Published on: May 31, 2013
One of the great reading pleasures of the past few years has been my discovery of Ace Atkins, one of the best crime writers working today. As previously noted in this space, Atkins has been getting a lot more attention recently, and deservedly so, since he was named by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the Spenser series of novels about the iconic Boston private detective. (The most recent of his Spenserian efforts was "Wonderland," which came out earlier this month and was reviewed here
It is important, though, to pay attention to the series of novels that Atkins is writing concurrently with Spenser, featuring Quinn Colson, a former Army Ranger who has become sheriff of Tibbehah County in Mississippi. I've written here that the Colson novels are so evocative of the American south that you can almost taste the grit and grits, and his newest, "The Broken Places" (Putnam, $26.95), is also his best yet.
It is high praise to say that "The Broken Places" is reminiscent of the novels of Elmore Leonard, and yet every bit an original work, pulling at several plot strings and using some disparate and colorful characters to paint a world in which the bad guys are quirky and colorful, the good guys are stoic and ironic, and they come together quite literally in the middle of a tornado. (I don't want to say too much about the plot. I hate it when reviewers do that. Suffice it to say that from page one, it drives forward relentlessly, with no dull moments to be found.)
And let me say something about the tornado. Obviously, we've had a vivid real-life example recently of what a tornado can do to a community. I've never been in one, but I have to say that Atkins is at his best when he describes the storm that sweeps down on the community where Colson and the bad guys are facing off - the language is at once powerful and metaphorical. "The Broken Places" is not so much about good and evil as it is about innocence and guilt, and it gets under the skin of its characters in a way that is both insightful and entertaining. Everybody is a little bit guilty about something, and nobody is completely innocent.
"The Broken Places" is the third in the series, and the final pages make clear that there will be a fourth. That's good news. Hopefully, there will be plenty more, because this is a work of considerable skill from a growing talent.
(Yes, this is the same Ace Atkins that I interviewed for my Forbes.com
column. If you haven't read it yet and you're interested, you can access it here
I wish I could tell you about a new movie that I've seen, but I can't. We may be in the middle of the summer movie season, but last weekend I couldn't find anything nearby that I actually wanted to watch. No desire to see Hangover 3
or Fast & Furious 6
. Mrs. Content Guy doesn't want to see The Great Gatsby
(and I'm not sure I blame her). And there wasn't anything else around that caught my fancy.
And so, the other night, I was flipping around the TV and found that The Right Stuff
was just beginning ... and I watched the whole three hours, becoming convinced yet again that Philip Kaufman's treatment of the Tom Wolfe book is one of the great American movies, managing to be not just a terrific recounting of the early days of the US space program, but also an examination of what American heroism really means, vs. how it sometimes is portrayed in the media. It is beautiful to look at, dramatic and funny, filled with terrific performances, and with an absolutely rousing soundtrack. If for some reason you've never seen it, you should.
And then, a few nights later, Bullitt
was on ... and I got caught up in that after coming in just few minutes after it started. (I can watch the car chase scene from Bullitt
over and over, but I have no desire to spend 10 seconds watching the chase scenes in any of the Fast & Furious
movies.) Plus, Steve McQueen is just so cool, and it is such a shame that he died at age 50 33 years ago
. (Can it really be that long?)
(Don't even get me started on how I found myself this week laughing out loud at The Road to Hong Kong
, starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby ... I may be completely losing it.)
I'm a little worried that I'm turning into one of those old guys who is going to start whining about how good things used to be.
But I gotta tell you ... they don't make 'em like that anymore.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.