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Ace Atkins - Author

About the Author

A former journalist who cut his teeth as a crime reporter in the newsroom of The Tampa Tribune, Ace Atkins published his first novel, Crossroad Blues, at 27 and became a full-time novelist at 30. While at the Tribune, Ace earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series based on his investigation into a forgotten murder of the 1950s. The story became the core of his critically acclaimed novel, White Shadow, which earned raves from noted authors and critics. In his next novels, Wicked City, Devil's Garden, and Infamous, blended first-hand interviews and original research into police and court records with tightly woven plots and incisive characters. The historical novels told great American stories by weaving fact and fiction into a colorful, seamless tapestry.Ace lives on a historic farm outside Oxford, Mississippi with his family.

 

Author photo © Joe Worthem

 

Below is a Q&A with Ace Atkins on THE RANGER

1.    You’ve spent the last seven years creating crime novels based on true events, with White Shadow, Wicked City, Devil’s Garden and Infamous. What brought you back to contemporary series fiction in The Ranger?
The idea of kicking off a new series actually started with my long-time editor, Neil Nyren. Neil edits John Sandford, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Crais, Tom Clancy and Randy Wayne White to name a few. So when he requests that you start a series, you take the idea very seriously.

The first four books of my career were series fiction, and I’m a huge fan of the form. I felt like my standalone novels had allowed me to grow, however, and develop new skills. It was just a good time to go back to the well, especially since I had been playing with a Mississippi-based character like Quinn in my head for a few years now.

2.    So where did Quinn Colson come from, and what makes him someone you wanted to follow?
For the first time in decades, we’re seeing a mass of young men and women returning home from the frontlines of war. These soldiers have experienced things that make a transition back to normal life nearly impossible. I am fortunate enough to know a lot of them, from barely 20-year-old enlisted guys to officers who are my age, and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices they’ve all made.

So many people of my generation and younger are completely wrapped up in trivial things. Our big problems aren’t really problems when you consider the state of the world. But there’s a subset of us who are different, who are truly heroes: the American soldier. Who better to serve as our fictional hero? And when I thought about the best soldiers, I knew that my hero had to have been a Ranger. They have a deep, rich history that goes back before the Revolution.

3.    Did you have much help in getting Quinn’s Army background correct?
As luck would have it, as I began thinking about the series, I heard from an Army colonel serving in Afghanistan who’d just finished reading Devil’s Garden at Camp Phoenix. Through our emails, we became fast friends, with a mutual respect of classic crime, noir and good cigars. He put me in touch with a colleague, a former Ranger who’d taken part in several missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That Ranger ended up being my advisor for this novel and helped me to ensure that Quinn’s background, skills and experiences were true. These guys pride themselves on being great woodsmen. And that’s perfect for a place as remote as Tibbehah County.


4.    Tell us a little about Jericho, Mississippi and Tibbehah County, where the Quinn Colson novels are set. Is this a real place?
Tibbehah County could be several different counties in northeast Mississippi. I’ve borrowed from several and made my own county to explore. I wanted a county that would essentially be a throwback to old times, something as lawless and corrupt as a town from the Old West. I mean, if you really want to break down this series, it’s a contemporary Western. And yes, places like Tibbehah County really exist in Mississippi. Highway strip clubs, thieving politicians, meth dealers, corruption, plenty of people willing to look the other way, and some really great catfish joints, too. I read the local newspapers for story ideas and listen to gossip. Tibbehah County is based on four counties that surround where I live and I’ve take all the best – or worst – of each.

5.    So far, The Ranger is built on the experiences of real people, set in a real place. What about its fictional influences? What kind of popular culture is at work in The Ranger?
I am a huge fan of the gritty realism of early 1970s filmmaking. Some of my favorite films of that period were set in the South, everything from Deliverance to Walking Tall. There was also a movement of films now known as Hixploitation films that I love. That includes cult films such as Billy Jack, Mr. Majestyk and White Lightning. Many of these films center on a soldier back from the front facing hard times as home. The premise was that simple and very attractive to me to take into current times.

6.    From Quinn and his troubled sister Caddy to pregnant Lena walking a “fur piece” to find “Jody,” The Ranger is peppered with William Faulkner references. What influence does Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha County have on your modern crime novel?
First off, Faulkner was not only one of the greatest novelists of the 20th Century, he was also one of the greatest crime novelists.  Intruder in the Dust and Sanctuary are the obvious examples, but Absalom, Absalom and Light in August also have terrific elements now found in the modern crime novel. He also wrote several gripping short mysteries featuring attorney Gavin Stevens. Living in Oxford, you can’t help but soak up these influences; that’s the main reason I live here. People also forget that Faulkner wrote the screenplay to The Big Sleep and was very close to Dashiell Hammett. So you’ll find a lot of Chandler and Hammett and Faulkner in my novels, since those are the guys I’ve been soaking into my brain for the last 20 years or so.

But sure, starting a book with a wandering pregnant girl named Lena and having a bad guy named Gowrie was no coincidence.

7.    What makes this novel different from the thousands of crime novels published every year?
I think the authentic Southern setting makes a big difference.  It’s definitely different than the moonlight and magnolias South seen in most Hollywood movies or in books. This is a pretty gritty world that I try to represent with the utmost accuracy. My favorite films and books are rooted in the real world, and I appreciate authors who get it right. I could drive within 10 miles of my house and show you the real Tibbehah County. I could tell you dozens of recent stories like the ones you find in The Ranger. And I could introduce you to dozens of guys like Quinn and his friend, Boom.

8.    Boom is one of the most intriguing characters in The Ranger. He’s a wounded veteran who’s definitely having a tough time making a go of it on the home front. How did he come about?
I think a lot of what Boom is going through came from the excellent Washington Post series about the troubles at Walter Reed hospital, and everything we’ve heard and read about battlefield injuries since then. I read about the hundreds of amputees returning home with physical and psychological scars. Thanks to advances in battlefield medicine, they had survived explosions and wounds that would’ve definitely killed them just 20 years earlier. Obviously, that’s wonderful, but what happens next after literally cheating death? Some of them fight back and go on to be recertified to fire weapons and serve, according to a story I read. But many others face a constant struggle to find their place in society after returning home changed forever. I did not want to water down Boom’s experience or his handicap. I wanted someone to accurately represent them in a true and heroic way.

9.    Meth seems to be a consistent plague in rural areas of America. We’ve seen it addressed in countless news stories and even in an Oscar-nominated film, Winter’s Bone. What made you drew you to the epidemic?
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life in the Deep South. A major methamphetamine operation was broken up by the local sheriff’s office only a couple miles from my house. It’s a cheap high that anyone can make with ingredients from their kitchen sink and some Sudafed. The laws are just getting some teeth in them to help with the problem but not before it’s ruined countless lives. From a storyteller’s point of view, these guys are about the same as the old moonshine runners. There’s a lot of money in a cheap high. And with the money comes the violence and crime.

10.    What draws you to crime fiction? Why not a family drama or a coming-of-age tale?
Well, I think The Ranger actually is a family drama and a coming-of-age tale, and, I hope, a black comedy. I think the possibilities of crime fiction are limitless.

Hero-driven books are the most pure form of storytelling, from the ancient epics to today. In taking readers on the journey of the hero, you get to give a hell of a lot of social commentary. I think the best writers working today are crime writers. We are able to do the job of a novelist with less pretension and navel-gazing. There are wrongs to be righted and much to be learned on the journey.

11.    When will we see a return of Quinn, Boom, and Lillie?
I am halfway into the second book in the series, set for release in summer 2012. One of the most important parts of writing a series is making sure you’ve found a world and characters that have not only a lot of story possibilities but who you also love and respect.  I think The Ranger is just the jumping off point for these guys. They’re young and tough, and there is a ton of corruption and hidden secrets to uncover down in Tibbehah County.

Featured books by Ace Atkins

The Broken Places

The Broken Places

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/2014

A year after becoming sheriff, Quinn Colson is faced with the release of an infamous murderer from prison. Jamey Dixon comes back to Jericho preaching redemption, and some believe him; but for the victim's family, the only thought is revenge. Another group who doesn't believe him - the men in prison from Dixon's last job, an armored car robbery. They're sure he's gone back to grab the hidden money, so they do the only thing they can: break out and head straight to Jericho themselves. Colson and his deputy, Lillie, know they've got their work cut out for them. But they don't count on one more unwelcome visitor: a tornado that causes havoc just as events come to a head. Communications are down, the roads are impassable - and the rule of law is just about to snap.

ebook of the month
The Lost Ones

The Lost Ones

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/2014

When Army Ranger Quinn Colson, the new sheriff of Tebbehah County, is called out to investigate a child abuse case, what he finds is a horrifying scene of neglect, thirteen empty cribs, and a shoe box full of money. Janet and Ramon Torres seem to have skipped town - but Colson's sure they'll come back for the cash. Meanwhile, Colson's sister has returned - clean and sober for good she says. His friend Boom has been drinking himself into oblivion and picking fights at the local bar. And his old flame is pregnant. But Colson can't focus on his personal problems. He and Deputy Lillie Virgil are convinced that Janet and Ramon have a taste for guns, drugs, and human trafficking. Soon Colson and Virgil find a link between the fugitive couple and a drug cartel that controls most of the Texas border, taking their investigation far beyond the rough hills of northeast Mississippi...

ebook of the month

Other books by Ace Atkins

The Shameless

The Shameless

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 09/07/2019

New revelations on a notorious local cold case raise ghosts of the past in the newest thriller from New York Times-bestselling author Ace Atkins. Twenty years ago, teenager Brandon Taylor walked into the Big Woods north of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, and never returned. For former Army Ranger-turned-sheriff Quinn Colson, the Taylor case has particular meaning. As a ten-year-old, Colson had been lost in those same woods, and came back from them alive and a local legend. Years later, bones of a child are found in the woods, confirming for many the end to the Taylor story. As the case reopens, some point fingers to Quinn's uncle, the former sheriff, who took his own life in a cloud of corruption and shame. Still, Quinn's wife, Maggie, can't believe it. As a childhood friend of the Taylor boy, she thinks there's a darker conspiracy at work. Letters she receives from a mysterious inmate at a Tennessee state pen may hold the answers. With a heated election for governor on the horizon and the strengthening of a criminal syndicate's death grip on the state, Quinn's search for answers will upset the corruption that's plagued his home since before he came back from Afghanistan. Greed, false piety, power, bigotry, and dirty deals make for a dangerous mix he knows all too well.

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 25/04/2019

The Sinners

The Sinners

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/02/2019

'Atkins's Quinn Colson series is, quite simply, the best in crime fiction today - and also so much more . . . unforgettable' Megan Abbott The Pritchards had never been worth a damn - an evil, greedy family who made their living dealing drugs and committing mayhem. Years ago, Colson's late uncle had put the clan's patriarch in prison, but now he's getting out, with revenge, power, and family business on his mind. To make matters worse, a shady trucking firm with possible ties to the Gulf Coast syndicate has moved into Tibbehah, and they have their own methods of intimidation. With his longtime deputy Lillie Virgil now working up in Memphis, Quinn Colson finds himself having to fall back on some brand-new deputies to help him out, but with Old West-style violence breaking out, and his own wedding on the horizon, this is without a doubt Colson's most trying time as sheriff. Cracks are opening up all over the county, and shadowy figures are crawling out through them - and they're all heading directly for him.

The Sinners

The Sinners

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 05/07/2018

The Pritchards had never been worth a damn--an evil, greedy family who made their living dealing drugs and committing mayhem. Years ago, Colson's late uncle had put the clan's patriarch in prison, but now he's getting out, with revenge, power, and family business on his mind. To make matters worse, a shady trucking firm with possible ties to the Gulf Coast syndicate has moved into Tibbehah, and they have their own methods of intimidation. With his longtime deputy Lillie Virgil now working up in Memphis, Quinn Colson finds himself having to fall back on some brand-new deputies to help him out, but with Old West-style violence breaking out, and his own wedding on the horizon, this is without doubt Colson's most trying times as sheriff. Cracks are opening up all over the county, and shadowy figures are crawling out through them - and they're all heading directly for him.

Crossroad Blues: A Nick Travers Graphic Novel

Crossroad Blues: A Nick Travers Graphic Novel

Author: Ace Atkins, Marco Finnegan, Chris Brunner Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/05/2018

After a New Orleans college professor goes missing while searching for the rumored lost recordings of bluesman Robert Johnson-who, as legend has it, sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads-Nick Travers is sent to find him. Clues point to everyone from an eccentric albino named Cracker to a hitman who believes he is the second coming of Elvis Presley. From the Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist turned New York Times Bestselling author, ACE ATKINS, and artist MARCO FINNEGAN, comes a thrilling tale of crime and mystery that brings the history of the Blues and the Mississippi Delta to life on every page. 6 x 9 trade paperback trim size.

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic

Author: Ace Atkins Format: eBook Release Date: 01/05/2018

Iconic, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the black market art scene to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime of dangerous proportions.The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston's premier art museums. Most thought the art was lost forever, buried deep, sold off overseas, or, worse, destroyed as incriminating evidence. But when paint chips from the most valuable piece stolen, Gentlemen in Black by a Spanish master, arrives at the desk of a Boston journalist, the museum finds hope and enlists Spenser's help. Soon the cold art case thrusts Spenser into the shady world of black market art dealers, aged Mafia bosses, and old vendettas. A five-million-dollar-reward by the museum's top benefactor, an aged, unlikable Boston socialite, sets Spenser and pals Vinnie Morris and Hawk onto a trail of hidden secrets, jailhouse confessions, and decades-old murders. Set against the high-society art scene and the low-life back alleys of Boston, this is classic Spenser doing what he does best.

The Fallen

The Fallen

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 30/01/2018

Mississippi sheriff Quinn Colson had to admit he admired the bank robbers. A new bank was hit almost every week, and the robbers rushed in and out with such skill and precision it reminded him of raids he'd led back in Afghanistan and Iraq when he was an army ranger. In fact, it reminded him so much of the techniques in the Ranger Handbook that he couldn't help wondering if the outlaws were former Rangers themselves. And that was definitely going to be a problem. If he stood any chance of catching them, he was going to need the help of old allies, new enemies, and a lot of luck. The enemies he had plenty of. It was the allies and the luck that were going to be in woefully short supply.

The Innocents

The Innocents

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 06/07/2017

She was just 17, a high school dropout named Milly Jones, found walking down the middle of the highway, engulfed in flames. Even in a tough Mississippi county like Tibbehah, it shatters the community, and it is up to Sheriff Quinn Colson, back on the job after a year away, and his deputy Lillie Virgil, to investigate what happened, and why. Before long, however, accusations start to fly; national media and federal authorities descend; and what seemed like a senseless act of violence begins to appear like something even more disturbing - with more victims waiting in the shadows.

Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies

Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies

Author: Ace Atkins Format: eBook Release Date: 02/05/2017

Boston PI Spenser and right hand Hawk follow a con man's trail of smoke and mirrors in this thrilling entry in Robert B. Parker's long-running series.Connie Kelly thought she'd found her perfect man on an online dating site. She fell so hard for handsome, mysterious M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment. But within weeks, both Welles and her money are gone. Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser's card...A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows speaking with authority about politics and world events. When he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge. Enter Spenser, who quickly discovers that Welles' name, resume, and client list are nothing but an elaborate fraud. As he follows the mystery man's trail from Boston to backroads Georgia, Spenser will need help from trusted allies Hawk and Teddy Sapp to make sure Welles's next con is his last.

Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn

Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 23/03/2017

The Innocents

The Innocents

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 12/07/2016

She was just 17, a high school dropout named Milly Jones, found walking down the middle of the highway, engulfed in flames. Even in a tough Mississippi county like Tibbehah, it shatters the community, and it is up to Sheriff Quinn Colson, back on the job after a year away, and his deputy Lillie Virgil, to investigate what happened, and why. Before long, however, accusations start to fly; national media and federal authorities descend; and what seemed like a senseless act of violence begins to appear like something even more disturbing - with more victims waiting in the shadows.

Nick Travers Last Fair Deal Gone Down

Nick Travers Last Fair Deal Gone Down

Author: Ace Atkins, Marco Finnegan, Chris Brunner Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 10/05/2016

From New York Times Bestselling author, Ace Atkins, comes the graphic novel adaptation of his Edgar Award - nominated short story featuring New Orleans blues historian/detective Nick Travers. It's Christmas in New Orleans. For many, it's the best season of the year. But instead of spending time with the people he cares about, Nick Travers is searching for the killer of his friend, Fats, one of the best saxophone players you could find in the Crescent City. At first it appears that Fats took his own life, but Nick quickly discovers that the saxophone is missing from Fats' apartment and he hits the streets to track it down. He soon learns that there is more to the story than a simple suicide, and the woman who Fats had been paying to keep him company may hold the answers. Last Fair Deal Gone Down will be the first in a series of Nick Travers graphic novel adaptations from 12-Gauge Comics- introducing the character and his stories to a brand new audience.

Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn

Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn

Author: Ace Atkins Format: eBook Release Date: 03/05/2016

Boston PI Spenser faces a hot case and a personal crisis in this adventure in Ace Atkins' iconic New York Timesbestselling series.The fire at a boarded-up Catholic church raged hot and fast, lighting up Boston's South End and killing three firefighters who were trapped in the inferno. A year later, as the city prepares to honor their sacrifice, there are still no answers about how the deadly fire started. Most at the department believe it was just a simple accident: faulty wiring in a century-old building. But Boston firefighter Jack McGee, who lost his best friend in the blaze, suspects arson. McGee is convinced department investigators aren't sufficiently connected to the city's lowlifes to get a handle on who's behind the blazeso he takes the case to Spenser. Spenser quickly learns not only that McGee might be right, but that the fire might be linked to a rash of new arsons, spreading through the city, burning faster and hotter every night. Spenser follows the trail of fires to Boston's underworld, bringing him, his trusted ally Hawk, and his apprentice Sixkill toe-to-toe with a dangerous new enemy who wants Spenser dead, and doesn't play by the city's old rules. Spenser has to find the firebug before he kills againand stay alive himself.

The Redeemers

The Redeemers

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/04/2016

He is only in his early thirties, but now Quinn Colson is jobless - voted out of office as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, thanks to the machinations of county kingpin Johnny Stagg. He has offers, in bigger and better places, but before he goes, he's got one more job to do - bring down Stagg's criminal operations for good. At least that's the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, a trio of criminals stage a bold, wall-smashing break-in at the home of a local lumber mill owner, making off with a million dollars in cash from his safe, which is curious, because the mill owner is wealthy - but not that wealthy. None of this has anything to do with Colson, but during the investigation, two men are killed, one of them the new sheriff. His friend, acting sheriff Lillie Virgil, and a dangerous former flame, Anna Lee Stevens, both ask him to step in, and reluctantly he does, only to discover that that safe contained more than just money - it held secrets. Secrets that could either save Colson - or destroy him once and for all.

Robert B. Parker's Kickback

Robert B. Parker's Kickback

Author: Ace Atkins, Robert B. Parker Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 25/02/2016

The Forsaken

The Forsaken

Author: Ace Atkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 03/09/2015

Thirty-six years ago, a nameless black man wandered into Jericho, Mississippi, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a pair of paratrooper boots. Less than two days later, he was accused of rape and murder, hunted down by a self-appointed posse, and lynched. Now evidence has surfaced of his innocence, and county sheriff Quinn Colson sets out not only to identify the stranger's remains, but to charge those responsible for the lynching. As he starts to uncover old lies and dirty secrets, though, he runs up against fierce opposition from those with the most to lose - and they can play dirty themselves. Soon Colson will find himself accused of terrible crimes, and the worst part is, the accusations just might stick. As the two investigations come to a head, it is anybody's guess who will prevail - or even come out of it alive.