Fans might just now be meeting Quinn Colson, the Army Ranger at the center of Ace Atkins's new book, The Ranger. Atkins, however, has already completed another book and is writing The Ranger's sequel, so he's been living with the character for a while now. And he's happy with his tough guy hero who could easily be out of the High Noon, with his commitment to honor and hunger for cleaning up the political corruption that's gripping his hometown.
The story begins when Colson returns from several military tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and finds the county where he lives overrun with methamphetamine dealers and other criminal types. The county sheriff, Colson's uncle, is dead. It was a suicide, they tell Colson, but he's not buying that. He signs up as the new sheriff and faces off with the dope dealers, who mistakenly think they can get rid of him as easily as they did his uncle.
The Ranger, a work of contemporary fiction, is something new for Atkins. Although he has ten other books to his credit, most of those have been novels based on historical characters and events, such as Machine Gun Kelly's crime spree, an infamous murder in Florida and Fatty Arbuckle's murder trial.
"I was asked by my publisher if I would consider writing a series," Atkins tells us. "At first, I was very much married to the idea of writing novels based on true events, because I really love the research, I love the whole process of it. But I'm also a fan of series books, a fan, for the lack of a better word, of hero books."
His publisher had to do a bit of nudging, but Atkins quickly came around. "The book I had just finished at the time had lots of research. I had 8,000 pages of documents, all these historical photographs, and to tell the truth, that had been quite tiring. So the idea of just sitting down and writing a book, without having to consult my notes every few minutes suddenly became very appealing."
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Atkins is quick to point out that while The Ranger is not based on a true story, it is based on true circumstances. Atkins lives in Mississippi, where, as with many other states, drug trafficking and corrupt law enforcement officers have taken a stronghold over many of the more rural counties.
The rural Mississippi setting, which he says in may ways resembles the Wild West, where anything goes, also gave Atkins the inspiration to approach the story as if it were a western, rather than a murder mystery. "I wasn't set out to write a crime novel or a thriller or anything like that. I wanted to do a western with heroes and bad guys and a big scale."
Atkins says that even though The Ranger is fiction, there's a lot of truth in it, and he found himself doing research once again. "I approached it in the same way that I approached my historical work; I did a lot of research, to make sure I got the details right.
Ace Atkins will discuss and sign The Ranger at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. For information, visit www.murderbooks.com. Free.