retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Most writers would love to have a month like Ace Atkins is having this month.

It started with the publication of "Lullaby," his first novel in the Spenser series as he takes up the mantle of the late, great Robert B. Parker. As I told you a few weeks ago, "Lullaby" is a book that "goes a long way toward capturing Parker’s musical phrasing as well as his sardonic yet hopeful world view,"and it "captures the flavor of Parker’s novels without being too imitative, and allows characters that have become old friends to many of us to continue." I've been happy to see that "Lullaby" has been on the best-seller lists, and I look forward to the next one.

On June 1, Atkins is back with "The Lost Ones" (Putnam, $25.95), which is the second book in a new series he is writing about Quinn Colson, a former Army Ranger who has become sheriff of Tibbehah County in Mississippi. "The Ranger," the first in the series that came out last year, was a terrific novel - so steeped in the culture that one could almost taste the grit and grits, with a compelling protagonist and a fascinating group of supporting characters. "The Lost Ones" concerns Colson's desire to bring down a baby selling racket, while simultaneously putting him in the cross-hairs of a mexican drug cartel. The characters are vivid, the atmospherics seem authentic, and the plot has drive and irony.

Here's the Amazon page for The Lost Ones.

Very quickly, Ace Atkins has leapt to the top of the list of my favorite current writers. Go buy his book, and see if you agree. You can thank me later.

You may remember the story that we had here on MNB the other day about how a group of guys that had created a new watch called the Pebble - designed to link with the iPhone, iPod and iPad - were using a new site called to raise money for production of the watch. (They were hoping to raise $100,000, and ended up raising $10.2 million.)

Now, one of my other favorite authors, Michael Connelly (of the Harry Bosch series), also is using to raise money to finish a documentary he is co-producing, Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Project.

Morgan is described this way: "Frank Morgan was a prodigal alto sax player who, like so many of his fellow musicians of the era, saw his career plagued by drug addiction. What sets Frank apart is not just his exceptionally beautiful, classic alto playing, but also the amazing fact that he survived 30 years of revolving door incarceration and drug abuse and went on to a much heralded comeback career in the last 22 years of his life. His story is one of brilliant promise in his youth, a journey through the depths of hell, and redemption through his art."

They're about halfway to the $60,000 they are looking for to finish the film, and I may throw a few bucks in just to support a project that sounds worthwhile. But what i really find fascinating is the thousands of projects listed on Kickstarter ... they just make me feel good about the state of creativity and innovation in America. can find out more about the Frank Morgan project here.

I'm an enormous sandwich enthusiast. MNB readers will know this...I regularly will wax rhapsodic about a sandwich I had at a Lunds store more than three years ago - made with smoked turkey, Jarlsberg cheese, a slice or two of bacon, topped with cranberry mayonnaise and served warm on toasted thick cinnamon bread.

Well, let me tell you about a sandwich I had this week that goes into the Coupe Sandwich hall of Fame. It was at a Ben & Bill's deli in the Price Chopper store in Saratoga Springs, NY, and it is called a "Woody Allen," stacked high with warm, melt-in-your-mouth corned beef and pastrami, served on thick homemade rye bread with mustard, and with an "old pickle" and store-made potato chips on the side.

Heaven. Pure and simple.

I have two wines to suggest this week:

the 2007 Kick Ass Cabernet, from California, which is aptly named (and out to be consumed in honor of Ryan Young).

the 2010 Domaine Mardon Quincy Cuvée Tres Vielles Vignes, which is a really fancy name for a white wine that has a nice citrus thing going for it and is elegant without being prepossessing.

That's it for this week.

As mentioned above, I'll be off on Monday...but will be back on Tuesday with an all-new MNB.

Have a great weekend.

Fins Up!
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