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From the acclaimed author of The Last Town on Earth comes the gripping follow-up to Darktown, a “combustible procedural that will knock the wind out of you” (The New York Times). Officer Denny Rakestraw, “Negro Officers” Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, and Sergeant McInnis have their hands full in an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta. It’s 1950 and color lines are shif From the acclaimed author of The Last Town on Earth comes the gripping follow-up to Darktown, a “combustible procedural that will knock the wind out of you” (The New York Times). Officer Denny Rakestraw, “Negro Officers” Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, and Sergeant McInnis have their hands full in an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta. It’s 1950 and color lines are shifting and racial tensions are simmering. Black families—including Smith’s sister and brother-in-law—are moving into Rake’s formerly all-white neighborhood, leading some residents to raise money to buy them out, while others advocate a more violent solution. Rake’s brother-in-law, Dale, a proud Klansman, launches a scheme to rally his fellow Kluxers to save their neighborhood. When those efforts spiral out of control and leave a man dead, Rake is forced to choose between loyalty to family or the law. He isn’t the only one with family troubles. Boggs has outraged his preacher father by courting a domestic, and now her ex-boyfriend has been released from prison. As Boggs, Smith, and their all-black precinct contend with violent drug dealers fighting for turf in new territory, their personal dramas draw them closer to the fires that threaten to consume Atlanta once again.


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From the acclaimed author of The Last Town on Earth comes the gripping follow-up to Darktown, a “combustible procedural that will knock the wind out of you” (The New York Times). Officer Denny Rakestraw, “Negro Officers” Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, and Sergeant McInnis have their hands full in an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta. It’s 1950 and color lines are shif From the acclaimed author of The Last Town on Earth comes the gripping follow-up to Darktown, a “combustible procedural that will knock the wind out of you” (The New York Times). Officer Denny Rakestraw, “Negro Officers” Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, and Sergeant McInnis have their hands full in an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta. It’s 1950 and color lines are shifting and racial tensions are simmering. Black families—including Smith’s sister and brother-in-law—are moving into Rake’s formerly all-white neighborhood, leading some residents to raise money to buy them out, while others advocate a more violent solution. Rake’s brother-in-law, Dale, a proud Klansman, launches a scheme to rally his fellow Kluxers to save their neighborhood. When those efforts spiral out of control and leave a man dead, Rake is forced to choose between loyalty to family or the law. He isn’t the only one with family troubles. Boggs has outraged his preacher father by courting a domestic, and now her ex-boyfriend has been released from prison. As Boggs, Smith, and their all-black precinct contend with violent drug dealers fighting for turf in new territory, their personal dramas draw them closer to the fires that threaten to consume Atlanta once again.

30 review for Lightning Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    Could there be a more timely fictional story than this? I really don't think so, and it was a bit surreal to be in the midst of 1950's racist America while the Charlottesville news coverage was ticking away in the background. Up front, I'd like to state that I abhor racism in all it's forms; if it bothers you that I value all life as equal I encourage you to unfollow this account. Books with content addressing racism are tricky; on the one hand the issue needs to be discussed in depth to push pr Could there be a more timely fictional story than this? I really don't think so, and it was a bit surreal to be in the midst of 1950's racist America while the Charlottesville news coverage was ticking away in the background. Up front, I'd like to state that I abhor racism in all it's forms; if it bothers you that I value all life as equal I encourage you to unfollow this account. Books with content addressing racism are tricky; on the one hand the issue needs to be discussed in depth to push progress forward, but on the other I feel like so many only show black people in the state of slavery and oppression. I truly believe the day is coming where minorities are protagonists in our mainstream literature on a regular basis and are being featured in all the plots that have been peppered with lack of color for so long. That being said, THIS book somehow found the perfect balance of remembrance of wrong doing and much needed progression in it's characters that is so hard to find. While this book read well as a standalone, I have to say I'm itching to go back and read the first novel, Darktown just for the sheer characterization I missed. One of the things that really hit me while reading was the segregation in the housing situations, both past and present. The "Great White Flight" is truly no myth and the fact that the author was able to weave outright, violent racism with present, underhanded racism astounded me. The characters were completely relatable and fleshed out in a way that made them feel real and present, even with the time period standing between us. Please understand, this book is not subtle or easy to read in any way, but it was exactly what needed to be told, even if in fictional form. I'm hoping to add more thoughts to this as I process, but this book wrecked me in a way that nothing has for quite awhile now. This is a time that we need to talk about hard things, not only to reach out a hand of solidarity to our minority friends, but also to instill basic humanity in the upcoming generations on the value of all human life. ********************* Won in a Goodreads Giveaway! Thanks Atria for my copy!

  2. 4 out of 5

    James Thane

    This is an excellent sequel to Darktown, which was one of my favorite books from 2016. Set in 1950, it continues to follow the experiences of the first African-American police officers who were allowed to join the Atlanta, Georgia, P. D. Ten in number, they are assigned the daunting responsibility of patrolling all of the black areas of the city. They continue to be taunted by white officers, who refuse to accept them as "real" policemen, and are caught between white citizens who do not respect This is an excellent sequel to Darktown, which was one of my favorite books from 2016. Set in 1950, it continues to follow the experiences of the first African-American police officers who were allowed to join the Atlanta, Georgia, P. D. Ten in number, they are assigned the daunting responsibility of patrolling all of the black areas of the city. They continue to be taunted by white officers, who refuse to accept them as "real" policemen, and are caught between white citizens who do not respect them at all, and some black citizens who count them as traitors for policing their own people. The story is set in a time of racial turmoil, particularly with regard to housing. The city continues to be rigidly segregated, but there are not nearly enough decent homes for the black population, which is growing rapidly. When a handful of black citizens "dare" to buy homes in a previously all-white area, they touch off a battle that engulfs many of the novel's characters, both white and black. The two principal black policeman in the novel are Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. Smith's sister and brother-in-law have just bought a home in a previously all-white neighborhood and have immediately become targets for white neighbors who fear their arrival and who want them out of their neighborhood at any cost and "back where they belong." Also living the the neighborhood is a white policeman, Denny Rakestraw, who is much more tolerant than many of his fellow white officers and many of his white neighbors. Rakestraw and Boggs have helped each other previously and have a tentative relationship that falls just short of friendship. But that relationship will be tested as this very combustible situation unfolds. Also in the mix are criminals who are smuggling dope into the black areas of Atlanta, with the knowledge and assistance of some corrupt white cops who are taking payoffs and looking the other way. One night Smith and Boggs interrupt some of the smugglers, and a gunfight ensues that will complicate their lives and a lot of others as well. There are many other strands to this richly-textured story. The characters are incredibly well drawn, and virtually all of them are flawed in one way or another. Many are good men and women who are struggling simply to find their way through very difficult times and circumstances, and who discover along the way that they sometimes have to make agonizing compromises. Thomas Mullen has created here a gripping story set against a pivotal moment in the history of Atlanta and of the larger nation as well. It's beautifully written and totally absorbing, and I can hardly wait for the third installment of this series.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I thought Darktown was one of the best books written in 2016, so I was excited to read the second book in the series. Once again, Mullen has done a superb job of painting a picture of 1950s Atlanta and its casual racism on all levels - legal, political and social. People actually thought segregation was “the natural order of things”. What's sad is how there now appear to be so many parallels with the present situation, right down to the fascist groups spreading their hate. In fact, the title ref I thought Darktown was one of the best books written in 2016, so I was excited to read the second book in the series. Once again, Mullen has done a superb job of painting a picture of 1950s Atlanta and its casual racism on all levels - legal, political and social. People actually thought segregation was “the natural order of things”. What's sad is how there now appear to be so many parallels with the present situation, right down to the fascist groups spreading their hate. In fact, the title refers to the lightning bolts they use as their symbol. There are two storylines. Boggs and Smith intercept a moonshine operation delivering the goods into the Negro neighborhoods. The second plot involves Dale, Rake’s idiot brother in law, who gets himself in a real predicament when he takes on a KKK “assignment”. There is a dry sense of humor here that I don't remember from the first book. As a retired banker, and one who was involved in community reinvestment activities, it was interesting to read about the actions that necessitated CRA. The characters are fully developed. Mullen deals with both the personal lives of the police officers as well as their professional lives. As the book progresses, these stories intermingle. And the writing, OMG, the writing! “Just another fellow who was more muscle than brains, more temper than thought, more bad luck than good.” When my husband used to watch boxing, he would move along with the fighters. Well, there was a fight scene in this book so realistic I was ducking and weaving along with the participants. This is just an amazing book. The ending is a force of nature. So many moving parts, taking you in directions you never imagined. There better be a book three! I’m willing to bet this book will also end up in my top ten for 2017.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Atlanta, 1950,s a few years after Mullens book, Darktown, and all the characters are back in force. Smith and Boggs are still only a few black officers on the force, with little power and little support. Color lines are beginning to blur a bit, and of course with the white population, this does not sit well. Embedded prejudices, the KKK, and Nazi supporters are out in force, the KKK more underground since an FBI investigation,but still working behind the scenes. Drugs and moonshine alcohol are c Atlanta, 1950,s a few years after Mullens book, Darktown, and all the characters are back in force. Smith and Boggs are still only a few black officers on the force, with little power and little support. Color lines are beginning to blur a bit, and of course with the white population, this does not sit well. Embedded prejudices, the KKK, and Nazi supporters are out in force, the KKK more underground since an FBI investigation,but still working behind the scenes. Drugs and moonshine alcohol are complete Ng down from the hills in quantities that seem unstoppable, targeted to the black neighborhood. Of course there are the officers on the take, those who look the other way, and those who actively support this crime spree. Mullen continues to do a good job mixing historical happenings with some mystery included, though to me these are more historical then anything else. The atmosphere is just so fitting to the times, as a city struggles with social change, how far to let it go. Blacks moving into boundaries that were considered all white. Rakestraw and his attempt to protect his sister by trying to uncover just how far the latest stupidity from his brother in law, has gone. Smith and Boggs will both become involved in issues that hit close to their hearts and home. Change is inevitable,though the wheels turn slowly. Smith and Boggs will both make hard decisions by books end, one surprising, at least to me. I actually enjoyed, if that is the right word, this second in series more than the first. It is a glimpse into a near past and to be honest many of the same things that were happening then are still happening now. Maybe in slightly different ways but social change is never easy nor quick, nor ever accepted by all. ARC from Netgalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The Hook - I could not wait to read the second installment of Thomas Mullen’s Darktown, a crime procedural featuring the first “colored” police force in Atlanta in the 50’s. The Line - ” He tried to walk a moral path, yet it was littered with the bodies of his good deeds—and too many other bodies.“ The Sinker - When we were first married my husband often accused me of being a rather “black and white” person when it came to my views on issues. If I read Lightning Men and did not consider the grays The Hook - I could not wait to read the second installment of Thomas Mullen’s Darktown, a crime procedural featuring the first “colored” police force in Atlanta in the 50’s. The Line - ” He tried to walk a moral path, yet it was littered with the bodies of his good deeds—and too many other bodies.“ The Sinker - When we were first married my husband often accused me of being a rather “black and white” person when it came to my views on issues. If I read Lightning Men and did not consider the grays of life, I might have been extremely frustrated with where the book took me. Allowing myself to see things beyond good or bad, all or nothing, right or wrong, to view the plot in terms, black nor white, but in circumstance or necessity, made this a compelling read. Lightning Men draws lines, lines of race, line of boundaries, and lines of moral turpitude. Take a chance, venture across these lines. You won’t be disappointed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Lightning Men is the second book in the fantastic and amazing Darktown series, which focuses on lives of Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith two of Atlanta's first black police officers. The Darktown series perfectly marries the research of historical information with the absorbing plotlines of a crime thriller. Lightning Men gives us a up close and personal look at racism dressed up as the white middle classes concern over a changing nation(sound familiar?). The circumstances faced by black people in Lightning Men is the second book in the fantastic and amazing Darktown series, which focuses on lives of Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith two of Atlanta's first black police officers. The Darktown series perfectly marries the research of historical information with the absorbing plotlines of a crime thriller. Lightning Men gives us a up close and personal look at racism dressed up as the white middle classes concern over a changing nation(sound familiar?). The circumstances faced by black people in 1950's can be hard to read at times, but just imagine living it. These black families only wanted to provide a better life for their kids by moving to better ( white) neighborhoods like I assume most families do. How are they rewarded for this? With beatings, firebombs, and lynching. Nightly visits from the KKK and their Neo Nazi friends. This folks is a time (1950's)when according to a poll 56% of Trump voters thought the country was last great. As I said before this series can be a tough read at times but its so worth it. I highly recommend Lightning Men. 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge: book by an author of a different ethnicity than me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Char

    Atlanta in 1950 was a crowded place. The war was over and housing was scarce. Racial tensions were brewing, neighborhood lines were being redrawn, and not everyone was happy about that. Even the fact that black policemen now served in the Negro areas of Atlanta didn't mean these officers had the respect of white officers nor that of the residents. When a white man gets beaten down by the Klan and then a Negro beaten down a few days later, tensions threaten to erupt. What happens next? You'll hav Atlanta in 1950 was a crowded place. The war was over and housing was scarce. Racial tensions were brewing, neighborhood lines were being redrawn, and not everyone was happy about that. Even the fact that black policemen now served in the Negro areas of Atlanta didn't mean these officers had the respect of white officers nor that of the residents. When a white man gets beaten down by the Klan and then a Negro beaten down a few days later, tensions threaten to erupt. What happens next? You'll have to read Lightning Men to find out! I was excited when I discovered there was a sequel to last year's Darktown. I was surprised at what I learned from that novel and I learned a lot from this one as well. For instance, I'd never of the Columbians before. Apparently, this group of neo-Nazis formed, (and so soon after the war in what must have felt like a direct insult to the soldiers and survivors now living in Atlanta), to unite their hatred of both Jews and Negroes. They even dressed similarly to the SS officers in Germany, hence their nickname: lightning men. I also learned a lot about how the neighborhoods changed during that less than peaceful time in American history. It's often painful to read about, but it's interesting to see events from several different points of view. Rake, Boggs, Smith and MacInnis are well rounded characters and even now, after a second novel, I think they all still have some secrets in reserve. None of them are perfect and they are all struggling to find their place in this new world, their new police station, (even if it is in the basement of the YMCA), and in their new neighborhoods. Social change doesn't come easy and I think all of these characters recognize and respect that in their behavior, which made them believable to me and maybe a little lovable too. Lightning Men is scary in a way, because it's easy to recognize some of the behaviors from this story on the nightly news today. It's also sad that so much good can begin to be undone by just a few hateful people in high places. Not only is this story a good one, but it reminded me that America always has to remain vigilant, so that everything we have worked so hard for as a people, is not undone by only a powerful few. Highly recommended! You can get your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Lightning-Men-... *Thank you to NetGalley & Atria for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

  8. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    Thomas Mullen’s Darktown series, about the first black policemen in Atlanta’s police force, is about race but it is also about the institution of policing. We are seeing how corruption and discrimination can take hold, and we ask ourselves what is the best way to combat the ever-widening spiral of deceit. We interrogate our own moral grounding and question whether we would be able to withstand the social and economic pressure put to bear to get us to go along on controversial arrests or worse. I Thomas Mullen’s Darktown series, about the first black policemen in Atlanta’s police force, is about race but it is also about the institution of policing. We are seeing how corruption and discrimination can take hold, and we ask ourselves what is the best way to combat the ever-widening spiral of deceit. We interrogate our own moral grounding and question whether we would be able to withstand the social and economic pressure put to bear to get us to go along on controversial arrests or worse. It is that evaluative distance and internal interrogation that Mullen creates in us that may be the most remarkable thing about his books. We are thinking critically and watching the narrative unfold from a protective distance even though his stories are gripping—after all, this is life and death in neighborhoods just like ours—and we really never know where he is going to steer us next. But these novels aren’t really mysteries, and they aren’t police procedurals in the typical sense. Do we need a new genre category for the historical and sociological recreation he manages? Mullen places us in the moment by citing newspaper headlines mentioning what is happening in the country and around the world in 1950: “Late morning the house is quiet with Cassie and the kids out at a park. Rake read the paper and enjoyed the solitude. An American minesweeper had become the first U.S. ship sunk in the Korean conflict; Joe McCarthy was insisting on a more thorough investigation into the Communist infiltration of the top echelons in the American government; and officials announced that the mysterious explosions in a Brooklyn neighborhood, initially feared to be a Red attack, had in fact been caused by a gas leak…”These headlines do more than situate us in 1950, they also remind us that prejudice and crazy theories about racial or political superiority have been around before and have passed, though not without a fight. One of the very next scenes is a meeting between a cop seeking information on an old case and an FBI agent who’d been involved at the time. The FBI man suggests they meet in a coffee shop to discuss the matter, and the moment Lucien Boggs, a black policeman, begins to walk into the coffee shop attached to a department store, we wonder…Mullen doesn’t let us down. He shows us the disdain and harsh attitude of the woman behind the counter, and the surprise and shutting down of the FBI agent who told Boggs to wait outside until he finished his coffee. Earlier, a white cop came across a flyer posted to a stop sign in a suburb of Atlanta: “Zoned as a White Community” and emblazoned with a lightning bolt, “just like the ones sewn onto the sleeves of SS troopers he’d seen in Europe.” Mullen takes time to discuss the group he calls the Columbians, a group distinct from the KKK, indeed disdainful of it. This group supported Nazi ideas including the concept of a master race, and apparently believed America fought the Nazis in World War II only because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, making ‘sides’ more clearly defined. Otherwise, America had been more concerned about the red menace from the Soviets. The rivalry between the Columbians and the KKK, who are derided by practically everyone for the bedsheets disguise, is central to this story and instructive in that it clarifies motives and actors in the messy phenomenon that is racism today. Mullen also spends some time answering the notion that blacks bring misfortune upon themselves. He opens the story with the release of Jeremiah Tanner from prison. Tanner had paid his debt, and readers are inclined to be sympathetic. Throughout the story, our impressions of Jeremiah will change several times, from believing him the most evil of all to believing him the most generous of all. This is Mullen’s skill. The black lives in this latest novel are so much more difficult and complicated than we imagine at first. Their choices all appear to be bad ones. No surprise, then, that they find themselves in the middle of illegal or compromising situations again and again, and yet when we hear their explanations, they sound rational, making choices we might make in the same place. When you have bad choices, your decisions may look poor also. The white men’s lives are less appealing altogether. There are a couple of white policemen wrestling with the morality of discrimination and the exclusion of black folk, but most make no effort to push back against the few bad apples that extract fealty or promise retribution within the force. They would revolt against the bad guys on the force, we sense, but they aren’t impacted enough. They need stronger incentives to do right. They aren’t heroes after all, just working men. Mullen also manages to pack in an excellent example and discussion of the lack of reasonable housing in Atlanta at the time for blacks who did not want to live in substandard apartments in dangerous neighborhoods. The real estate industry wouldn’t certify black realtors so called them “realtists,” a word I found laughably close to “realists.” The phenomenon of “white flight” from neighborhoods into which black residents have moved is discussed in some detail. When Mullen’s first book in this series, Darktown, came out last year, I asked him how he could write the black man's point of view. His answer shows his authorship of these characters: “As far as the black point of view in the book, roughly half of the book is from black characters' perspective and about half is from white characters' perspective. But what's important here is that each character has his or her own, unique perspective--no character should be a mere stand-in for their race, or gender, or religion, or anything. I always want my characters to feel as 3-D and authentic and real as possible, in my other books and in DARKTOWN.”But are his characters authentic? Authentic enough for the series to be acquired prior to publication by Jamie Foxx for TV production. Let’s just say the outline of the characters are there, and our imaginations (or actors) fill in the missing bits that make the piece real. So this is interactive fiction, in a sense. It needs our imagination, experience, and constant attention to understand what precisely is happening here, and to whom. This is an impressive series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tucker

    “Lightning Men “ is an exceptional combination of a character driven police procedural with a very realistic and disturbing view of policing in the black community in the 1950’s. Although the story is fiction, the events described ring with truth, and decades later that racism, discrimination, and violence remain all too present. Yes, we’ve had a black president, but innocent black men and women are still being brutalized and gunned down by police officers. The suspense and remarkable writing wi “Lightning Men “ is an exceptional combination of a character driven police procedural with a very realistic and disturbing view of policing in the black community in the 1950’s. Although the story is fiction, the events described ring with truth, and decades later that racism, discrimination, and violence remain all too present. Yes, we’ve had a black president, but innocent black men and women are still being brutalized and gunned down by police officers. The suspense and remarkable writing will suck you in, and the social history will keep you reading. Highly recommended for a general readership and an outstanding book for book groups. Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I rarely read crime novels or police procedurals these days but the Darktown series is an exception. Lightning Men, like Darktown, follows Lucius Boggs, a pioneering black policeman in 1950s Atlanta. Every day, he faces danger from criminals, white racist citizens and fellow cops. The Klan is pervasive. A gripping novel and history lesson.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    The follow-up to Darktown continues to explore the themes prevalent in its predecessor with racism and an unjust criminal system at the forefront of a broad socio-economic 1950's period piece. This time round, the crime element comes secondary to the troubles the 'black' police officers have to endure in a primarily 'white' Atlanta police force in the 1950's. Author Thomas Mullen once again goes to great lengths to recreate that feeling of oppression and suppression embedded in his crime fiction The follow-up to Darktown continues to explore the themes prevalent in its predecessor with racism and an unjust criminal system at the forefront of a broad socio-economic 1950's period piece. This time round, the crime element comes secondary to the troubles the 'black' police officers have to endure in a primarily 'white' Atlanta police force in the 1950's. Author Thomas Mullen once again goes to great lengths to recreate that feeling of oppression and suppression embedded in his crime fiction which blurs the lines of fact and fiction. A note on the audiobook; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II narrated the Australian audiobook release and did a great job, while a different narrator to Darkwon, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II managed to bring the same level of intensity as Andre Holland who narrated the first book in the Darktown series. My rating; 5/5 stars, this series, along with Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy novels is fast becoming my favorite crime fiction to read. I cant wait to see where this story goes next.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    LIGHTNING MEN picks up two years after the events of DARKTOWN as those left standing continue with their lives in 1950s Atlanta. Officer Denny “Rake” Rakestraw’s neighborhood – an implied “whites only” neighborhood – is beginning to see the arrival of several black families. A group of residents, including Denny’s wife Cassie, pool their money together in an effort to buy out these new homeowners, however, a separate group has adopted a different approach – post hateful signs showing the SS Nazi LIGHTNING MEN picks up two years after the events of DARKTOWN as those left standing continue with their lives in 1950s Atlanta. Officer Denny “Rake” Rakestraw’s neighborhood – an implied “whites only” neighborhood – is beginning to see the arrival of several black families. A group of residents, including Denny’s wife Cassie, pool their money together in an effort to buy out these new homeowners, however, a separate group has adopted a different approach – post hateful signs showing the SS Nazi insignia. As a WWII veteran who had laid his life on the line attempting to eradicate this ideology, Rake hopes to seek out those responsible for the hateful rhetoric. Complications arise when Rake discovers his brother-in-law Dale is a card carrying member of the KKK and may be involved. Lucius Boggs and partner Tommy Smith, stumble upon a group of smugglers bringing reefer and moonshine into Darktown. Again handcuffed by the limitations of their employers, the Atlanta Police Department (APD), Boggs and Smith, fearing corrupt white officers may be playing a more aggressive role than before in keeping their “off-the-books” investigation from gaining ground, cannot seem to touch the man they believe responsible. Boggs, recently engaged to Julie, a woman he met through the course of a prior investigation, discovers her ex-boyfriend and father to her child, Jeremiah, has returned from a stint in jail. With Boggs’ father already disapproving of the engagement, how will Boggs juggle the responsibility of his job with the threat of a jealous ex-con waiting in the wings? I was wondering how Mullen would top the corrupt cops and corrosive racism in Darktown – I guess he just had to keep the asshole cops, throw in the KKK and add another Nazi sympathizing hate group, The Columbians, and you’ve got a veritable bounty of bigotry for our heroes to contend with. Although they’re few and far between, Mullen has a real knack for writing action scenes. They’re used to great effect and only when characters are seemingly pushed to their breaking point making the scenes particularly explosive and violent. I can’t remember the amount of times I was on the edge of my seat during a shootout or a fistfight/brawl. I didn’t much care for the love triangle between Boggs, Julie and Jeremiah, but I understood its significance within the larger picture given where it ends up. There’s nothing outright wrong with it, but many of the scenes lacked substance and felt like padding to an already rich plot. Boggs’ partner, Smith, gains a lot of ground in proving to be an integral character moving forward and Rake is a world-class shit-disturber throwing wrenches in as many people’s plans as possible. With Darktown, and now Lightning Men, Mullen offers stories of adversity in the hard-nosed world of mid-20th century America. While both books contain elements of the mystery and thriller genre, both are more about the struggle to achieve social change in an era of widespread fear and resistance sadly making it a somewhat timely read in 2017.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judy D Collins

    The 30 Best Books of 2017 5 Stars + From the acclaimed author, Thomas Mullen who introduced readers to the hit, Darktown landing on my Top Books of 2016 —racial integration of Atlanta’s police department in 1948 — with an explosive multi-layered complex follow up: LIGHTNING MEN. Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith. As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others). “Hot At The 30 Best Books of 2017 5 Stars + From the acclaimed author, Thomas Mullen who introduced readers to the hit, Darktown landing on my Top Books of 2016 —racial integration of Atlanta’s police department in 1948 — with an explosive multi-layered complex follow up: LIGHTNING MEN. Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith. As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others). “Hot Atlanta” is not just sizzling. It is blistering. Fiery. Tensions and emotions run high. Loyalties tested between family and law. Color lines threatened. Moral lines blurred. The second in the Darktown series, Mullen uses his hard-boiled crime, cop procedural, to explore post-WWII racism in the South. The highly anticipated character-driven LIGHTNING MEN is much more than just a crime-fictional thriller. Infused with critical historical details and timely controversial subjects we face today. “Any candid observer of American racial history must acknowledge that racism is highly adaptable.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow Highly-charged, Mullen turns up the intensity with characters facing moral, family, social issues and compromises. Tensions rise. From racial prejudice, moonshining, drugs, greed, conspiracy, Klansmen, fascist Columbians, white supremacist, corruption, bigotry, violence, Jim Crow laws, preachers, shootouts, paybacks, fear, power, and segregated neighborhoods. In Darktown, we met rookies: Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith. From different backgrounds, their office was housed in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. They were not even allowed to arrest white men, nor allowed to drive a squad car. They could not patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. No respect and little support. Only ten black officers patrolled those thousands of souls. A third of Atlanta were black, yet crowded into only a fifth of the land. Boggs and Smith had not taken bribes; however, with two years on the force, it appeared half of the white officers took bribes, so how long would the Negro officers resist? Tired of their powerlessness. The son of a preacher, Boggs was all too familiar with the fallibility of men, even men with power. Denny Rakestraw (white) is distrusted by his fellow officers for his suspected role in the disappearance of his former partner, Lionel Dunlow. Rakestraw is not a racist but finds it difficult to fit in with his fellow white cops and work with the ten black cops. Neither side, fully trusts him. Denny’s problems increase when his Klansman brother-in-law, Dale Simpkins, gets involved in a plot to stop the influx of African-Americans into his neighborhood, Hanford Park. Some cops are part of the Klan. Will they accuse one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta of selling moonshine and marijuana? Boggs had come to respect McInnis over the last two years. He had stuck up for his charges during a few disputes with white officers. How far can he go to protect them? Boggs (preacher’s son) is dating Julie with a young son, Sage. Soon to be married. His family opposes the relationship since she is not of their social status. She has a secret past. She is intimidated by their prestigious family. When a black man, Jeremiah released from prison after five years, things get personal. Boggs life gets complicated when he learns the connection. Two years earlier, Boggs came close to resigning his position and had second thoughts after a near-death experience. Now, he is unsure again. Too many mistakes that weighed heavily on his soul. He is sure there would be more guilt and an awkward relationship with his partner. Can he remain as a cop? Events will lead each character to major soul-searching. Smith had crossed another line as well. He was afraid. . . . The Armor. The façade victims’ families typically wore when they needed to protect themselves or the memory of their loved ones. Folks who wore The Armor sometimes had secrets to hide. The Armor was firmly in place as they parried the officer’s attempts to learn more about the deceased. They wore The Armor to keep the cops from learning things. The secrets. The Armor is worn by the innocent, who had nothing to hide but their dignity, and they were so deeply offended to be questioned by these employees of the corrupt City of Atlanta, these paid enforcers of Jim Crow, that they refused to play along. They may be innocent, hurt, or protective. . . . “And lines are only ideas people dream up, to govern what should be possible, to keep you from moving toward the forbidden.” Three policemen struggle. Each has an agenda and react in different ways to protect. Loyalties tested. Family versus law. Can they continue to work with one hand tied behind their packs without the proper support to do their jobs? Will the latest emotional events, their actions, and tensions make them second guess their current careers? Will they continue to serve and make Atlanta a better city, or is it a useless effort? After violence and a shootout, will Hanford Park be transformed? Will the lines between white and black be blurred after the postwar crowding, pushing blacks into areas formerly considered whites-only? From racial politics and struggles of history, Mullen does not miss a beat! The complex emotions of each character are portrayed in depth, making the characters jump off the page. Others threaten lives. Others protect. Struggles both interior and exterior. Complications. Affairs interrupted. Old scores settled. Blood feuds magnified. Pride. Costs were high. Greed. Hard-boiled. Explosive. Riveting. Timely! Love this enthralling series and looking forward to seeing what is in store next for Smith and Boggs. When reading of Boggs at his dad’s house for dinner with Julie, reminds me strongly of Greenleaf (a favorite show) and their preacher/family dinners. Heaven forbid, their children do not follow their well-laid controlled plans. Movie-worthy! For those who enjoy good crime fiction, and historical fiction as Mullen meticulously traces the civil rights movement through his well-written crime stories and cop procedurals, that involve "real" characters you come to care for. Fans of TV mini-series: Underground, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar will enjoy this intense series as well as Michael Connley’s Harry Bosch and Greg Iles' Penn Cage series. In addition to the early digital reading copy (thank you) provided by NetGalley and Atria, I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – for an award-winning performance. Just finished. Move this series to the top of your list. If you reside in the South, this is a “must read.” Especially for those of us who found (find) Atlanta our home for many years. Another Southern winner! I purchased hardcover copies of the series, and they are stunning! JDCMustReadBooks

  14. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith are Atlanta Police Officers and have been since 1948. Well, that’s not completely true. Boggs and Smith are “Negro Officers,” as special group of ten who have been recruited to police “Darktown.” Thomas Rakestraw is a white Atlanta cop who, in Darktown (book #1), was partnered with a deeply prejudiced and corrupt cop. His encounters with Boggs and Smith are generally well-meaning but awkward, though the fact that they all served in World War II gives them respect for Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith are Atlanta Police Officers and have been since 1948. Well, that’s not completely true. Boggs and Smith are “Negro Officers,” as special group of ten who have been recruited to police “Darktown.” Thomas Rakestraw is a white Atlanta cop who, in Darktown (book #1), was partnered with a deeply prejudiced and corrupt cop. His encounters with Boggs and Smith are generally well-meaning but awkward, though the fact that they all served in World War II gives them respect for each other. “Unlike most of his fellow officers, Rake did not despise the Negro cops. He’d probably had more conversatons with Boggs than any other white cop except for Bogg’s sergeant. He was glad the city had hired them, because if they could prove themselves worthy, then the city would hire more, and soon their numbers would be enough to adequately patrol all of their own neighborhoods.” This “proving” process has been going on for over two years and no additional positions for black policemen have been added. Here is how Thomas Mullen tells it: “Boggs and Smith had known for a while that, if they wanted to stop the flow of drugs and moonshine into their community, they would have to do it themselves. Yet they were denied many of the powers white cops took for granted. They still could not drive squad cars or patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. Even so, that geographical restriction left them with more than enough turf to patrol, and then some: more than a third of Atlantans were Negro, yet they were crowded into only a fifth of the land…And only ten Negro officers patrolled those thousands of souls…They still could not wear their uniforms to or from work, and therefore had to change in the basement of the Butler Street Y, their extremely insufficient, mildewed , rodent-infested home base.” In some ways, this is a continuation of the black cop/white cop and good cop/bad cop saga of Darktown. But Mullen isn’t content just to move this ahead a couple of years. He is illuminating the character of each of his protagonists with a challenge to the way they think of themselves. For Boggs, it is the situation involving his new fiancé. For Smith, it is the needs of his sister and brother in law, newly moved to a predominantly white neighborhood. To Rakestraw, it is his wife and her brother and issues involving that neighborhood, the KKK and “the Columbians.” I didn’t find that this worked as well as the plot in Darktown. This book seemed much more crafted as a movie/television mini-series script. One of the reasons for writing Darktown was to explore how race issues and class issues created turmoil in post-war Atlanta. That also is present in Lightning Men, and early in the story the focus is sharp. But some of that powerful exploration seems to have been lost or sacrificed for the sake of personal drama. Some will find nothing wrong with that, but I thought Mullen could have aimed higher.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phillip III

    LIGHTNING MEN picks up where DARKTOWN left off, and author Thomas Mullen doesn't miss a beat! The story unfolds in Atlanta, Georgia, pre-civil rights, Jim Crow Laws in effect. The Democrats are still bitter, and vengeful over slaves being freed. However, some progress has been made. A recent change had been made, and eight (8) black men were graduated onto the Atlanta Police Force. The new officers wear badges, carry guns . . . but their reach is very limited. The black officers are not allowed i LIGHTNING MEN picks up where DARKTOWN left off, and author Thomas Mullen doesn't miss a beat! The story unfolds in Atlanta, Georgia, pre-civil rights, Jim Crow Laws in effect. The Democrats are still bitter, and vengeful over slaves being freed. However, some progress has been made. A recent change had been made, and eight (8) black men were graduated onto the Atlanta Police Force. The new officers wear badges, carry guns . . . but their reach is very limited. The black officers are not allowed in the Atlanta precinct. Instead they rent a basement room at the YMCA. The new officers are not allowed to drive patrol cars. They have to walk their beat. They are not allowed to arrest white people. The new officers are only allowed to patrol black neighborhoods, otherwise known as Darktown. Only, in LIGHTNING MEN, black people have begun moving into white neighborhoods. White Officer Denny Rakestraw, and black officers Lucius Boggs, and Tommy Smith are once again the thick of things. The klan attack a white man in a nearby county. The attempted murder seems unfounded, and unprovoked. The Klan is hot about the uncommissioned deed, and looking for answers. Boggs is about to get married to Julie, despite family protests. However when her past comes waltzing into town, things once thought buried are unearthed and Boggs is nothing if not at the very least preoccupied with how to move forward. Smith's family is in a pickle. The idea of law, right and wrong, are now grey boundaries. Black and white has become obscured! Officer Rakestraw is not without issues at home impacting his judgment. Once again, family. He resides in one of the areas where black families are moving in. While he is not racist, his wife is. And she wants to sell the house before the property value bottoms-out. LIGHTNING MEN is filled with backroom deals, and realty scams. The KKK is a driving force, but not the only evil in town. Dealers of moonshine and weed are at ends, fighting over territories. Darktown is a prime location for sales and everyone wants a piece of that pie! Bad cops taking bribes, good cops looking the other way . . . LIGHTNING MEN is nothing but constant tension. It leaves a knot in your gut the entire time you are reading, and fills you with anger even after you've finished the book. (I highly, highly recommend reading DARKTOWN first, but LIGHTNING MEN stands fine on its own. It is a complete tale. You just might get more from it having started the saga from the beginning). Thomas Mullen is an impressive writer. Although these are the only two books I have read by him, I will be adding his other titles to my ever-growing library. This is a crime writer worth keeping an eye on. His "historical" slant transports readers into the 1950s with ease, and then once there, stomps on preconceived perceptions of what is often referred to as the Golden Age . . . Phillip Tomasso Author of Assassin's Promise and Sounds of SIlence

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Lightning Men is the second in Thomas Mullen’s Darktown historical mystery series imagining what it may have been like for Atlanta’s first Black police officers. Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith are partners policing Darktown, a difficult task when corrupt White police officers are partnering with drug traffickers. Hated by their fellow officers, many of whom are members of the Klan, they walk a very careful line to protect their community. Denny Rakestraw is a White officer who refuses to join the K Lightning Men is the second in Thomas Mullen’s Darktown historical mystery series imagining what it may have been like for Atlanta’s first Black police officers. Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith are partners policing Darktown, a difficult task when corrupt White police officers are partnering with drug traffickers. Hated by their fellow officers, many of whom are members of the Klan, they walk a very careful line to protect their community. Denny Rakestraw is a White officer who refuses to join the Klan. His neighborhood is “transitioning” and the Klan, including his brother-in-law and a “neighborhood association” are both trying to stop it. His brother is a fool and gets himself entangled in a fine mess and Rakestraw risks far too much to save him. Housing is an arena where racism has been intractable. To this day, de facto housing segregation afflicts American cities. When Black people move into a neighborhood, White people move out. When White people move into Black neighborhoods, civic investment follows and suddenly Black people can no longer afford to live there. It is no surprise that housing segregation makes a powerful environment for violence and conflict. I enjoyed Lightning Men a lot. I cared about the characters. They are imperfect, flawed people with depth and authenticity. Sometimes their desire to do good is deflected by personal needs and conflicts of interest. They can be impatient and make mistakes which makes them far more interesting than those who always do right. Mullen succeeds in creating the time and place of post World War II Atlanta, the socio-political forces, the fears and aspirations of the people seem real. I have criticized authors for gratuitous use of racist epithets. Here is a book focusing on Jim Crow Atlanta, on Klansmen and a world of blatant, state-sanctioned white supremacy and of course, there are racist epithets, but when they are used, they are part of the story. There is a sense that Mullen interrogated himself before using epithets, asking himself if it is really necessary, not used to shock or show how transgressive he can be. This is my first book in this series. I will be reading Darktown, the first, as soon as I can get it from the library and I eagerly anticipate the development of this series as it moves forward. Lightning Men will be released September 12th. I received an ARC from the publisher through Shelf Awareness. Lightning Men at Simon & Schuster Thomas Mullen author site Darktown web site https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laurie • The Baking Bookworm

    Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 4.5 stars -- Lightning Men picks up two years after Darktown, the first book in the series, left off. Once again, Mullen brings his readers into the gritty streets of post-WWII Atlanta with its social and political issues, racial intolerance, corruption and outright brutality that continues to be the status quo for so many. Mullen doesn't shy away from these emoti Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 4.5 stars -- Lightning Men picks up two years after Darktown, the first book in the series, left off. Once again, Mullen brings his readers into the gritty streets of post-WWII Atlanta with its social and political issues, racial intolerance, corruption and outright brutality that continues to be the status quo for so many. Mullen doesn't shy away from these emotionally charged topics in this character-driven crime novel. Readers continue to witness the Black officers struggle within the confines set for them by their supervisors as the small Black force polices the Black neighbourhoods which are grossly overpopulated and in need of even basic necessities. This is in stark contrast to the White neighbourhoods -- and many Whites are fine with the way things are, thank you very much. The dichotomy between Black and White continues within this second book and I like that Mullen doesn't give easy answers or hold back on the gritty, hard-to-read scenes. Mullen also continues to educate readers about aspects that many may not know about, myself included. For me, that issue involved the Columbians (aka Lightning Men) who formed soon after the end of WWII. With their lightning patches on their uniforms they, like the Nazis that inspired them, reveled in promoting hate against Blacks and any diversity and were a smack in the face to those American soldiers who had just returned from battling similar hatred overseas. The cast, including Rake, Boggs, Smith and MacInnis, continue to show great depth and readers get some backstory on each but I still feel there's a lot of untapped issues that Mullen will bring forth with each character in future books. The only issue I had with this book is that I found there to be a lot of characters to keep track of. Mullen shows that, unfortunately, the process for social change is a very slow one as we sadly continue to witness in recent events. Racism, both blatant and covert, remains a timely issue and racial tensions ran high then as they do now. The Darktown series continues to be an eye-opening, gritty and gripping series with well-rounded, well-flawed characters who struggle within the stifling confines of racial injustice, ignorance, indifference and intolerance. Mullen has combined compelling characters weaves historical issues within his story with great skill. I highly recommend this book but I strongly suggest starting with Darktown.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    Like its predecessor Darktown, this book is a very good period piece, capturing raw racial relations in Atlanta in the 1950's. The few black officers in APD are trying to enforce standards in the black communities, with little to no support from their white brethren. Officers Boggs and Smith are trying to eliminate illegal alcohol and drugs, facing a myriad of powerful foes, such as than they’d expected. Meanwhile, black families are beginning to move into all white neighborhoods with increasing Like its predecessor Darktown, this book is a very good period piece, capturing raw racial relations in Atlanta in the 1950's. The few black officers in APD are trying to enforce standards in the black communities, with little to no support from their white brethren. Officers Boggs and Smith are trying to eliminate illegal alcohol and drugs, facing a myriad of powerful foes, such as than they’d expected. Meanwhile, black families are beginning to move into all white neighborhoods with increasing displeasure from the community. Denny Rakestraw, a non-bigoted white policeman, finds out that his brother-in-law, Dale, a member of the Klu Klux Klan, gets over is head trying to prevent the inevitable. Lucius Boggs' lovelife gets very complicated as his fiancée's boyfriend is paroled and wants to spend time with his and her son. Finally, we learn more about the mettle of the man tasked with supervising the APD's black office. I hope Mullen writes another in this series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Darktown was a 5 star book for me, this sequel 3 stars. Mullen again manages to articulate scenarios of segregation and racialised hatred which incense, but overall this is more community soap opera than the tauter first book. Mingling a love triangle for Boggs, with a KKK/Neo-Nazi plot, drug gangs and territory wars, plus shifting demographics as an all-white neighbourhood is forced to allow in a few black families means there is no overriding narrative drive. The story ambles between stories, c Darktown was a 5 star book for me, this sequel 3 stars. Mullen again manages to articulate scenarios of segregation and racialised hatred which incense, but overall this is more community soap opera than the tauter first book. Mingling a love triangle for Boggs, with a KKK/Neo-Nazi plot, drug gangs and territory wars, plus shifting demographics as an all-white neighbourhood is forced to allow in a few black families means there is no overriding narrative drive. The story ambles between stories, characters and points of view and the attempt to tie them all together results in some forced connections. This is still potent historical fiction with one eye on the present troubled state of US race relations, it just didn't blow me away as Darktown did.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    A year ago, I read and enjoyed Darktown by Thomas Mullen. It was a great book dealing with a delicate topic and I thought it was handled very well. When I learnt that there was a sequel coming soon, I immediately decided I wanted to read it. For those who haven’t read Darktown, this can be perfectly read as a standalone. I didn’t remember a lot of details, but it wasn’t necessary. And I liked Lightning Men even better. This novel, like Darktown, tells the story of two young men who are amongst th A year ago, I read and enjoyed Darktown by Thomas Mullen. It was a great book dealing with a delicate topic and I thought it was handled very well. When I learnt that there was a sequel coming soon, I immediately decided I wanted to read it. For those who haven’t read Darktown, this can be perfectly read as a standalone. I didn’t remember a lot of details, but it wasn’t necessary. And I liked Lightning Men even better. This novel, like Darktown, tells the story of two young men who are amongst the first black cops in Atlanta, Georgia. The year is 1950 and things are definitely not easy for them. They can only patrol the “black” neighbourhoods and barely have no power, as the white cops don’t respect them and think they shouldn’t be working with them at all. This makes it hard for Boggs and Smith to investigate the cases and this one was especially difficult to break. It’s sad because I believe now things aren’t much better. Of course we’ve come a long way since then, but it’s not enough. This is a very relevant book right now and it can make all of us reflect on the way our society behaves. Because not all racism is physically violent, but it’s still there and this book perfectly portrays something that is still happening today. A fine example of this is Rakestraw’s storyline, a young policeman whose German origins help him understand what it’s like to feel different. In Lightning Men, Rake’s wife and their neighbours are trying to raise money in order to buy the newest black residents out. What astounded me was that Rake’s wife and the neighbours actually thought they were doing a good thing only because they weren’t behaving violently (as opposed to the KKK case that Rake is investigating). These people merely wanted the neighbourhood to be completely “white”. As they said: “Those poor families were tricked, they didn’t know what they were doing, let’s buy their houses to force them out”. I. Can’t. Even. The characters in Lightning Men are complex and multi-layered, especially Boggs and Rake. While I still think that Rake was too passive and could’ve prevented plenty of things, I liked him better this time around. On the other hand, I thought Boggs needed to urgently drop his “golden kid” act and grow up. I didn’t like his air of moral superiority towards his girlfriend, Julie, whom I liked a lot, by the way. As for the negatives, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that I wasn’t able to *love* any of the characters, I didn’t feel I would miss them when I got to the end. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic novel that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to read a good story that it’s actually important and relevant in today’s society. Don’t miss it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tom Swift

    A follow up to Darktown, Lightening Men tells the story of race relations in Atlanta in the early 1950's.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sam (Clues and Reviews)

    Last year, I read Thomas Mullen’s “buzzed about” publication, Darktown, and I was absolutely blown away. So, I was extremely excited to read its follow up, Lightning Men. This book took me forever to get through. It had nothing to do with the writing (it is phenomenal) or the plot (it is completely captivating). Instead, I found myself struggling due to the completely pertinent nature of the text. It made me completely sick to my stomach to think that a plot, highlighting racial in-equality and Last year, I read Thomas Mullen’s “buzzed about” publication, Darktown, and I was absolutely blown away. So, I was extremely excited to read its follow up, Lightning Men. This book took me forever to get through. It had nothing to do with the writing (it is phenomenal) or the plot (it is completely captivating). Instead, I found myself struggling due to the completely pertinent nature of the text. It made me completely sick to my stomach to think that a plot, highlighting racial in-equality and tension in the 1950s would be so relevant to 2017. I found this historical mystery to be completely draining. The second novel in this series picks up two years after Darktown with African American police officers, Officer Boggs and Officer Smith, in Atlanta on patrol. The characters remained just as realistic and well developed as in the first novel and Mullen’s vivid imagery, which was one of the features I loved most within Darktown, was just as apparent throughout these pages. Mullens is a master of word choice and creating an entire “scene” for the reader. I do think the novel could be successfully read as a standalone, but I personally think they should be read as a series in their entirety. I think it makes the most sense for characterization. Like with Darktown, there were parts that I found hard to get through. Especially scenes depicting blatant racism- I found it especially hard to get through given the current events happening in our world (which I mentioned a little bit above); however, I do understand the importance of such raw displays. Overall, Mullens continues to create a raw and gritty tale within Lightning Men, a story that both disgusted and captivated me. Who knew that was even possible? If you okay with something a little heavier, but extremely well written, then I would absolutely read this series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tom Mathews

    Thomas Mullen’s second foray into the world of Atlanta’s first negro police officers is as good as the first. When I read Darktown, (see my review here). I was very impressed by the seriousness with which Mullen addressed the difficulties that these brave men faced. Lightning Men takes place a few years later, in the early 1950s, as the Korean War is getting under way. Moonshiners, their business damaged by the end of prohibition, have taken to supplementing their income with marijuana which has Thomas Mullen’s second foray into the world of Atlanta’s first negro police officers is as good as the first. When I read Darktown, (see my review here). I was very impressed by the seriousness with which Mullen addressed the difficulties that these brave men faced. Lightning Men takes place a few years later, in the early 1950s, as the Korean War is getting under way. Moonshiners, their business damaged by the end of prohibition, have taken to supplementing their income with marijuana which has flooded into Darktown and black officers must contend not only with the gangs importing the drugs and alcohol, but with the crooked white cops who take kickbacks to look the other way. Lucius Boggs’ life is further complicated when his fiancée receives a visit from a former boyfriend. The world is beginning to change but that change will not take place without a struggle. Black families, forced by overcrowding out of their traditional neighborhoods, are beginning to move into white neighborhoods. Their white neighbors, even those who aren’t racist, foresee the likelihood that all they worked hard for will be destroyed by plummeting property values. Everyone from neighborhood associations to the Klan and pro-Nazi groups have ideas for how to resolve the issue. Not all of the ideas are peaceful. Bottom line: I was unaware that Mullen's was working on a sequel to Darktown so I was very pleased when I saw that Lightning Men was coming out. It was all I hoped it would be. I hope that there will be a third.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bill Lynas

    Thomas Mullen's latest novel, set in 1950 Atlanta, follows on from his previous novel Darktown. However, you don't have to know Darktown to enjoy this excellent tale of Atlanta's first black police officers. This is not just a crime story; it is far more a drama played out with great characters, & every single chapter has something to keep the reader engrossed. There are so many good things that I can't begin to describe them. Mullen mixes fact & fiction & I found the story made me happy, angry, Thomas Mullen's latest novel, set in 1950 Atlanta, follows on from his previous novel Darktown. However, you don't have to know Darktown to enjoy this excellent tale of Atlanta's first black police officers. This is not just a crime story; it is far more a drama played out with great characters, & every single chapter has something to keep the reader engrossed. There are so many good things that I can't begin to describe them. Mullen mixes fact & fiction & I found the story made me happy, angry, sad, amused & even upset. I still cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would dislike another person just based on the colour of their skin. What the fuck is wrong with people ? Yes, I know this is fiction but everything rings so true. Thankfully, almost 70 years after the book is set, society has moved on from these pathetic prejudices. I know we're not there yet, but hopefully one day we will be. I'm not really an emotional person, but Mullen's novel certainly gave my feelings a rollercoaster of a ride. Great writing from an ever improving author.

  25. 5 out of 5

    debra

    Really enjoyed this one. Char,Diane S, Carol, Chelsea, Liz will explain why in their reviews. ; ))

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maxine

    Smith and Boggs, two of the first black police officers in post-war 1950 racially charged Atlanta are trying to keep the peace in the over-crowded, poverty-stricken, and crime-riddled black quarters called Darktown by the white officers. But, in the white neighbourhood of Hanford park, tensions have been inflamed by the purchase of homes by three black families, one of them Smith’s sister and her husband. Although they have no jurisdiction, they find themselves more and more involved since it is Smith and Boggs, two of the first black police officers in post-war 1950 racially charged Atlanta are trying to keep the peace in the over-crowded, poverty-stricken, and crime-riddled black quarters called Darktown by the white officers. But, in the white neighbourhood of Hanford park, tensions have been inflamed by the purchase of homes by three black families, one of them Smith’s sister and her husband. Although they have no jurisdiction, they find themselves more and more involved since it is clear that the white police will do nothing to protect the black families. This is also white officer Denny Rakestraw’s neighbourhood. His refusal to join the Klan has not made him any friends on the force and, although he is willing to help Smith and Boggs a little, it is putting a strain on his relationship with his family and his good will towards the black families. Lightning Men by author Thomas Mullen is the sequel to Darktown and continues the story of Smith and Boggs as well as Rakestraw. Smith and Boggs must deal with racial tension, blockbusting, corruption, and drug smuggling while dealing with all the restrictions placed on their abilities to do their jobs. Among the dangers they must face are the Columbians, a Nazi group whose leader has just got out of prison and not coincidentally just before flyers appear in Hanford park: The flyer’s capital letters made its message especially clear: ‘Zoned as a White Community’. Below it was a lightning bolt, blood red. Lightning Men is one heck of a compelling historical noir/police procedural but it is also a well-researched commentary on race relations in post-war America – although Jim Crow is dying, lynchings are giving way to blockbusting and police corruption, and the KKK is trading their robes for businesses, it is clear that violence is still seething very close to the surface in this seemingly more civilized time and not just among the rising neo-nazi movement but among the ‘good’ white citizens, that these Nazis are just the open face of the Lightning Men. This is a well-written, well-plotted and, given the recent rise of the alt-right in the US, timely story. Thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan K

    Unfamiliar with the author, this was a staff pick at the library. Having read books by Greg Isles who writes and lives in Natchez, MS, I was curious to see whether this Atlanta, GA story would bear up. While the author does his best to engage the reader, the characters lack depth and there are few if any plot twists. Timely, given today's racist issues, the throwback to the days of white vs black in the South is unsavory. I was tempted to drop it after a few chapters, but decided to see if the s Unfamiliar with the author, this was a staff pick at the library. Having read books by Greg Isles who writes and lives in Natchez, MS, I was curious to see whether this Atlanta, GA story would bear up. While the author does his best to engage the reader, the characters lack depth and there are few if any plot twists. Timely, given today's racist issues, the throwback to the days of white vs black in the South is unsavory. I was tempted to drop it after a few chapters, but decided to see if the story would develop. Regretfully, it was rather dull in spite of splashes of violent crime and KKK member activity. On to greater things...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stacia

    Mullen weaves a complex tale of many overlapping & intersecting storylines. I like it very much for that because instead of one linear case, there are many things going on. Interestingly, while the Lightning Men are called out in the title (remnants of Nazism who think the Ku Klux Klan are too soft), the Lightning Men are sort-of the least part of the tale. I did get a little bit bogged down in the story about halfway through & ended up putting the book down for quite a few days before picking i Mullen weaves a complex tale of many overlapping & intersecting storylines. I like it very much for that because instead of one linear case, there are many things going on. Interestingly, while the Lightning Men are called out in the title (remnants of Nazism who think the Ku Klux Klan are too soft), the Lightning Men are sort-of the least part of the tale. I did get a little bit bogged down in the story about halfway through & ended up putting the book down for quite a few days before picking it up again. It's not easy to juggle the varied & overlapping stories & there are times it feels slightly clunky, writing-wise. Yet, it's still a riveting read overall. I find it fascinating to learn about this time period & highly recommend this series so far. I do recommend reading them in order.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen is a highly recommended sequel to Darktown. This historical fiction crime novel is set during the racial tensions of the 1950's South. In an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta, the segregated city is patrolled by a segregated police force. It is two years since Officer Denny Rakestraw and "Negro Officers" Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith were first introduced inLightning Men. The three officers are trying to keep the peace amidst volatile situations. Officer Denny Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen is a highly recommended sequel to Darktown. This historical fiction crime novel is set during the racial tensions of the 1950's South. In an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta, the segregated city is patrolled by a segregated police force. It is two years since Officer Denny Rakestraw and "Negro Officers" Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith were first introduced inLightning Men. The three officers are trying to keep the peace amidst volatile situations. Officer Denny (Rake) Rakestraw finds himself embroiled in the midst of racial tension as black families begin to move into a formerly white neighborhood, Hanford Park. This attracts the attention of the Klan and Nazi brown shirts, putting Rake in the position of following the law or showing loyalty to his family, who are Klan members. Boggs and Smith are trying to work within the system to stop the sale of moonshine and drugs in Darktown, their area of the city, but their investigation implicates powerful men, including members of the police force. They too, are faced with the dilemma of trying to enforce the law while protecting their families while street fights and gun violence increase. In Lightning Men Mullen blends a crime novel with historical fiction. There are indications that Darktown and Lightning Men are the first books in a continuing series. I do regret not reading Darktown before Lightning Men, although you can certainly read Lightning Men and follow the plot. I think that reading the first book in the series, though, would provide me with even better developed characters and a more extensive background into their lives. If you have a copy of Lightning Men, though, don't let this comment stop you from reading it. The characters are still very well developed and are complicated, flawed individuals. Superb writing helps keep the intricate and complex plot moving along swiftly, while including plenty of period details, attitudes, and actions that show a realistic historical setting. Although this is a historically accurate novel, it isn't, however, always an easy book to read. Mullens accurately depicts segregation and racism, which can feel brutal and raw as you are reading. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2017/0...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    “Lightning Men” is the follow up novel to Thomas Mullen’s “Darktown”. As with “Darktown”, this is both a mystery and historical fiction novel set in 1950’s Atlanta when the Ku Klux Klan was rampant and discrimination was assumed. Main characters Lucius Boggs, Tommy Smith, Sergeant McInnis, and Denny Rakestraw are back. Boggs and Smith are African-American police officers working the beat of Darktown, the segregated part of Atlanta for Blacks. Their Sergeant, McInnis is white and fights the injust “Lightning Men” is the follow up novel to Thomas Mullen’s “Darktown”. As with “Darktown”, this is both a mystery and historical fiction novel set in 1950’s Atlanta when the Ku Klux Klan was rampant and discrimination was assumed. Main characters Lucius Boggs, Tommy Smith, Sergeant McInnis, and Denny Rakestraw are back. Boggs and Smith are African-American police officers working the beat of Darktown, the segregated part of Atlanta for Blacks. Their Sergeant, McInnis is white and fights the injustice of internal Atlanta police who degrade the Black Officers. In this story, Boggs, Smith, and McInnis are trying to stop the sale and distribution of illegal drugs and liquor which is supported by the white police force. Author Mullen loves to show the swarthy and dirty side of police corruption in the 1950’s. Mullen also included the changing racial demographic lines at the time. Educated and prosperous Blacks were moving into white neighborhoods and the Klan was not happy. White Officer Denny Rakestraw happens to live in a neighborhood that is experiencing racial change. Rakestraw is not a racist, but walks a fine line between keeping his job and helping the Black police force. Through Rakestraw, the reader feels the conflicting feelings and the stress of fighting against his fellow racist police colleagues, his neighbors, and his own family. Through McInnis the reader feels the demoralizing front of his fellow officers. Lucius Boggs hails from an educated family. Through Lucius the reader learns how racist white people despise educated and articulate black folk. Tommy Smith is a street-smart man who understands the culture of the seedy subculture of Darktown. Both Boggs and Smith work under impossible situations. The reader endears along with them as they struggle to enforce the law and clean up their part of town. My only complaint with this novel is that Mullen didn’t provide info in his Author’s notes. He did a fabulous job with his previous novel. In this one, he cited one novel. I do love references in author’s notes. Sometimes the notes make the novel even more fantastic. All in all, it’s a great read and I hope that Mullen continues with his characters.

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