as his gut-wrenching narrative of a race riot that raged like a virus through Atlanta for three horrible days in 1906, or his description of a crop of peaches left large but tasteless as cotton after heavy rains and extreme heat, a brilliant metaphor of life for blacks in the Jim Crow South. ... In Darktown, Mullen stages a grim fight for Atlanta’s very soul, a clash between die-hard racists and moderates who know segregation must end. ... I’m hoping there’s a series here – a sequel at least – which is the highest compliment I can pay."
-National Post (Canada)
"Fast-paced and unsettling... The setting of Darktown might be the 1940s, but the resonances are unmistakeably contemporary. ... Mullen is adept at creating individuals rather than stereotypes. ...He has created in Darktown a police procedural with a real difference. The result successfully combines the pleasures of the best crime fiction with a story that anatomizes the kind of racial tensions that plague America today."
-Sunday Times (London)
"Fascinating, grim and unsettling, this is a story of violent and ingrained racism, political corruption, conspiracy and almost unbearable psychological pressure."
-The Guardian (UK)
"Thomas Mullen's powerful novel, Darktown, is, at one level, a first-class police procedural, but it's more than that. ... A terrific story that raises issues that have not vanished."
-The Times (UK)
"Mullen blends the classic ingredients of det-fic noir with a well-researched and searing portrayal of pre-Civil Rights racial division. Magnificent and shocking."
-Sunday Times Crime Club (London)
"Gripping… The racism and hatred faced by Boggs, Smith and their community makes for shocking reading, and Mullen skillfully portrays the officers pushing against a tide of prejudice and injustice. … With a masterly sense of place, [Darktown] shines a light on an uncomfortable period of American race relations which mirrors the struggles it still faces today, making it both shocking and deeply relevant."
-The Express (UK)
"Fine Southern storytelling meets hard-boiled crime in a tale that connects an overlooked chapter of history to our own continuing struggles with race today."
-Charles Frazier author of Cold Mountain
"My favorite crime novel of 2016."
-Sarah Weinman, The Crime Lady
"Tenebrous and super-cinematic -- film/television rights are already with Sony -- and no so small sense reminiscent of 1997's L.A. Confidential."
"As his previous historical novels have proven, Mullen is skilled at bringing the past to life, both socially and visually… fans of well-written literary thrillers will want this expert example."
"From the very first page of Darktown, I was stunned, mesmerized, and instantly a huge fan of Thomas Mullen. Beyond the history and the thrilling mystery, the book’s soul lies in the burgeoning partnership (and dare I say friendship) at the center of the book. It’s a reminder of the ties that cut across race in America. There is nothing I love more in a book than hope."
-Attica Locke, author of Pleasantville, writer/producer of Empire
“Darktown is a novel readers won’t soon forget, not just because of its thoroughly engrossing, suspense-filled plot, but because of the historical, moral complexity contained within its pages. … The story evokes parallels to racial injustices within the law enforcement community that persist to this day, making this an even more compelling and thought-provoking read. Mullen paints a vivid portrait of racial inequality and a dark period in American history that cannot soon be forgotten.”
“A remarkable mix of deeply resonant Southern history and old-school cop thriller. … Mullen spins a shockingly realistic crime tale that is buffeted constantly by the racial tension of the Jim Crow-era South. I couldn’t put it down. Evidently, the same was true for Jamie Foxx, who is set to produce a TV series based on the book.”
“A gritty, beautifully written police procedural doubling as a searing indictment of the racial tensions that then and now bedevil American society.”
"Immensely successful as both a thriller and a historical novel."
-Morning Star (UK)
“The novel boldly displays the corruption and power wielded by white cops and politicians. … Darktown is a compelling, well-crafted read, and a reminder of how far we have come as a nation from a time when race defined success and opportunity. Or have we?”
-NY Journal of Books
"That Darktown manages to tackle this massive undertaking without ever losing sight of its main goal of telling a compelling and concise story for entertainment purposes is a testament to its brilliance."
-B.O.L.O Books, Best Book of the Year selection
“A hard-boiled historical gem. … Mullen unfolds a complex story that echoes the corruption-driven period noirs of James Ellroy and the blood’n’guilt-stained tragedies of Ross Macdonald. Mullen’s story twists through big-city corruption, unforgiven sins, deeply ingrained prejudices, brutal violence, and vivid depictions of a society that seems almost like an alien world, though it is barely removed from our own time. … Rather than clubbing the reader with expository passages, Mullen builds that picture through the skillful use of character-driven episodes. … Darktown excels as a thrilling hardboiled mystery, a fascinating historical novel, and as an examination of the dark and bloody ground that American race relations are rooted in to this day. Ultimately what makes this fine novel truly succeed is the basic humanity and hope embodied in its primary characters.”
"Mullen’s attention to historical detail and living, breathing narrative draws readers into an engaging crime story that could only happen here."
-Creative Loafing (Atlanta)
"Mullen’s writing is extremely evocative in bringing the pre–civil rights South to life."
-Booklist (Starred Review)
"Brutal, harrowing, full of anger yet atmospheric, compelling and layered with hope."
-Weekend Sport (UK)
"A novel that couldn't be timelier."