Communing with Chandler: Ace Atkins Discusses L.A. and ‘Angel Eyes’

9780525536826_fc5abAce Atkins returns to Spenser with Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes, this time taking the Boston private eye to Los Angeles, searching for a missing starlet.
Ace will be at BookPeople November 18th at 7PM to sign and discuss the book. We got a hold of him ahead of time to talk about the book and its City Of Angels setting.

Scott Montgomery: What made you decide to take Spenser back to L.A.?
Ace Atkins: When I was hired by the Parker estate and Mr. Parker’s longtime editor – almost ten years ago – one of the very first projects I wanted to write was an L.A. Spenser book. However, my editor at the time felt I needed to keep Spenser very Boston-centric for the first novels I’d write. I think it was a wise move. But after the seventh novel, I figured it was time to reunite Spenser with some series favorites like Chollo and Bobby Horse. I know Parker always had fun taking Spenser to the West Coast. I think it was his way of communing with Chandler.

SM: He gets to meet up with characters that he’s encountered before in the town. Which one was the most fun to write for?

AA: Definitely Chollo. Chollo has often been described as the Mexican Hawk. But I always saw him as much more. There is a certain feel of the Old West – classic Westerns – when Spenser and Chollo join forces.
SM: I thought the story looked at the town’s relationship with women. What did you want to explore with that aspect?

AA: Yes! That was absolutely the genesis of this whole book. Originally it had been set on take on the Harvey Weinstein story. But as it evolved more was coming out about the NXIVM cult and the story was so damn bizarre that I had to include it. For those who didn’t follow the NXIVM trial, it was a sex cult that was supposed to be about female empowerment.
AA: Sixkill has really come into his own in this book. What do you enjoy about him as a writer?
It’s funny, Scott. I had tried my best to stay away from Sixkill. He was introduced in Parker’s last novel as a replacement for Hawk (long story dealing with TV/film contracts and legal ownership of character). When I wrote my first Spenser, Lullaby, I purposely didn’t read Sixkill. I went back to the earlier novels for inspiration. But by the time I got around to it, I saw what Parker was doing. He had created an apprentice for Spenser and someone to carry on Spenser’s legacy. Obviously that hit home with me, and Sixkill has been a big part of the expansing Parkerverse since.
I hope readers will see that he has his own world, ecosystem, in Los Angeles that could be – and has been off-page — a flourishing and exciting saga.
SM: Susan always seems to be a character that even Parker had incorporating into the story at times, but she takes on a significant role in Angel Eyes?
AA: I think most criticism of Spenser and Susan has been due to the fact that Susan is often just Spenser’s sounding board. But in the very best novels – like Ceremony – she is a key player and wonderful strong character. When I thought adding the cult angle to the novel, I knew it was going to be a strong Spenser/Susan storyline. Which I think make the best Spenser books. Their relationship is core to the series.
SM: There are a few passages, particularly one with Spenser telling us about how he feels about the town that feels very much in the mood of Chandler. There’s even some reversals and reveals that reminded me of him. Do you feel the city has that effect on writers?
Absolutely! It’s the American Dream Factory. I love writing about Los Angeles because of what it means to the American psyche. Let’s face it, there would be no Spenser without Chandler. Spenser is the modern, east coast Marlowe. So, not surprisingly, he always feels very at home in Hollywood. It’s good for the character and good for the writer to return to where it all started. Plenty of inspiration for this book and more stories to come.

Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes is available for purchase at BookPeople in-store and online now. And don’t forget to join us on November 18th at 7PM when Ace Atkins returns to BookPeople to read from and sign Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes.

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