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Ace Atkins on His Latest Quinn Colson Mystery

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We were thrilled to host Ace Atkins as one of our first in-store author events! His most recent novel, THE FALLEN, returns to the story of Mississippi sheriff Quinn Colson, back in a classic southern tale of backroom deals, tainted honor, dysfunctional family, high-stakes greed -- and everyday heroism. We chatted with Atkins about his new book, the writing life, and what he’s reading now!


Can you share a little bit about what drew you to writing crime novels?

I've always been a fan of hero-driven books and film, whether they were Westerns, crime novels or 70s action flicks like THE FRENCH CONNECTION or WHITE LIGHTNING. I always liked the idea of an honest hero facing tough odds in a corrupt world. As I got older -- and worked several years as a crime reporter in Florida -- I realized these novels were built on a lot of truth. I definitely learned to share the worldview of these books and films -- that the world can be a corrupt and greedy place but to never give up the fight.

Where did the idea for THE FALLEN originate?

I read a hell of an interesting story a few years ago about some active U.S. Army Rangers on the West Coast who'd robbed a bank. They used their skill and training to pull off the heist at a speed most professional criminals could never imagine. I filed the story away and knew it would come in handy for a future Quinn book. In my story, they became a group of former Marines who were bored and disillusioned with life back home and wanted to return to some action.

A lot of their motivation was influenced by Sebastian Junger's outstanding nonfiction book, THE TRIBE. The Marines in my book have the same issues as a lot of former military folks, missing the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves and working as a tight-knit unit. Junger interviewed a lot of former soldiers who faced depression and disillusionment because normal society was such a let-down to the importance and rush of being in war.

Your protagonist, Quinn Colson, is an Army Ranger who fought in Afghanistan. Did developing him as a character require an amount of research? Did his evolution as a character throughout the series go as you originally imagined?

I went to high school and college in Auburn, Alabama -- not far at all from famed Fort Benning, home of the Ranger Regiment. I was very familiar with the culture and history of the Rangers going back before the American Revolution. But to make Quinn a modern and accurate modern-day Ranger, I was fortunate enough to get to know a young Ranger lieutenant, who in the words of a mutual pal, had "been there and done that." Much of Quinn's military background is based on his personal experiences. More than anything, I wanted Quinn to be an average former soldier -- not a superhero.

Quinn has certainly evolved throughout the series. But at his core, he's still the laconic gunfighter of old I wanted to see return to modern society.

You have an ear for dialogue, especially Southern dialogue. Any tricks for capturing dialogue for the page?

Much appreciated. Dialogue is where I definitely have the most fun and it doesn't get better than writing for Southerners. My trick for capturing dialogue is pretty simple -- keep your ears open and listen. I hear so much great stuff on the Square here in Oxford, Mississippi. And especially at our local Walmart. There is a Faulkner novel on every damn aisle!

You started out as a reporter and still occasionally write for magazines like Outside and Garden and Gun? How has reporting shaped your fiction?

It's the best training in the world. Going back to dialogue, it makes you write real people and not characters. I learned so much from not only writing down quotes but also reading court transcripts or FBI files. But covering daily news also give you a real sense of the way a town works, from the police to the local politicians to the power brokers. I was quite fortunate to be in the newsroom during the twilight of that business.

Can you share with us a little about your writing practice?

I keep an office away from my home and do much of my work there. On the very best days, I usually work out or run, grab an extra tall coffee and get to my desk. I'm a creature of habit and being in a good routine helps a lot. Unless I am under deadline, I try to avoid work on Sundays. Hemingway said he was very superstitions about taking off the Sabbath.

Our readers love books! What books are you reading and loving now?

Well, I love your readers! Obviously the finest folks in Dallas. Some new recs. You bet. I'm always jugging my reading between my writing. I only wish I had more time to catch up. I just read Frank Bill's new book - THE SAVAGE -- a dystopian redneck adventure that's just terrific. I also am a fan of David Joy, whose second novel, THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD, just came out earlier this year, and William Boyle, who wrote a killer noir called GRAVESEND. I am also looking to read anything by the great Megan Abbott, Don Winslow and C.J. Box. I also loved Lisa Unger's new book, THE RED HUNTER. And I always return to my heroes: Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins and Robert B. Parker.

Are you working on anything new? What's next after THE FALLEN?

Speaking of Robert B. Parker, I'm working on the new Spenser for the Parker estate. It's about the world of high-end art theft. Very different from the world of four-wheelers and jacked-up trucks in my Quinn Colson novels. But alternating between Boston and the Deep South keeps both series fresh. It's fun to work on very different worlds.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with Interabang's readers?

Yep. I'm truly honored to be one of the first authors at Interabang and look forward to this becoming an annual stop for a good long while.

The Fallen Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780399576713
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - July 18th, 2017