- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Ace Atkins’ latest book featuring Robert B Parker’s Spenser, Little White Lies, sends the Boston PI down south to track down a con man who uses God, guns, and patriotism in his swindles. It is an entertaining and timely novel with a keen and subtle eye directed toward our current society. We stopped Ace for a moment in his exhaustive writing schedule to talk about it some.
MysteryPeople Scott: This is loosely based on an article you worked on for Outside Magazine, The Spy Who Scammed Us, about a con man. What made you want to explore some of the article’s aspects in fiction?
AA: I’ve written about many con men as a journalist. Several in my days as a crime reporter for The Tampa Tribune. The Outside piece didn’t play as much into this story as the national news story on a man named Wayne Simmons. Simmons was recently outed as a CIA fraudster who’d made hundreds of appearances on FOX news. He represented himself as a top Company man with time in black ops who talked about delicate matters of international importance. It turned out, he was a former used car salesman who was never vetted by producers at FOX.
MPS: Did having a con man as the antagonist present anything unique to the story telling?
AA: A con man is always a wonderful character in a novel because their motivation, identity and goals are hidden. I’ve always been long fascinated by them as a journalist wondering how much of their BS do they actually believe. Every con men I’ve ever written about has a degree of sociopath in them.
MPS: It has a lot of elements that would have made for a Quinn Colson novel. What made you choose Spenser for the hero?
AA: Yes! Absolutely. I could definitely have made this a Quinn Colson book but brought it to Spenser’s desk. I thought it was a unique case for Spenser and a great opportunity to take him down South. Also what the character of M. Brooks Welles represents is wholly antithetical to the Spenser code. A con man seldom has a code. Or honor.
MPS: Did Spenser allow you to view the South in a different way as an author, that a native like Quinn couldn’t?
AA: Absolutely. I had a great time bringing Spenser back to Atlanta. He’d been there before but getting to write it as native Southerner was great fun. I got to view the South as an outsider which is always fun.
MPS: I was happy to see Spenser pull Tedy Sapp out of retirement. Was there a particular reason you chose him as back up with Hawk?
AA: In Bob’s book, Hugger Mugger, Tedy was Spenser’s main sidekick. Big, tough, ex military and gay, he was a wonderful Spenser character. When the story wound down to Georgia, I knew Tedy would be on Spenser’s speed dial. It was fun for me — an hopefully fans — to see him again.
MPS: You’ll be at our store on Friday, July 21st, at 7 PM for your latest Quinn Colson book, The Fallen. What can you tell us about it?
AA: The Fallen was written in the first 100 days to Donald Trump. It’s about as current and modern as it gets. Quinn takes on a team of top notch bank robbers who work heists dressed as Donald J. When they hit banks, they announced — Wild Bunch style — “anyone moves and I’ll grab ’em by the p***y!”
You can find copies of Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.