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

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  • 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.

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If You Like Myron Bolitar & Win….

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780525955108Recently, Harlan Coben delivered a new Myron Bolitar novel, Home, after what seemed like a long wait. One of the keys to the success of this series is his relationship with his rich and lethal buddy, Win. If you like great banter with a sketchy sidekick who always has the hero’s back, here are three other crime fiction bromances I’d suggest. You can find copies of Coben’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Signed copies available!

Hugo Marston & Tom Green

Created by Mark Pryor

the booksellerFirst Book Together: The Bookseller

Hugo Marston, the square-jawed head of security at the American Embassy in Paris, has a sense of morality that could put a boy scout to shame. For morally ambiguous tasks, he often relies on a friend from his FBI days, Tom Green. Tom works with the CIA, has no filter and will drink anything in a bottle and chase anyone in a skirt. Anybody who has a dealt with a self destructive, yet entertaining friend will recognize these two.

Spenser and Hawk

Created by Robert Parker

9780440171973First Book Together: Promised Land

Hired gun Hawk was brought in by the bad guys during the fourth book in Robert B. Parker’s series to take on white knight PI Spenser. and ended up as the textbook detective-sidekick relationship. Whether written by creator Parker or torch carrier Ace Atkins, these books show how this kind relationship is done.

Easy Rawlins & Mouse

Created by Walter Mosley

devil in a blue dressFirst Book Together: Devil In A Blue Dress

Takes the peaceful-hero-violent-sidekick relationship to a higher, more complex level. While the sociopath buddy often allows the crime fiction hero’s hands to be clean with the results obtained, Easy is all too aware of his complicity in bringing Mouse into his dangerous games. It also shows how society and racism can push two unlikely people together.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

  • Interview and Introduction by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

Ace Atkins, in his Mississippi-set Quinn Colson series, has written an amazing series full of fascinating well-developed characters dealing with creative plotlines. Too often book series focus too much on character at the expense of an interesting plot, or are guilty of the opposite; in possession of a good plot but thinly developed characters.

I’ve been praising this series for several years and I marvel that, with his new book, The Innocents, Atkins has upped his game even further. For The Innocents, the sixth in the series, he has made some significant changes: namely, Quinn isn’t sheriff for this novel and there’s a disturbing image at the heart of the book.

If writing this series was all Atkins did that’d be enough for many. But Atkins was also tapped, in 2011, by the Robert Parker estate to continue the Spenser series. He’s done a great job and I count his Spenser books as better than Parker’s late period books. As long as Ace keeps cranking out books, for both good series, I’m going to keep reading him and I urge you do to the same.

Ace kindly agreed to an interview about his latest novel and his ever-growing body of work. He’ll be joining us at BookPeople this upcoming Saturday, July 16th, at 3 PM, to speak and sign his latest Quinn Colson novel, The Innocents

Scott Butki: Which came first with this book, the plot, the new characters and/or the striking image of a girl walking while on fire? And where DID that girl-walking-while-on-fire come from?

Ace Atkins: The image of the girl for sure. A similar crime happened here in north Mississippi in 2014. While this is in no way the telling of the Jessica Chambers story, the horrific crime certainly was the starting point for the book. For a long while, even while I was writing the novel, it seemed her murder would remain unsolved. Thankfully someone has now been charged with her killing and awaiting trial.

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Three Picks for May

9780735220898The 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!

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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

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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.comFind out more about this event

MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

In his latest, Slow BurnAce 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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MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: ROBERT B. PARKER’S KICKBACK by Ace Atkins

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By this point, everyone should know that Ace Atkins is the perfect caretaker for Spenser. He has captured Robert B. Parker’s Boston-based hero-for-hire in both attitude and action. Lately he appears to have taking a more relaxed approach, injecting his own sensibilities that mesh perfectly with Parker’s. His latest continuation of Spenser’s adventures, Kickback, continues to meld the two writing styles.

After her son has been incarcerated in a detention camp for a relatively harmless prank, a mother hires Spenser to look into it. Other boys with the same story have been sent by the same judge. Spenser follows the story to the town where the detention center is located, where he gets harassed by the local law. When he later learns of a connection to some mob types in Tampa, he takes along better protection than sunscreen: his streetwise ally Hawk.

Ace focuses on the detective side of Spenser’s skill-set; a side we don’t see often enough. Where in many of the books, he Spenser quickly learns the identity of the culprit, here, he has to piece together an answer from an entire system of corruption. He works his case methodically with smarts and wit, pushing his adversaries until they give him the information to lock a piece into place. It is refreshing to see him operate more as a classic private eye. If all of this sounds too cerebral, there are still plenty of gunfights.

Ace Atkins continues to deliver everything we want from a Spenser book and more. We get the action, banter with Hawk, and romance (that my hard boiled taste is starting to warm to) with Susan. Yet, instead of simply continuing Spenser’s adventures, Atkins is subtlety deepening aspects of the the character as an actual series writer does. I’m already looking forward to the next installment.


Robert B. Parker’s Kickback hits the shelves May 19th. Pre-order now! Ace Atkins comes to BookPeople this July – check out our events page closer to the date for more information!

HARD WORD BOOK CLUB HITS THE STREETS WITH SPENSER AND HIS NEW AUTHOR

robert parker lullaby

This month’s Hard Word Book Club looks at one of the most popular tough guys. Robert B Parker’s Spenser put a modern male spin on the classic private eye. He could braise a chicken and beat up a thug with equal skill. When Mr. Parker died, author Ace Atkins picked up the Spenser flame. Our April pick, Lullaby, is the first of Ace Atkins’ Spenser continuation.

Lullaby shows the Boston knight at his finest. Spenser helps a fourteen year old Southie girl find out who really killed her mother four years ago. The investigation leads to the remnants of the gang run by his classic nemesis, Joe Broz. With his tough-as-the-streets partner, Hawk, Spenser gets justice.

Ace will be calling into our discussion to cover topics such as defining the modern hero and the experience of taking over an iconic character from an other author. Join us at 7PM, Wednesday, April 29th on our third floor. The book is 10% off at the register to those who attend. Our book for May will be Joe R. Lansdale’s The Thicket, with the author calling in. Both Ace Atkins and Joe R. Lansdale come to BookPeople this summer! Keep an eye on BookPeople’s events calendar for more information closer to the date.

Ten Books To Look Forward To in 2015

With great noteworthy novels like Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Bishop’s Wife and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train already coming out, 2015 could bring a plethora of crime fiction treasure. From new additions to old series, to new editions of old series, and debuts from many promising novelists, here are some books to look out for during this new year.


1. Canary by Duane Swierczynski

Swierczynski always knows how to spin a great yarn. This one, about a college girl forced to be an informant for an ambitious Philly narcotics detective, is one of his finest. A bit more realistic than his previous work, he gives us his humor, pace, and sharply defined characters at a more streetwise level. Canary hits the shelves February 24th. Pre-order now.

2. Hush, Hush by Laura Lippman

Tess Monaghan returns. After three years, and now a mother with a new partner (Sandy Sanchez, the protagonist of Lippman’s excellent 2014 book, After I’m Gone), the Baltimore PI is thrown into a case dealing with parenthood, the insanity defense, and reality TV. Lippman’s work has proved she is one of the best writers in the field and it will be great to have a fully formed PI heroine like Tess back. Hush, Hush hits the shelves February 24th. Pre-order now.

3. Where All The Light Tends To Go by David Joy

Already the front runner for best debut of 2015. A young North Carolina man is caught between his love for a girl and his quest to get out of their small town and the dark shadow of his father’s criminal business. Poetic and poignant with sudden bursts of cold violence, Joy uses voice and character to speak directly and emotionally to his readers. Where All The Light Tends To Go hits the shelves March 3rd. Pre-order now.

4. GHB by Ted Lewis

Syndicate Books will be reprinting this hard-to-find British crime novel about a smut kingpin rooting out those responsible for bringing down his empire. Syndicate’s reissues of Lewis’ tough and terse Jack Carter trilogy have me primed for GBH, his final and often considered finest work. GBH hits the shelves March 3rd. Pre-order now.

5.Lady From Zagreb by Phillip Kerr

Kerr brings back Bernie Gunther. This time the German wartime private eye is forced to do a favor for Joseph Goebbels that deals with the Nazi film industry and Croatia. Few weave plot, period, character, and thematics together as well as Kerr. Lady From Zagreb hits the shelves April 7th. Pre-order now.

6. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge by Terry Shames

The latest Samuel Craddock mystery has the widowed small town chief of police trying to help his neighbor, Jenny Sandstone when she is threatened. In order to help, he must delve into a past she wants kept private. Shames has hinted at the possibility of these to developing a deeper relationship, so this could be a game changer in one hell of a well written series. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge hits the shelves April 15th. Pre-order now.

7. Robert B. Parker’s Kickback by Ace Atkins

Spenser and Hawk are hired to look into a questionable reform camp it’s connection to a questionable judge. Atkins has taken on the Spenser character without missing a beat; bringing him back to full glory. Robert B. Parker’s Kickback hits the shelves May 19th. Pre-order now.

6. The Reluctant Matador by Mark Pryor

Hugo Marston leaves Paris for Spain, with CIA buddy Tom Green, to track down a friend’s missing daughter. I’m sure this book will turn into something else with plenty of surprise, action, and banter between Marston and Green. Kickback hits the shelves June 2nd. Pre-order now.

9. Shaker by Scott Frank

The premise of Shaker immediately intrigued me. A hitman’s life is thrown into violent chaos when he’s mistaken for a hero. What really has me anticipating it, is that it will be the debut novel of Scott Frank, the screenwriter who adapted Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, and A Walk Among The Tombstones and whose directing debut The Lookout was one of the best crime movies in the last ten years. This could be the debut of a great new author in the genre. August. Shaker hits the shelves in August 2015. Pre-order now.

10. Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Last year, Reed Farrel Coleman wrapped up one of the best mystery series with his Moe Prager character. This fall he will introduce us to his new creation, Gus Murphy, a retired Suffolk County cop turned private detective. Coleman always delivers, with an engaging plot and character as well as a poetic look at human emotion. Where It Hurts hits the shelves in autumn. We’ll bring you more details as it gets closer to the date.


MP Review: WONDERLAND by ACE ATKINS

Last year, Ace Atkins continued Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series with Lullaby. He captured the voice of the urban knight for hire, coming as close to Parker’s portrayal as anybody could. In his follow up, Wonderland, he picks up where Parker left off in his last Spenser novel, Sixkill.

Henry Cimoli, an old boxer who runs the water front gym, asks Spenser for help. A gambling tycoon wants the property his condo is on for a casino and some thugs have been sent to move negotiations along with him or the other seniors who are holding out. Since his usual back up, Hawk is out of the country Spenser uses Sixkill; the Cree Indian bodyguard he’s been mentoring. It’s not long before the two are up against both the Boston and Vegas mob and one of the major players are murdered.

Much of the story deals with Sixkill. Early on, he is roughed up my some of the goons, with his pride being damaged as much as his body. The beating makes him wonder if he’s cut out for this life and if not, what life is he cut out for. Spenser uses the case to test Sixkill and hopefully save him.

Like Lullaby, Wonderland has echoes of Early Autumn, a Spenser book that is a favorite of Ace’s. While in that book he’s helping a young man find direction in his life, here he’s mentoring someone how to deal with a life like his own. It seems we learn the most about Spenser when he his teaching.

In Lullaby, Atkins confronted Spenser with changing times. In Wonderland we see him dealing with by passing what he knows and believes down to the next generation. All of this is done subtlety under some masterful plotting, fun quips and well-defined action scenes. He has taken the last major character Parker created in the series and used him to introduce a new phase in Spenser’s life. It looks likes it’s still going to be one worth following.

Join us as we welcome Ace Atkins to BookPeople to speak about and sign Wonderland, as well as his new Quinn Colson novel, Broken Places, on Friday, May 31 at 7PM.