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Descending Memphis

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By: Jason Dougherty about 1 year ago permalink

Though I’ve only briefly dabbled in classic noir fiction, I couldn’t resist a story that promised an action-packed noir detective thrill-ride mixed with Rock ’n’ Roll. Robert Moss certainly did not let me down.

Memphis circa 1956 and its melting pot of people, cultures and musical styles is our backdrop for this story. Mr. Moss kept me engaged by painting the scenery with vivid yet concise language. The chapters had the pace of a 50’s rock song...brief but powerful, full of action and emotion, and certainly nothing wasted. The sentences teemed with the energy of rockabilly, and at times ached like the blues. But at the heart of it all was Rock ’n’ Roll in its early, rough, violent stages. Through his choice of words, Moss reflects this time in the music’s history, and the story is that much richer because of it.

Our main character, Tommy Rhodeen, is rough around the edges, much like the music found in the bars, clubs, and juke joints of his city. I found it easy to relate to a character like Rhodeen, especially since music has played such a significant part in my life. Like most musicians, it has taken Rhodeen a bit longer to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Yes, he is a private-eye, of sorts, but it’s his love of music that personally drives him to do the things he does.

Everything about this book is a rewarding experience; the language, the characters, and the plethora of musical references. The twists and turns come fast, and often from the least expected places. It’s a page-turner that you are not going to want to put down.

By: Edward Via about 1 year ago permalink

Descending Memphis is a classic noir thriller filled with twists, turns and a 1950s tone so authentic, it really feels like you’re transported back in time. With sharp writing punctuated by an incredible attention to detail, the author really hones in on what it must have actually been like to live in Memphis during the early years of rock and roll.

The plot is fairly fast paced, yet intricate in its details: a missing person mystery coupled with a coming-of-age story set amidst very realistic portrayals of the racial tensions that helped define this era. And the protagonist, a down-on-his-luck musician and private investigator with unrealized ambitions and a knack for getting himself into (and out of) sticky situations, always has his heart in the right place—even when that spells certain trouble.

Overflowing with rich writing that practically drips off the page and ripe with all the little details that add a true air of authenticity, if I didn’t know better I would have thought this was an actual classic written in the ‘50s. If noir mysteries or throwback thrillers are your thing (and, frankly, even if they’re not), Descending Memphis is definitely a worthwhile read.

By: Kathy Russell about 1 year ago permalink

Descending Memphis was an excellent, fast read. Just when you think you have the journey figured out, it twists and goes down another path. With a few perfect descriptive words the characters' world comes alive. You feel, see, smell and hear the way Robert wants as you go through the pages. In other books I often find myself getting bored with long explanations of rooms and landscapes. A few choice words can paint a perfect picture mixed with your own imagination. Robert nailed this work! Truly fun to read and makes you want to know more about the rest of Tommy's life.

By: Brian Gay about 1 year ago permalink

I really enjoyed Descending Memphis. It is a fast paced detective story set in Memphis in the late ’50s. The story follows the young semi-pro private investigator Tommy Rhodeen through his attempts to solve his first missing person case. While the plot line is reminiscent of classic detective fiction, the book’s setting and the personality of Tommy Rhodeen give Descending Memphis a unique character.

Rhodeen is an interesting and well developed character. Many of his friends and acquaintances are petty criminals, and his inroad to private investigation - retrieving stolen property - is not entirely above the law. Nonetheless, he generally tries to do the right thing and effect a positive outcome. Part of what makes Rhodeen such an compelling character is the fact that he hasn’t fully figured out what he wants to do with his life. He’s more or less stumbled into private investigating, but his passion is to be a rock and roll musician. Meanwhile, his Aunt Norma would prefer that he take a conventional steady job as a mechanic. Unlike the standard protagonists of hard boiled detective fiction or film noir, Rhodeen does not come off as cynical or jaded despite his conflicted nature.

There are many twists along the way, and most of the actions that Rhodeen takes trying to solve the case have unintended results. This kept me engaged and guessing. Nonetheless, the ending surprised me and left me thinking “why didn’t I see that coming?”

Bonus: If you take the time to listen to the artists that are that are mentioned in the course of the narrative, you are both in for a treat as well as a more immersive experience.

By: Glenn Griffith about 1 year ago permalink

"Descending Memphis is an assured genre-hopper set in the South of the Fifties. Populated by larger-than-life characters -- including some real-life ones like Johnny Cash -- the Memphis of the book is a place dripping with near-noir menace and atmosphere. Robert Moss has done something special here as the book is as much an accomplished bit of page-turning genre fiction, as much as it's an impressive stab at something more literary in nature. Tackling issues like racism and black/white relations in the South of the not-so-distant past, Descending Memphis covers a lot of ground with a mix of economy and style that made me really enjoy the novel. Serving as both a traditional detective story and a fictionalized journey through the early days of rock 'n' roll in the birthplace of the form, Descending Memphis was a blast to read and I was truly sorry to see it end. Here's hoping that Moss will decided to write another book and bring Tommy Rhodeen back to chase clues in perhaps another city and another era." [quoted from my interview with Robert Moss, the author, on my website]

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Valor Books b-DM Robert Moss Descending Memphis

BOOK out of stock


A detective story/coming-of-age story written by Robert R. Moss, former member of Artificial Peace and Government Issue.

Memphis, 1956. Rock ’n’ Roll explodes onto the scene. And Tommy Rhodeen just wants a part of it. But for now, Tommy’s a small-time private eye recovering stolen merchandise and trying to keep the law from shutting him down.

That is until Tommy gets a call from the wealthy wife of a prominent local businessman. And goes from searching for hot cars to one hot chick—in the form of a missing seventeen-year-old girl—who’s wild about Rock ’n’ Roll.

From there Tommy encounters murder, uncovers rackets and rubs shoulders with corrupt politicians. He gets shaken down by crooked cops, confronts racial tensions and winds up in more trouble than he could ever imagine. But when he least expects it, Tommy gets the chance he always dreamed of. Because just like the detective business, Rock ’n’ Roll is never what it seems to be.

Packed with historical references that capture the place and period, Descending Memphis blends the twists and action of the detective and thriller genres with some soul searching questions found in a coming-of-age story.