Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ace Atkins

Looking for a new author? Wondering who to read (yes, who, not what) as you wander through the library stacks, the books lined up, maddeningly, alphabetically by author, whith nary a star nor a sticker to indicate that this one!! will light your fire.

Big Cuter and I had that conversation a few weeks ago.  I was between books, between authors.  There was nothing that enticed me, nothing on hold at my local branch, nothing waiting for me in a queue on my downloadable book app on the iPad.  Neither the While You Are Waiting For (insert best seller here) suggestions provided on the library's web site nor the Good Reads For You This Week ideas were thrilling me.

"I know that feeling, Mom," my boy said, and I knew it was true.  This is the kid who spent every Saturday with me, out of the house at 11 am, and, after complimenting me for having secured the best parking spot in front of Barnes and Noble (this was before G'ma's parking karma was transferred from me to FlapJilly), joined me in an as-long-as-you-want-it-to-take browse. 

We always left with our arms full; both Cuters always knew that I would buy them all the books in the land.  I never doubted that they would read them.  The Babysitters' Club, the Thoroughbred series, Edgar Rice Burroughs and JRRRRRRRMartin - there were always more of them, waiting on the shelves.

Until there weren't.

Those were not good moments.  Our Children's Book Seller could direct the kids to new authors, but there was always that moment's hesitation.  Will it be good enough?

I'm here to tell you that Ace Atkins is good enough.  In fact, he's better than you expected: surprisingly competent, delightfully sneaky, careful with his verbiage, drawing you in when you least expect to be caught.  After Robert Parker's death, Atkins took over the iconic Spenser series.  It's a compendium of highly stylized good guy vs bad guy stories peopled with distinct characters, each with his own dialect, her own aura.  Parker was sparing, almost Scrooge-like, with his words.  I used to imagine him rereading a draft and removing every other sentence, testing the waters to see if less could really be more.

He succeeded.  Atkins doesn't try. 

Atkins is wordier, and that was hard for me, at first.  But Spenser still sounded like Spenser, and Susan was still Susan, and Hawk still thrilled and terrified.  There was more description, but as Parker's death receded in time I began to miss him less, and to appreciate Atkins more.

I spread out.  I searched for Ace Atkins on his own on the shelf, not squished near the Spenser books but happily ensconced in the A's.  He writes cowboy stories and plain old mysteries and, this morning, I found him nestled in the middle of Time.

It's The South Issue this week, and I slid over the titles.  What is it?  Who is it?  Why is it?  And then I was with Elvis, a poor boy made good who never forgot his little shack in Memphis.  With one deft line, the article put golden picture frames into context; without naming names, it put  DJT right in his proper place.  Then I looked at the by-line.

Ace Atkins.

It was bathroom reading designed to be flipped through and noticed, the long form articles taken out to the bedroom for perusal.  But Atkins's one page reminiscence, his love song to the South, held my interest then and now, well after I read it.  He's bemused and perplexed and in love and so, perhaps not as intensely as he but still feeling it, am I.

That's the mark of a great author.  Ace Atkins.  You can thank me later.


  1. Thanks for that! I'm running low on authors. If you like the genre of murder mysteries, Elizabeth George is good, and prolific. You would need to start at the beginning to understand why her characters are the way that they are, but I've enjoyed them. And they're long books, the last one I read was 600 pages.

    1. I LOVED her...up until the "why did the kid shoot her on the steps of her house" book. Just couldn't stand 600 pages of angst. I miss the characters (you're right about starting at the beginning,... their lives are SO intertwined) though

  2. I love when you recommend authors or books. It always opens up a new area of reading I haven’t explored. I’m with uou on books. I never say no to my kids when they ask for them. When they are done with them, we donate to our elementary school. They give each child a book at the end of the school year from donations.

    Sorry I’ve been MIA. Looking for a new job and it’s exhausting.

    Sending hugs.

    Stacy xxx


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