Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's welcome Ace Atkins!

First of all, I'm pleased to announce that we'll finally be receiving Reed Farrel Coleman's The James Deans from the printers later this week... look for additional posts over the next few days, which will include a James Deans excerpt and an interview with Reed by Edgar-nominated crime writer Gabriel Cohen.

Now, let me say a few words about a fellow whose debut crime novel will be reprinted this fall from Busted Flush: Former Auburn defensive end-turned-Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist-turned-best-selling crime writer Ace Atkins. Over the years, Ace has become a good friend of the bookstore... heck, it's hard to find someone who doesn't like Ace, and that includes critics and readers.

A while back, when St. Martin's Minotaur let the rights to his first Nick Travers novel, Crossroad Blues (1998), go out of print, Ace and I saw this not only as a great opportunity to reprint it, but jazz it up a little, with new bonus material. Well, jazz may the wrong choice of words, since his early books are a result of Ace's passion for blues music, and in particular, those early Americans who pioneered the form, especially legend Robert Johnson. In Crossroad Blues -- sixty years after Johnson was murdered after a gig at a Greenwood, Mississippi juke joint -- a college professor following rumors of nine unknown Johnson recordings goes missing in the Delta. Fellow blues historian Travers is sent to find him. Clues point to everyone from an eccentric albino named Cracker to a 17-year-old hitman who believes he is the second coming of Elvis Presley.

Here's what Ace says about seeing Crossroad Blues back in print: "There is nothing like the thrill of that first novel. Not only in the writing of the story but when you learn it’s going to be out there on the shelf. I wrote Crossroad Blues just two years out of college. I had tried my hand at a couple different stories but nothing seemed to click until I heard the legends about Robert Johnson. As soon as I wrote the prologue set in 1938, I knew this was a story that had legs. Chandler wrote about being an older, more experienced writer revisiting his earlier work. And like him, there are plenty of things I’d do differently. But as the man said, you can never duplicate that white-hot intensity of banging out the keys. (Great memories of drinking Cuban coffee and smoking cigars in that old studio apartment.) This was a story I didn’t write for money or to fulfill a contract. I wrote Crossroad Blues for the best of reasons . . . I had an obsession to tell it. I could not be more thrilled to know Busted Flush will bringing the tale back out – now ten years old – this fall. The type set will be taken direct from my original manuscript and not the sloppy typeset that was published . . . hopefully a clearer picture of New Orleans and the Delta will emerge."

Look for Ace's seventh novel, Devil's Garden (Putnam), in April '09. This promises to be Ace's best historical crime book yet, with the story revolving around Fatty Arbuckle's murder trial and the young Pinkerton agent assigned to work for the defense... a detective by the name Samuel Dashiell Hammett. This -- and Ace's other acclaimed, in-print novels, Wicked City and White Shadow -- should only whet your appetite for the BFP Crossroad Blues reprint this fall.

Oh, and since I always love best-of lists (look for one from Reed Coleman later this week), I also asked Ace to contribute a list of the ten books that influenced him most as both a journalist and crime / historical novelist:

Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming
Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
Absalom, Absalom, by William Faulkner
Farewell My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Early Autumn, by Robert B. Parker
The Deep Blue Goodbye, by John D. MacDonald
Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard

And there's more to come on Ace and Crossroad Blues over the next few months...


Megan Abbott said...

Oh, boy, I was lucky enough to snag and advance copy of Devil's Garden--phenomenal!

JD Rhoades said...

Oh HELL yeah. The James Deans AND Crossroad Blues?

Life is good.

Scott Parker said...

That sound you hear? The sound of my hands rubbing together in anticipation of laying them on Ace's books. And I can't help but marvel at the similarities of the first two books on Ace's list.