Atkins pens new novel, signs Wednesday

By Lanie Anderson, Oxford Citizen

New York Times best-selling author Ace Atkins will debut “The Forsaken,” the anticipated fourth novel of his Quinn Colson series, this Wednesday at Off Square Books on the eve of its national release.

Atkins, who lives with his family in Oxford, said that the book signing is essentially a “launch party” in celebration of the novel before it hits bookstands nationally on Thursday.

Set in fictional Tibbehah County, Miss., “The Forsaken” is the fourth in a series of novels about Sheriff Quinn Colson, an Army Ranger and veteran of several missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Atkins said that local readers would easily relate to the terrain and the characters in the “The Forsaken” and its preceding books.

“Essentially, they’re family dramas, but they’re also like Mississippi Westerners,” Atkins said. “Even though they’re set in present-day, that’s probably the best way to describe my books. They’re set in a rural county in Mississippi not unlike a lot of counties surrounding Oxford, and they’re certainly very specific to North Mississippi.”

Ace

As for Quinn Colson, Atkins never wanted him to be a “larger-than-life” main character, but someone that was relatable. The idea of a veteran as a main character came to Atkins as he saw soldiers returning home from war in Afghanistan and Iraq and acclimating to life at home again.

“I wanted Quinn to be like the guys that I know: personal friends of mine that have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan,” Atkins said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to Home Depot or Chick-fil-A and have run into a guy that’s hanging out with his kids and is back from Iraq or Afghanistan…That’s the kind of person I wanted to write about, and I think that’s very authentic and very true, not only for North Mississippi, but for the South.”

The authenticity and depth of Quinn Colson is what Jack Pendarvis, a fellow writer and good friend of Atkins, said he enjoys about the series.

“With some crime novel series, we feel we know everything about the hero from the very first book,” Pendarvis said. “With Ace’s creation, Quinn Colson, though, we get deeper and deeper into his character, his family and his town in every novel. That’s what I think makes the Quinn Colson novels so special and why I look forward to every new adventure.”

Formerly a crime reporter for The Tampa Tribune and a Pulitzer Prize nominee for a feature series based on a forgotten murder in the 1950s, Atkins pulls material for his stories from real events and from his background in crime investigation.

“I always start with a true story, and I think the best books—the best stories—come from real events and real things that happen,” said Atkins, who has lived in Oxford since 2001. “I think that’s really the job of the writer or the novelist, to write as authentically as possible.”

“The Forsaken” is no different. Atkins’ 15th novel is based on a case in North Carolina in the mid-1970s when two girls were abducted and shot. One of the girls faked her death and survived to tell what happened. A man was lynched for the crime within days of the crime, and his innocence has just recently been discovered.

“I’ve got series characters (in ‘The Forsaken’) that are returning from previous novels,” Atkins said, “but this one event about these two young girls being kidnapped, shot and left for dead and then a man being accused and murdered unjustly for what happened is the catalyst for the whole story.”

Another recognizable character in Mississippi made his way into Atkins’ 2002 book “Dark End of the Street,” Paul McLeod. The owner of Graceland Too died Thursday less than two days after fatally shooting a man. Atkins said that the incident in Holly Springs would likely work its way into a future book.

“For people who are not from these parts, it’s kind of a strange thing—his life and what he did and everything—but that’s what I do,” Atkins said. “I love to write about true people and real events, and I turn them into fiction. What’s happened the last couple of days in Holly Springs is why I get my best stories right from the newspaper. You just can’t make this stuff up.”

Atkins’ book signing of “The Forsaken” will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Off Square Books.

lanie@lanieanderson.com

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