Exploring the modern Western with bestselling crime novelist Ace Atkins

Photo by Joe Worthem
Photo by Joe Worthem

New York Times bestselling author Ace Atkins is set to release the fifth book in his Quinn Colson series, The Redeemers, this month. Atkins has written 17 novels to date, and has been deemed by bestselling author Michael Connelly as “one of the best crime writers at work today.” The Redeemers will hit shelves on Tuesday, July 21.

Atkins reads and signs The Redeemers at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe on Monday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m.

Mountain Xpress: What can you tell us about Quinn Colson’s latest adventure? What can Quinn Colson fans expect from The Redeemers?

Ace Atkins: So much of these books focus on this particular community — Tibbehah County — in North Mississippi. A lot of The Redeemers focuses on the relationships of the people there, both personal and political. The good, the bad and the ugly all believe they’re doing the right thing. I think for fans of cable dramas like “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones,” they’ll enjoy the Southern threads here. These books about Quinn and his family go beyond crime. It’s family, religion and politics. Everything that makes the South tick.

What makes Quinn Colson such a relatable and inspiring character? How does he exemplify a certain type of  “American hero,” as author C.J. Box refers to him?

To be honest, I don’t know if he’s relatable or inspiring. I think he’s tough and hardheaded. If readers are looking for a white hat, they may be disappointed. He’s a good man who tries to do the right thing, but often fails. He’s having an affair with a married woman and he has a strained relationship with his sister, who has substance abuse problems. I like him because he’s not easily dissuaded and goes against convention. He’s a veteran, but not a blind flag-waver. He hates hypocrisy above all else.

Jacket THE REDEEMERS

What is it about the deep South that you find to be such a rewarding location for your writing?

What’s great about the South is that you can love it and hate it. I love Southern food, music and literature. What I do not love are the typical Southern people you see on television, who are filled with so much hate. I do not love the backward notions of many politicians or so-called Christians. I hope Quinn and this series shows there are good people down here with progressive attitudes.

What aspects of your books do you think categorize them as crime novels?

To really simplify that, the book has crime in it. Quinn works in law enforcement. But again, if someone is looking for a simple action shoot-em-up, this isn’t it. It just happens to be the catalyst for the book, not the conversation.

What do you think is the place of Westernesque crime novels in literature today? 

I love Westerns. If anything, this series is a Western. If I did a search and replace on my computer, we could make that happen. Pickup trucks would become horses. I think Westerns are the quintessential American artform in literature and books. Maybe we’d call these Southerns.

What would you say to potential readers who usually wouldn’t pick up a book from the crime section?

Some of the best writers working today focus on crime — Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Megan Abbott. The list goes on. Subject matter doesn’t make literature. Good writers do.

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About Melissa Sibley
Melissa Sibley is from a tiny town near the coast of North Carolina called New Bern, and will be a senior next year at UNC Asheville. She is a Literature major with an emphasis on Creative Writing, and a Psychology minor. She plans to stay in Asheville after graduation and continue to work on her personal and public writing through internships/employment with local publications. Follow me @MissMelissaSib

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