Thomas Mullen’s 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.
Darktown follows the story of Atlanta’s first black police officers in an era of heightened racial prejudice. In 1948, the eight-man police division cannot arrest whites, drive police cars or even set foot in police headquarters through the front door. Despite this, they are committed to forging an important path of integration and justice in the face of hatred from their white counterparts on the force.
The story focuses in particular on Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith, as they investigate the possible death of a black woman at the hands of a former white police officer, Brian Underhill. The officers came across the pair after a car accident in a primarily black portion of town. But because of Underhill’s connections within the department, he is turned free without even a citation.
His female passenger, Lily Ellsworth, turns up dead a short time later.
Mullen, an award-winning author and a resident of Atlanta, swiftly constructs a moral challenge for the black officers as they dare to question whether a white man may have committed her murder. With the rest of the predominantly white police department fighting them at every turn, the tension immediately ratchets up.
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.
Darktown has been acquired by Sony Television for development as a television series, with Jaime Foxx to executive produce.