- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Since Robert Knott took over Robert B. Parker’s Old West town tamers Hitch and Cole, he has added an authenticity to the series as well as a subtle examination of both men dealing with a world that is making them less relevant. This time the two are going after Driggs, a slick psychopath who broke out of prison with the warden’s wife as a hostage, and who has a history with Hitch. I look forward to introducing you all to Bob Friday, February 10th at 7 PM, when he will be at BookPeople with Reed Farrel Coleman. As you will see, even on a Q&A via e-mail, he can be entertaining.
MysteryPeople Scott: Driggs is one of the best bad men Hitch and Cole have come up against. How did he come about?
Robert Knott: I was walking down the Street in Brooklyn NY and came to Driggs Street. I stopped and said: that is him. That is my guy. The name alone rang a bell for me and I loved the idea of a powerful man to go with the name. Driggs is stoic, cunning, charismatic, effortless, a leader with little to no need for followers. Then of course he had to have a background. So I put all the darkest elements of his past and family and mixed them with the most capable of men, and that was him, that’s Driggs. I basically planted him and watched him grow.
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Debt To Pay is Reed Farrel Coleman’s latest novel to feature Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone, created by Robert B. Parker. It’s a great example of a simple plot that allows for complex characters and emotions, wherein Jesse has to go to Dallas to protect his ex-wife during her wedding when a psychotic hit man returns from Jesse’s past for revenge. We caught up with Reed to talk about the book and continuing Parker’s legacy.
“I think Jesse is no longer drawn to the bright lights and big city. He’s come to understand the charms of small town New England. In Paradise he’s much more than just another cog in the wheel. The department is his department and he takes pride in that.”
MysteryPeople Scott: Debt To Pay is a series-changing book in many ways and you put Jesse in an interesting situation in having to protect his ex-wife at her wedding. What did you want to do with Jesse in it?
Reed Farrel Coleman: When I first took over the series, I was taken aback at readers’ antipathy for Jesse’s ex, Jenn. Fans actually begged me to kill her off. I think part of that was plot fatigue. They were tired of Jesse and Jenn continually playing out their dysfunction. So I had the notion that Jenn and Jesse finally had to come to some parting of the ways that made sense and rehabilitated Jenn. Also, without giving too much away, I needed Jesse to start on the road to making some changes that will serve the series in the future. This book is kind of the beginning of those changes.
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The Highwayman by Craig Johnson
This novella featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire is as much ghost story as mystery. Walt and buddy Henry Standing Bear help out a Highway Patrolman who is receiving “officer needs assistance” calls from a trooper who died over thirty years ago. Johnson takes a unique riff on his entertaining series. The Highwayman comes out May 17th. Pre-order now!
Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn by Ace Atkins
Boston private eye Spenser is back and up against an uncommon enemy. Looking into the fire of a church, he closes on a group of arsonists with a mysterious agenda. Once again, Atkins delivers everything you expect from Robert B Parker’s hero. You can find copies of Slow Burn on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
St. Ernan’s Blues by Paul Charles
Irish Inspector Starrett and his colleagues must solve a murder with the most unusual suspects, priests in an Abbey where they have all been moved to for causing problems with The Church. A fun take on the classic whodunnit. You can meet Paul Charles with the authors who make up Miles Arceneux on May 11th. You can find copies of St. Ernan’s Blues on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Find out more about this event.
– Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
In his latest, Slow Burn, Ace Atkins continues the investigations of Robert B Parker’s Spenser. This time the Boston PI is up against a group of arsonists with an odd agenda. We cought up with Ace to talk about writing Spenser and this particular crime.
MysteryPeople Scott: You based this Spenser mystery on an an actual arson case. Can you talk about adapting the real situation for fiction?
Ace Atkins: I knew I wanted to take Spenser into the world of the Boston Fire Department but it took me a few months to find a worthy case for him to investigate. I had originally intended for the story to be about insurance fraud but I found out that these days property is too damn valuable to burn in the Boston area. (Years ago, the great George V. Higgins wrote a great book about that era called Rat on Fire.)
Once I learned about the arson ring working in the 1980s — and it was supposedly for the good of BFD — I knew I had a worthy case. I could have written an entire nonfiction book about the crew of crazies who came together to burn Boston back then. As they say, stranger than fiction. That’s why I often mine the truth for my novels.
MPS: What was the biggest challenge in dealing with arson as the crime?
AA: By far the hardest part was to make the investigation accurate without bogging down the story in technical details. I learned a lot of about forensics, etc but didn’t put much in the book. No one wants to read a technical Spenser book. I tried to make the investigation more about the people involved, not the evidence.
I had originally intended for the story to be about insurance fraud but I found out that these days property is too damn valuable to burn in the Boston area…Once I learned about the arson ring working in the 1980s — and it was supposedly for the good of BFD — I knew I had a worthy case. I could have written an entire nonfiction book about the crew of crazies who came together to burn Boston back then.
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Robert Knott, the author chosen to continue Robert B. Parker’s Western-detective mash-up series starring sheriffs Hitch and Cole, comes to visit to BookPeople tonight, Friday February 5th, at 7 PM. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest extension of the series, Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack.
Why post about an upcoming visit from the author of a Western novel on a mystery blog, you might ask? Well, as Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, a fan of all tough-guy fiction, explains below, the two genres may have more in common than you might think….
- Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, all quotes taken from interviews via email
G enres have always have conversations with one another. They find reinvention in themselves or each other from borrowing from one another. Few do it as much as the crime novel and the western.
“The historian Richard Slotkin is most famous for making the argument (and I believe he’s right) that the detective hero of hardboiled fiction is a literary descent of the Western or frontier hero,” says crime fiction author and expert Megan Abbott. “The dangerous frontier becomes the dangerous city, and the “savage” Native Americans are replaced by various “others” in hardboiled novels. Further, the Western or frontier hero is often a loner, someone who can mix in “both worlds” and who resists the “civilizing” influence of women–something else you can see in the detective hero.”
An argument can be made that the cross pollination came from first pulp and later paperback markets where both forms were highly popular. The markets fueled a populist readership from both urban and rural communities, demanding both escapism and something they could relate to. Authors like Max Brand, Zane Grey, Fredrick Nebel, and Raoul Whitfield usually worked in more than one genre. This lead to experimentation.
“I think when you’re talking about genre you’re talking about a contextual relationship with the reader, a line of commonality that’s something of an insider language,” says Craig Johnson, author of the lauded Sheriff Walt Longmire series. “That means it works on different levels and allows you to use as much or as little as you like.”
“The dangerous frontier becomes the dangerous city, and the “savage” Native Americans are replaced by various “others” in hardboiled novels. Further, the Western or frontier hero is often a loner, someone who can mix in “both worlds” and who resists the “civilizing” influence of women–something else you can see in the detective hero.”
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