You Do a Job: MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins joins us to speak and sign his latest, The Fallen on Friday, July 21st at 7 PM. The Fallen comes out today! Before his visit to the store, we caught up with Ace to ask him about his latest addition to his Quinn Colson series. 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

 

MysteryPeople Scott: While you do dig into social themes and some dark things happen, The Fallen has a lighter and funnier tone than The Innocents. Was there a conscious decision to have a few more laughs after doing one so heavy?

Ace Atkins: Not really. I just think the world has become much more of an insane place. I mean we do have a game show host as president. If you can’t step back and just laugh at it, you’ll go crazy.

As far as The Fallen, many of the bad folks we have down South are so naked about their greed and intolerance. I could write a hundred essays about the evil and ignorance or just make fun of them. Making fun of them seems to be much more effective. Anger gives them a purpose.

MPS: Fall out from The Innocents have left Quinn and Lillie with ambivalent feelings about the town they protect. What did you want to explore with their take on Tibbehah County?

AA: Whether it’s Will Kane in High Noon or Cletus Snow in Smokey and the Bandit, we know that “you say you’re going to do a job, you do a job.” That’s what Quinn and Lillie are all about — honor. Surely they definitely want to say “screw it” and walk away. But they know once the do that, the bad guys have triumphed. Every day, they’re at work, it’s a flag in the face of the corrupt and soulless. I am pretty hardboiled but I believe in right and wrong. And that right will triumph in the end. Even if it’s for a short while.

MPS: Next to Elmore Leonard, you have the most entertaining criminals. What did you have fun the most with when writing for the Trump bandits?

AA: That’s high praise! Dutch and George V. Higgins have influenced me more than anyone.

I really like the crew of Marines. I understand them and their motivations. Put in a similar position, I can’t say I wouldn’t be drawn to the same line of work. What fun planning the bank jobs in The Fallen. I have a couple of buddies here — one a former fed and another a former Delta Force operator — who came up with interesting ideas about hitting banks. Let’s just say, it’s fortunate they’re good guys because they sure as hell could rob a bank and get away with it!

MPS: Caddy’s subplot of searching for two disappeared teenagers is the darker crime plot of the two. What was your purpose for it in the novel?

AA: That part of the novel came about unexpectedly and naturally. There is just so much action and momentum with the Trump bandits, I wanted the readers to know that time didn’t stand still in Tibbehah just for this crew of criminals. There are other crimes, injustices going on at the same time without a clear path of investigation. Sometimes bad things happen and you’re powerless to do a damn thing about it.

MPS: It might have been a tossed off character bit, but it stuck with me when Quinn declares he prefers fishing over hunting. Why do you think that is?

AA: Hah! I didn’t know if anyone noticed that. It’s a lot about Quinn’s evolution as a lawman. When he returned home, Quinn was very much in hunter mode. But as he matures and settles into just job, he enjoys the fishing/investigation as much as anything. It’s all about patience, guess work, and finesse.

MPS: Quinn’s new love interest doesn’t like westerns. Can Quinn really come to grips with that or is this relationship doomed from the start?

AA: That’s an excellent point! Only time will tell for Quinn and Maggie. And of course, the next book. Did I mention it’s due out in July 2018? These folks are too much fun to write about.

The Fallen comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Ace Atkins comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Friday, July 21st, at 7 PM

Scott’s Top Ten of 2017 (So Far)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Around this time of the year, we like to look back on what has come out so far in the year as we think of suggestions for reading for the rest of the summer. Below, you’ll find recommended reads that deserve their due. In fact some are so good I had to combine a few, so my top ten is a top twelve.

97800626644191. The Force by Don Winslow

I know, an obvious choice, but it is so obviously great. This epic look at today’s New York through police eyes has plot, character, and theme singing together in this opera of city corruption. You can find copies of The Force on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

 


97803163805772. The Long Drop by Denise Mina

Mina takes Scotland’s crime of the last century and brings it to a chilly intimate scale. A deep, multi-faceted reflection on class, media, and the darkness that lies in our hearts. You can find copies of The Long Drop on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

3. She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

9780062394408A tour de’ force debut novel about a career criminal on the road with his eleven year old daughter after they’ve been targeted by a white supremacist gang. Both brutal and beautiful. You can find copies of She Rides Shotgun on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Jordan Harper joins us to speak and sign his latest on Wednesday, July 21st at 7 PM. 

97803991730424. What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

The second Gus Murphy novel has the reluctant detective working two cases involving past sins. A perfect balance between a a hard boiled detective tale and a multi-faceted and emotional character study. You can find signed copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97803991731105. The Weight Of This World by David Joy

A heart breaker of a rural noir concerning a vet back in his Appalachian home, his mother, and ne’r do well friend whose who dive head first into violence and loss when a bunch of money and drugs falls into their laps. Joy poignantly shows how certain lives can close in one the ones living them. You can find copies of The Weight of This World on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97803995767136. Little White Lies & The Fallen by Ace Atkins

Atkins uses Robert B Parker’s Spenser and his own Quinn Colson to explore Trump’s America. Both books prove you can how social insight and be entertaining as hell. You can find copies of Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. You can additionally find copies of The Fallen on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Ace joins us to speak and sign his latest on Friday, July 21st at 7 PM

97803162642117. Crime Song by David Swinson & Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Two debut characters from last year, junkie PI frank Marr and Nick Mason, a man in indentured criminal servitude to a kingpin who runs his empire behind bars, returned in novels that proved they can go the series distance. Both authors talent for reveals and reversals and emotionally real and complex characters have me impatiently waiting for the third book in both series. You can find copies of Crime Song on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. You can find signed copies of Exit Strategy on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97803162717768. Every Night I Dream Of Hell by Malcolm MacKay

A wildly entertaining Scottish noir about an enforcer forced to take over his crew after his boss was nicked. Full of colorful criminal characters and pitch black humor. You can find copies of Every Night I Dream of Hell on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9. A Welcome Murder by Robin Yocum

9781633882638

A twisted tale of rust belt town and its perverse citizens caught in the ripple effect of its high school sports hero returning from prison to grab his drug money and the murder of his old nemesis. Yocum creates each characters voice distinctively and keeps all the plates spinning in a funny and engaging fashion. You can find copies of A Welcome Murder on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

978194340259510. Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck

This story of a man coming out of prison, learning he still has to pay for murdering a mob bosses bullying son when they where teens is a moving study of stunted emotional growth and male identity. Picture Dennis Lehane slammed into James Lee Burke and filtered through Bruce Springsteen. You can find copies of Bad Boy Boogie on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE FALLEN by Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest Quinn Colson novel, The Fallen, on Friday, July 21st, at 7 PM. 

9780399576713Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

A few months ago, I reviewed Ace Atkins’ latest Spenser novel, Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies, full of commentary on the world of alternative facts. With his latest Quinn Colson, The Fallen, he creates a story even more rooted in its time, but with playful roots stretching back to the seventies.

The fallout from the previous book in the series, The Innocent, allows for Atkins to dive into modern politics – crime novel style. After becoming town pariahs for uncovering the crimes of Tibbehah County’s “up standing citizens,” Quinn and his under sheriff Lillie Virgil grow more ambivalent about those they’ve sworn to protect and serve. In a homage to both The Wild Bunch and Point Break, three bandits run into The First National bank with one yelling a modern political variation on Pike Bishop’s opening line. When Quinn and Lillie discuss the crime, when Lillie comes to a conclusion:

“They’re not from around here.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because they’re smart.”

“Do I detect some contempt for Tibbehah County.”

“Tell me you don’t shower after a long day?”

Quinn quickly figures out the robbers are military trained – three war vets doing it as much for the adrenaline rush and brotherhood as they are the cashAn FBI agent on their trail soon predicts that the robbers will escalate to bigger challenges, and that’s when someone gets killed. Atkins builds the tension from Quinn and Lillie having to stop it before it does.

The story of the robbery weaves organically and seamlessly through three subplots. The most serious one has Quinn’s sister Caddy searching for two missing girls who worked for truck stop madame Fanny Hathcock, Quinn’s recent nemesis. Fanny finds herself in a political game with Skinner, a God, guts, and guns politician who wants to put her out of business. Quinn takes some steps toward romance with Margret, a woman who has moved back home and just happens to be the estranged wife of one of the robbery crew.

“The Fallen stands as an example of crime fiction’s ability to reflect society while completely entertaining the reader.”

All of the stories spin into a mosaic that provides a biting look at red state politics and the culture that supports it. Skinner is a politician who preaches family values when he’s more interested in the value of land. Odes to a simpler time pepper his dialogue, yet that time, upon examination, appears to be the one that was best only for white Christian males. The robbers are a fascinating contrast to ex-Army Ranger Quinn Colson, exploring the diversity of veterans’ lives. Many of the townspeople that Quinn and Lily have to deal with prove to be annoying at best and a hindrance at worst, mired in their ideologies. The main character arc of the book is how Quinn, Lillie, and Caddy decide to deal with Tibbehah County.

The Fallen stands as an example of crime fiction’s ability to reflect society while completely entertaining the reader. I laughed out loud through out the novel. It is Michael Mann’s Heat filtered though both Faulkner and Smokey & The Bandit, with Atkins fully engaged in every trope he loves as well as the time he is writing in. I hope they allow him back into Mississippi after the book tour.

The Fallen comes out July 18th – Pre-order now!

 Ace Atkins comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Tuesday, July 21st, at 7 PM. 

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.