If you’re not reading Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series, you’re missing out in a big way. Trust me, change that right away.
Though the first book, The Ranger, was phenomenal, Atkins seems to get better with each new release, a trend that definitely continues with his latest installment—the ninth in his franchise—The Shameless. Here, Quinn finds himself at the center of controversy when reporters from New York travel to Tibbehah County, Mississippi, in search of a story that reaches back twenty years ago—long before Quinn was sheriff.
Two decades prior, a young boy went missing in the Big Woods. Weeks later, his body was found and his death was ruled a suicide. Now, though, those claims are being called into question, forcing Quinn to investigate the cold case himself, and what he finds is a bigger conspiracy that may involve a number of high-profile, powerful people who would much prefer the past stay in the past, and are even willing to kill to keep it that way.
Just ahead of the book’s release, Ace Atkins agreed to go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the plot idea for this one to who his favorite authors are. See the full Q&A below, then click here to get your copy of The Shameless, now available in bookstores everywhere.
TRBS: All feels right in the world when Quinn Colson is back in bookstores, and The Shameless is one of your best novels yet. How did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Atkins: “It doesn’t feel like summer unless I’m out on book tour for Quinn! It’s definitely become a tradition after almost ten years.
“This one has been brewing for a long time. I knew this was going to be a book about J.K. Vardaman and his quest to become the governor. The time just seemed right for a guy like Vardaman to emerge from the shadows and make a power grab. He’s been on Quinn’s radar for some time and his story is far from over. I wish I could say this guy was pure fiction. But there are too many guys out there like Vardaman these days. We just need more Quinn Colsons to stand up to them.”
TRBS: What kind of research did you have to do for this one before you could actually sit down and write?
Atkins: “Not as much research as I had to do for my four true crime novels. I researched those books six months or more before I’d start writing. With Quinn – at nine books in – I can often get right back into the story. There are always odd little details to figure out regarding the governor’s race or Choctaw Indian history and culture. But for the most part, I’m pretty up-to-date and invested in Quinn and company.”
TRBS: How far out do you plan your books? Do you focus entirely on the one you’re writing at the time, or do you consider what might happen down the road in future books too?
Atkins: “Oh, I definitely am thinking down the line. I am maybe three books ahead with the series – with planning – and that allows me to sketch out the major story points in Tibbehah County. Book ten is going to wrap up several storylines from several books. I can’t say much, but there are lots of unanswered questions in The Shameless.”
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what’s the last great book that you read?
Atkins: “Living authors? So many. James Lee Burke, C.J. Box, Joe Lansdale, Robert Crais, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Michael Connelly, and Lee Child. As far as my go-to favorites, I’d have to say Dutch Leonard, George Higgins, Hammett, Chandler, John D. MacDonald, and of course, Robert B. Parker. Not to mention my Southern favorites alive and dead like Charles Portis and Flannery O’Connor. I also have become a big fan of new writers David Joy and William Boyle.
“The last great book I read was by Boyle, A Friend Is A Gift You Give Yourself. It takes a lot to both surprise me and make me laugh out loud. I enjoyed every sentence. So many wonderful slices of dialogue I couldn’t even keep up. A knockout of a novel.”
TRBS: Lastly, now that The Shameless is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you?
Atkins: I’m just wrapping up my eighth Spenser novel for the Parker estate. It’s called “Angel Eyes” and takes Spenser back to the West coast, a favorite locale for Parker with many series characters we haven’t seen in some time. It’s always fun communing with Spenser. He’s an old pal.”
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.