MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

 

  • 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.

MysteryPeople Review: ROBERT B. PARKER’S LITTLE WHITE LIES by Ace Atkins

9780399177002

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

I’ve mentioned in some of my reviews of Ace Atkins’ later Spenser books that he is bringing more of himself to the series, adapting the characters to reflect his own voice. After proving in the early books like Lullaby and Wonderland that he could do Parker’s voice and had his characters down, Ace began to bring more of his own sensibility into the books, starting with Cheap Shot. It may have come to full fruition in his latest and best Spenser book yet, Little White Lies.

Ace took inspiration for his latest from an article he co-wrote for Men’s Journal. Spenser’s therapist girlfriend, Susan Silverman, refers one of her clients to him. The woman has been bilked out of $300,000 by M. Brook Wells (or that is the name he is at least currently going by), a man selling himself as ex-special forces and CIA. Tracking Wells down gets Spenser shot at by some real military types and he discovers a trail of conned marks, including a seedy gun merchant, cable news bookers, an entire church, and a gang of gun runners. Dealing with one dangerous revelation after another, Spenser has to invite bad ass back-up, Hawk, for a trip to Georgia.

Of the six Spenser novels, this is Ace’s most personal. He shows his knowledge of Spenser lore, bringing back characters like feminist writer Rachel Wallace, who guides him through the world of cable talk, and gay sniper Vinnie Morris, who gets pulled in by Hawk and Spenser for more fire power. He also shows off the Boston character as well as Parker ever did – but when Spenser goes down south, we are definitely in Ace’s own territory. Atkins portrays Georgia less with local color than with local attitude. The themes of religion, politics, and hypocrisy and how a con man uses extreme belief in God and country to do his work, could have easily popped up in a book featuring Ace’s own Mississippi hero Quinn Colson. However the more iconic Spenser fits the scene perfectly and the story updates him as our detective searches for facts in Trump’s America of alternative facts. Even though it was written before the election, the result is still the same.

In Little White Lies Ace Atkins uses Robert B. Parker’s characters and style to tell a story only he could. Atkins’ talents meet with those of his influence, bringing the character into modern times. Not only is this one of Ace’s best Spenser novels, it is one of the best in the entire Spenser series.

You can find copies of Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Three Picks for May

For the murderous month of May, get your adrenaline pumping with three new works in some of our favorite new and continuing series. Ace Atkins brings us his latest Spenser and Hawk tale, Steve Hamilton follows up his brilliant The Second Life of Nick Mason with another tale of hard bargains and harder choices, while David Swinson gives us the second installment in his new series following a drug-addicted, accidental hero. 

Robert B Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins9780399177002

Spenser and Hawk go into the deep South to to find a con man mixed up in real estate, right-wing politics, religion, and gunrunning. A fun tale with our classic heroes confronting modern villains in a story that feels ripped from the political headlines of the Trump era. Ace will be at Book People Friday, July 21st, to sign and discuss Little white Lies and his latest Quinn Colson book, The Fallen – keep an eye on our website for more information closer to the event. You can find copies of Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9780399574382Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Hamilton’s sequel to his extraordinary The Second Life Of Nick Mason, has Nick continuing his indentured servitude to imprisoned kingpin Darius Cole by going after the witnesses in Darius retrial that stands between him and freedom. Only catch is that they are all in Witness Protection. An action packed crime thriller with all the players making great chess moves against the other. Steve will be here at BookPeople signing Exit Strategy on Tuesday, May 23rd, at 12 PM. You can find copies of Exit Strategy on our shelves starting May 16th, or pre-order via bookpeople.com

9780316264211Crime Song by David Swinson

D.C. drug-addicted private eye Frank Marr gets a case that hits way too close to home when his cousin is murdered. To make matters works, Frank’s apartment is broken into, yet their purpose remains mysterious given their failure to steal his narcotics stash. The trail leads to some well executed reveals, pitting Frank against some tough adversaries as he tries to keep his addiction hidden. Crime Song is the second book in what is becoming a great, gritty series with a complex and utterly human hero. You can find copies of Crime Song on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Scott’s Top Ten of 2016 (Make it a dozen. Okay, fifteen or sixteen.)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This was a great year for crime fiction. Established authors experimented with new ideas or pushed what they were doing further. People with great debuts in 2015 proved it wasn’t just beginners luck this year. 2016’s new releases were so good, it was difficult to narrow them down, so I put a few together and made it a dozen.

97803991730351. Anything and All Things Reed Farrel Coleman

This year Coleman started a new character, ex-Suffolk-County-cop-turned-sorta-PI Gus Murphy (Where It Hurts), ended the series featuring dwarf detective Gulliver Down (Love & Fear), and delivered a Game Change in the life of Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone (Debt To Pay.) All of it was executed with a poet’s choice of words, haunting emotions, and believable leads in a struggle to find who they are and what matters to them. He also had brilliant short stories in the anthologies Crime Plus Music and Unloaded. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reed made out some moving grocery lists as well.

97803995743202. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Possibly one of the best crafted crime novels in a decade. Nick Mason finishes a twenty-year stretch in five due to a criminal kingpin who runs his empire from the inside. Upon Mason’s release the kingpin’s lawyer hands him a cell phone that is the condition of his release – he must answer the phone at any time and do whatever he is told on the other end. Everything Hamilton sets up in the first few chapters falls beautifully into place by the end.

97803162310773. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This dark, morally complex tale looks at ambition and the dynamics of family support for their gymnastics prodigy daughter as the family and community react to a murder that occurs in their sporting community. Abbott further pushes the boundaries of noir.

97805254269434. An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire, Henry Standing Bear, and Deputy Vic Moretti find themselves having to solve a mystery in a town overrun by a motorcycle rally. Guns, outlaw bikers, federal agents and a woman from Henry’s past all play a part in unraveling the final mystery. Johnson strips down the cast to his most essential characters for one of the most entertaining books in the series.

97800623698575. What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin

A multi-layered psychological Hollywood thriller, in which a present-day murder of an actor is tied to the past murder of a director, and the same woman gets blamed for both. Gaylin’s character development beautifully dovetails with a plot that is never revealed until the final sentence. Beautiful, stunning work.

97803991739506. The Innocents by Ace Atkins

The latest and angriest of The Quinn Colson novels has our country boy hero and Sheriff Lillie Virgil solving a torturous murder of a former cheerleader, dealing with the worst aspects of Southern small town society. A book that enrages as it entertains.

97803079612737. Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

Spiegelman introduces us to his new series character, a doctor who keeps his Skid Row clinic afloat by making “house calls” with his mercenary pal to the rich, famous, and criminal, who don’t need anything reported on medical records. A very interesting, complex hero, and an interesting look at L.A.

97812500099688. Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

In Murder at the 42nd Street Library, Con Lehane introduces us to another great new character, Raymond Ambler, Curator of the Crime Fiction Collection for the New York Public Library and amateur sleuth. A satisfying mystery with a lived-in, warm look at friendship and a worker’s look at New York.

97819438181749.City of Rose & South Village by Rob Hart

The seconds and third installments following unlicensed private eye Ash McKenna takes him to two very different places, tracking down a stripper’s daughter in Portland and a solving a murder on his friend’s Georgia commune, charting a progression of a broken man putting the pieces of himself together. Plot and character meld seamlessly into this compelling tale of a lone hero who feels he can not be a part of the society he helps.

978076537485110. Night Work by David C Taylor

This follow up to veteran screenwriter David C. Taylor’s debut, Night Life, has police detective Michael Cassidy protecting Castro during his famous New York visit. Taylor makes the city and period a living, vibrant thing coming off the page.

11. Shot In Detroit by Patricia Abbott9781940610825

This story about a photographer who gets obsessed with a project involving young black men challenges us at every turn about race, class, and art and crime fiction itself. It is a book where the author complements the reader by assuming you are as intelligent and open to difficult topics as she is.

978098913299212. Genuinely Dangerous by Mike McCrary and Kiss The Devil Goodnight by Jonathan Woods

Two dark wild rides through a pulp hell that is pure Heaven for crime fiction fans. if Barry Gifford was still running Black Lizard he would have signed these guys up.

I Could Fit Five Bodies in the Trunk of My Sedan: MysteryPeople Q&A with Patrick Millikin

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Highway Kind is a collection of short crime fiction, dealing with cars, driving, and the road. It features crime and general fiction and even a singer/songwriter. Authors include the likes of Joe Lansdale, Ace Atkins, and Michael Connelly. We talked to to the editor Patrick Millikan about cars and crime.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea of The Highway Kind come about?

Patrick Millikan: My original thought was that it would be cool to have an anthology of crime stories in which each author chose a particular car and wrote a story about it. The cars would be prominently featured. I was surprised that there hadn’t been (at least to my knowledge) a collection like it. Over time the idea morphed into something, at least in my opinion, much more interesting. As I mention in the preface, when I commissioned the stories I left the guidelines pretty open – the pieces would simply be about “cars, driving and the road.” As the stories started to come in I was surprised and intrigued by how personal, almost confessional, many of them were.

Read More »

Bouchercon Recap: Part 1

– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

book-haul-scott

New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.

Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”

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MysteryPeople Review: LAST FAIR DEAL GONE DOWN by Ace Atkins and Marco Finnegan

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780983693710Lately, many crime novelists have been crossing over into comics. Denise Mina did a run on Hellblazer, and there are new graphic novel versions of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. Greg Hurwitz, Jason Starr and Megan Abbott have contributed to The Punisher’s legend. Duane Swierzcynski and Victor Gischler have made second careers out of comics. The latest author to make the leap into the medium is Ace Atkins with the adaption of his short story, Last Fair Deal gone Down.

The graphic novel features Ace’s first series character, blues historian Nick Travers. His world gets rocked when Fats, one of his favorite sax players, is murdered. Nick hits the Big Easy back alleys looking for those responsible.

Atkins and artist Marco Finnegan completely compliment each other. Ace keeps the story tight and sparse, allowing the visuals to do much of the talking. It makes me want to see him do more work in comics. Finnegan has a knack for catching the right expression on a character, dialing down the dramatic moments, so they never veer into melodrama. The simple black and white inks and poetic hardboiled writing create the mood and even music for the story.

At the end of Last Fair Deal Gone Down, we are told to look out for an adaptation of Ace’s first Nick Travers novel, Crossroad Blues. I already am. Both artist and author are neither afraid of their emotions or influences. Last Fair Deal Gone Down is a fresh look at an old character.

You can find copies of Last Fair Deal Gone Down on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by BookPeople this upcoming Saturday, July 16th, at 3 PM, for an event with Ace Atkins, speaking and signing his latest addition to his critically acclaimed Quinn Colson series, The Innocents.