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DOWN ON PONCE By Fred Willard

Longstreet Press, 1999, (279 pages) $12.00.

Reviewed by Rick McMahan

Being from the South, I have a special place in my heart for all things Southern, writers and tales especially. Other than Florida, which is ripe with plenty of well known settings of mysteries from Elmore Leonard to Carl Hiassen to Edna Buchanan and Barbara Parker, the rest of the Southern states are not often the setting of authors' tales of mystery, so when I saw Fred Willard's hard-boiled mystery was set in Atlanta, undeniably a heart of the South, I was intrigued.

DOWN ON PONCE is about Sam Fuller, a retired drug-runner who's the sole survivor of his group. He's been living quietly and quite humbly off of his investments in offshore accounts. However, a bartender friend gets Sam involved in a murder-for-hire scheme. When the person trying to do the hiring turns up dead, followed closely by the bartender who tried to get Sam in on the game, Sam finds himself going to Atlanta to find the forces that are trying to kill him. Along the way, he meets a band of misfit and misstepped criminals, led by a bumbling crook whose "straight" job is driving a hearse. The other criminals in the gang include a mute with a mangled face and a cripple with a wicked sense of humor. The four band together for money and mayhem as they tangle with a group of the Dixie Mafia.

The tale has an Elmore Leonard feel to it; one where humor and violence and dialogue are all snappy. I'd recommend DOWN ON PONCE, and I'm hoping that Fred Willard writes another novel soon.

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