business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

One of the things that I find so impressive about Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson novels, about an Army Ranger turned sheriff in the deep South, is how they smell.

Stay with me here. Atkins’ work is so evocative of a specific time and place and the people who populate them that you can actually smell the coffee, the bacon, the fried hush puppies, the cigars and the pies, the kerosene and even the bad guys who often seem to have only a passing familiarity with the idea of a shower. And, most impressively, you can smell the evil.

“The Sinners,” just out this week, is the eighth Colson book written by Atkins, a former newspaper reporter turned crime novelist who also is writing the Spenser series since the passing of Robert B. Parker. (His Spenser books are excellent - he has managed to successfully capture mid-period Parker’s attitude and language, which is to say he’s recapturing the best elements of the iconic series.)

The Colson books have a completely original voice - there are echoes, I suppose of Elmore Leonard, but that’s high praise since Leonard was one of the best novelists of the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st century. (Not one of the best crime or genre novelists. One of the best novelists, period. And if you’ve never read it, you should check out “Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing,” which is, along with Stephen King’s “On Writing,” one of the best books ever about writing. But I digress…)

In “The Sinners,” Colson is looking forward to his wedding to a childhood friend with whom he has recently, and romantically, reconnected. But life never is simple in fictional Tibbehah County, Mississippi - there’s a a trucking firm with links to organized crime operating in the vicinity, and its actions are about to make things personal. And, there are a couple of brothers who are growing pot in order to fund their car racing habit; their lives are going to get a lot more complicated with the release from prison of an uncle with an agenda and a penchant for violence. Evil, in all its various incarnations and levels of competence and degrees of malignancy, is everywhere, often below the surface and deeply rooted, and it is up to Colson to hold back the flood.

“The Sinners,” like all of Atkins’ books, is nicely plotted, with evocative dialogue, and a sharp eye for both the big and small moments, especially the little details that define character, or lack of it.

But above all, it is beautifully written. There is a scene in the book where the just-paroled uncle, who has been in prison for decades, goes to a modern Walmart. It doesn’t get any better, and “The Sinners” is filled with scenes like that.

Read “The Sinners.” Go read all of Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson books. As far as I’m concerned, he’s as good and as original as Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos, and that’s high praise.

While I was on vacation, I had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of Italian rosés that I’d recommend … the Pratello 2016 San'Emiliano Chiaretto Rosato (made from 98% Syrah & 2% Vermentino), which is delicious (especially with a nice spicy pasta al tonno), and the 2016 Frescobaldi Alie Rosé (a blend of Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera and Sangiovese), which my daughter (named Ali) describes as “yummy.”

Try them. Cold. Perfect for a hot summer night. Thank me later.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: