MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Ace Atkin’s latest Spenser novel, Robert B. Parker’s Kickback, takes Robert B Parker’s PI to a New England island town and Tampa Florida to take on a shady juvenile detention camp. The book was our May Pick of the Month. We caught up with Ace on tour to do an e-mail interview with Ace about the book.

MysteryPeople: Isn’t the subject matter of Kickback something Robert B Parker was looking into himself for a Spenser novel?

Ace Atkins: I got the inspiration for the novel from a comment Bob made to his wife and a close friend shortly before his death. He said he was thinking about writing something about the old juvie jail in Boston Harbor. That’s pretty much all he said, but it definitely inspired me to continue the research for what became Kickback.

MP: What was the most shocking thing you found out about the business of incarceration when researching the book?

AA: That teens are being sent to jails for such petty offenses all over the U.S. This isn’t something relegated to the Northeast. We had a similar case in Mississippi where teens were being shopped off for small, small ridiculous stuff. The conditions of the jails were absolutely horrendous.

MP: I mentioned in my review that Spenser does a lot more detective work in the book. what moved you to write more on the gumshoe side of things?

AA: I want to stay in the Spenser tradition of writing with authenticity. Real detective work — what I know from doing investigative reporting — is a lot of records checking and a lot of nosing around. You don’t get good answers by just banging heads. Unless Spenser is pushed!

MP: Spenser and Hawk hit your old stomping ground of Tampa. What did you want to get across about the place?

AA: Bringing Spenser and Hawk to Tampa was really a nod to my old days of being a reporter in the city. As a young guy — in my 20s — I was a huge reader of Spenser and could never imagine I’d be the one continuing the tradition of this great series.

MP: In writing Spenser, is there anything you’ve learned about the character?

AA: Patience and being contained with emotions. I’m not saying I’m good at this, only that it’s a key part of understanding the character. Something we should all practice.

You can find copies of Robert B. Parker’s Kickback on our shelves and via Ace Atkins will be speaking and signing his latest novel, The RedeemersThursday, July 23rd, at 7 PM, on BookPeople’s second floor.