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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Read the opening extract of the brand new Susie Steiner book before its publication on 05/04/2018

The Ranger by Ace Atkins

The Ranger

Part of the Quinn Colson Series
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The Ranger, first in a new series featuring Quinn Colson an ex-army Ranger adjusting to life in a rugged and corrupt Mississippi town, is a contemporary book with a dash of classic western and noir. This exciting thriller was shortlisted for the prestigious Edgar Best Novel Award in 2012 and is highly recommended.

The author, Ace Atkins, is much admired by other crime authors such as Michael Connelly and Elmore Leonard and it is easy to see why once you start reading.

Click here to view Ace Atkins' new book, The Lost Ones.

If you like Ace Atkins you might also like to read books by Lee Child, Will Jordan and C.J. Box.

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The Ranger by Ace Atkins

Northeast Mississippi is hill country, rugged and notorious for outlaws since the Civil War, where killings are as commonplace as they were in the Old West. To Quinn Colson, just back from a tour of Afghanistan, it's home. But home has changed. Quinn returns to a place overrun by corruption. His uncle, the county sheriff, is dead - officially it was suicide, but others whisper murder. In the days that follow, it will be up to Colson, now an Army Ranger, to discover the truth - not only about his uncle, but also about his family, friends, hometown and himself. But once the truth is uncovered, there is no turning back.


'I have always been impressed with (jealous of) how easy Ace Atkins makes it look. The Ranger is by far his best work...I hope Quinn Colson and Lillie Virgil stick around for a good long time.' -- Michael Connelly

'This exciting thriller leaves you looking forward to the ranger's return.' Sunday Telegraph

'Atkins is one of the finest crime and thriller writers working today, admired by none other than Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly, and this, his ninth thriller, proves his talent...Superbly told, in whip-crack prose that echoes Leonard, you never want it to end.' Daily Mail

'Atkins can run rings around most of the names in the crime field. -- Elmore Leonard Atkins has written a bunch of great thrillers, but this one sets up a series that should push him to the top of the bestseller list.' -- John Sandford

About the Author

Ace Atkins

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.

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Publication date

5th September 2013


Ace Atkins

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Corsair an imprint of Constable and Robinson


368 pages


Action Adventure / Spy
Books for the Boys
Thriller / Suspense
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Crime & mystery



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