By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Friends and fans of detective novelist Ace Atkins toasted him Thursday with the release of his newest book and his rank on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list the third week in a row.
Forty-one-year-old Atkins launched his new novel, “The Lost Ones,” to a celebratory crowd at Square Books, just the second stop on a 13-city tour for the story set in the fictional Northeast Mississippi county of Tibbeha.
“Tibbeha is a lot of Chickasaw, Union and Calhoun counties,” he confessed while signing books late in the afternoon.
Thursday night’s launch party came with salsa and margaritas in keeping with the book’s plot about a Mexican gun-trafficking gang.
Not so subtly woven in are two characters – Janet and Ramon Torres, who bear a striking resemblance to Union County fugitives Janet and Ramon Barreto.
The Barretos were indicted in 2008 on charges of child endangerment, child abuse and manslaughter by culpable negligence in the death of their 2-year-old adopted daughter. They reportedly fled Mississippi for Mexico after Janet Barreto faced charges of witness tampering.
May marks their third year on the lam.
“I knew I had to tell that story the minute I read the news reports about them,” Atkins. “I really didn’t have to go too far to fictionalize them.”
Atkins, who lives on a farm outside Oxford with his wife, Angela, and their two young sons, holds a No. 16 slot on the NYT hardcover fiction list with “Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby,” a rebirth of the well-known Spenser series after Atkins was hand-picked to do so by Parker’s family after the writer’s 2010 death.
“Lullaby,” released with fanfare May 1, broke out in the No. 6 slot, then went to No. 12 last week.
He admits a near lifelong obsession for Parker’s work and owns all 39 Spenser novels, many first editions.
Somehow, he managed to write both new books, although he worked on just one at a time. “The Lost Ones” is the 11th novel for the former Tampa Tribune crime reporter.
Square Books owner Richard Howorth said Atkins is the county’s first on the NYT list since John Grisham.
“The Lost Ones” is the second Atkins has written with fictional protagonist Quinn Colson, a rough-edged young man home from 10 years as a U.S. Army Ranger.
His first Colson book, “The Ranger,” was a finalist for the Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America