Half of Paradise by James Lee Burke (Paperback, 1999)

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Meet Avery Broussard, the last in a line of once-substantial land owners whose weakness for alcohol lands him in prison; J.P. Winfield, a dirt-poor singer who makes it to the top of hillbilly music only to be destroyed by a drug addiction; and Toussaint Boudreaux, a black longshoreman who is set up for a crime he did not commit. What brings them together, and how they must struggle to escape the bondage that links them makes for a tale of atmosphere and suspense that is vintage Burke. Burke's debut novel was published when the now-bestselling author was in his twenties, and yet contains all the rich storytelling elements readers have come to expect.