I received this book unsolicited. The first thing I do when that happens is I check the blurbs on the front and back covers. Sometimes blurbs can be misleading (and there’s always gossip about how genuine some author’s praise for another really is.)
But this one had this blurb on the front cover by author Michael Connelly: “One of the best crime writers at work today.” And I’m a big Michael Connelly fan, having interviewed him twice, so this made me decide to give the book a try.
As with Connelly, Atkin is a former journalist. Atkins earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series he wrote while at the Tampa Tribune. He published his first novel by age 27 and was a full-time novelist by age 30. So I dug in to Atkins book and liked what I read.
On Monday Patrick Anderson, who covers thrillers and mysteries for The Washington Post (I interviewed him here for his great book on the history and cultural impact of mysteries) wrote this positive review of the book. So it’s nice to see I am not alone in quite liking this book, which is well worth checking out.
Speaking of checking it out, for those of you who live near me in Austin, TX check out Ace on Sunday. He will be speaking and signing books at BookPeople. Details here.
One other thing before I get to the interview, Ace has been in the news for another reason – the estate of the late Robert Parker picked Atkins to continue the Spenser series of books. Details on that here.
And now the interview…
How would you describe this book to someone skeptical of starting to read a new series? Put another way what makes this series different?
Quinn Colson. He’s drawn from the real folks coming home from the front as we speak. I think he’s the perfect hero to take over a new series. There are a lot of real guys like Quinn out there. You may work with them or they may be in your family but today’s American soldiers are the toughest, most respected people in the country right now. I’m proud to represent them in this new series.
What was it he “got” that others reviewing your work didn’t?
How would you describe the main characters and which ones are most like you?
This is definitely not an alter ego book. I’ve done four of those with Nick Travers. Quinn Colson is a distinct person drawn from the lives of real-life Rangers. I don’t think I have any personal comparisons within The Ranger. Many are based on people I know but not me personally.
What kind of research did you do for this book? Did you do research into how vets adjust – or have trouble adjusting – when returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?
Before I even started this novel, I heard from a colonel at Fort Phoenix in Afghanistan who was reading Devil’s Garden. He was a big fan of crime fiction and we struck up an instant friendship. Not only was he able to tell me about life in Afghanistan but he also introduced me to the man who formed Quinn Colson — a young Army Ranger who’d served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of his background became Quinn’s.
Why the switch with this book to starting a new series after success writing books with more of true history element? Do you plan to do to more books about the Ranger character, Quinn Colson?
I understand you worked for The Tampa Tribune as a reporter before publishing your first novel and leaving the field to become a full-time novelist. How did your work as a journalist help and influence you as a novelist? I’m a former journalist myself so I have curiosity in this area.
You used material from your reporting to write the critically acclaimed novel White Shadow – do you plan to do that again for any future novels or are you going to stick with solely the Quinn novels?
What does it mean to you to be called on to continue Robert Parker’s Spenser series? How did that come about that you were picked? Were you recruited or did you approach the estate?
9) Related question – what do you think Robert Parker (and his books) contributed to the mystery/thriller genre? Now the tricky follow-up: What do you hope you are contributing to the genre? In a way it’s ironic I’m interviewing you now since I had interviewed Parker once before and had a commitment to do an interview with him when he published his next Spenser book… then he died.. and now I am interviewing the author of the next Spenser books.