Ace Atkins’s latest Quinn Colson novel, The Redeemers, puts a permanent mark on the series. Quinn is ousted as sheriff and things between him and his nemesis, Johnny Stagg, come to a serious head. Ace will be joining us for a discussion and signing of the book on July 23rd at 7 PM here at BookPeople but allowed us an early interrogation for the blog.
MysteryPeople Scott: What made you take away Quinn’s badge?
Ace Atkins: I wanted to mark the fifth year of the novels with a big event. And I wanted to shake up the expected a little bit. I think in many of my books, I keep on going back to High Noon. That movie has been hardwired to my brain. Quinn is pushed away by the community but forced to do the right thing for the greater good. The image of the badge means so much in Western fiction — which although contemporary and in Mississippi, I consider this series.
MPS: While still the hero, you address Quinn’s darker and somewhat unaware side. What made this the book to do that in?
AA: There are rules you are suppose to follow with a series hero. Many of them boring. If anything, I want people to know Quinn is just a guy. A very tough guy but a real person. For me to do this, he has to fall a little bit. I consider this to be the most humorous book in the series. That much said, the intro to Quinn — as he goes into a crackhouse to rescue his junkie sister — may be the darkest scene I’ve written. We never quite see what he does to those who try and stop him, but it’s not pleasant.
MPS:There’s a point in The Redeemers where Johnny Stagg defends what he does. Do you see him as a lesser evil that keeps the larger one at bay or is he simply rationalizing?
AA: I don’t really know what to make of Johnny’s overtures and statements to Quinn. For sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Johnny. But only time will tell if he was the lesser of all evils or the true devil. I never quite trust anything that comes out of that guy’s mouth, even if it sounds true.
MPS:There are a lot of references in the novel to music and movies that are a meeting of Southern culture and corporate created pop culture. What did you want to show with those?
AA: I am a pop culture junkie. I love it and I hate it. I love classic country music, Outlaw country that provides the soundtrack for these books. But I downright hate what’s coming out of Nashville these days. People will buy whatever crap they are forced to hear. And I have a lot of fun showing the “country” and popular crap people absorb these days — whether movies, books, or politics. It’s all the same.
MPS: One of my favorite dialogue exchanges this year is about being “a prismatic son of bitch”. Did you incorporate that from something you heard or did that simply grow from the character?
AA: Ha! Actually it’s “prismatic son of a bitch.” I stole that line from a friend here in Oxford who aptly described a local crook who’d wronged a lot of local folks. The guy was a chronic loser, always swindling and many times bankrupt. A true turd without a spec of honor. When my pal described him that way, I never forgot it. It was dead on.
MPS: The Redeemers is a game changing book. Can you give us an idea of what you’re planning to throw at Quinn in the future?
AA: I have a real barn burner set for Quinn VI. The idea came to me while writing The Redeemers — again a story inspired by real events here in Mississippi. You are right about The Redeemers being a game changer. Some of the players have left the stage now. But nastier ones are taking their place. And Quinn — whether he wants to or not — has to face them and some horrific secrets in Tibbehah County.
Ace Atkins joins us Thursday, July 23, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor, speaking and signing his latest Quinn Colson novel, The Redeemers. BookPeople events are free and open to the public. In order to join the signing line, you must purchase a copy of Atkin’s latest. You can find copies of The Redeemers on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.