Friday, January 25, 2013

Ace Atkins - At home in Mississippi

Fans of the late Robert B Parker have asked me, "Who is this Ace Atkins who's taken over writing the Spencer books?"

Well, as it turns out, Ace Atkins is quite an interesting guy! (His real name is Ace, by the way: William Ace Atkins.)

Currently visiting professor in Journalism at the University of Mississippi, Atkins has an extensive background as a crime writer. He covered the crime beat as staff reporter for the Tampa Tribune from 1996 through 2001. He wrote his first two novels during that period. His first, Crossroad Blues, is about the murder of Robert Johnson in 1938.

His reporting on the unsolved murder of Tampa crime boss Charlie Wall earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2000. In 2006, Atkins turned the story into the novel White Shadow. Colleen Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times book editor commented, "White Shadow, the best novel set in Tampa I've read."

His next novels, Wicked City, Devil's Garden. and Infamous were all set in personally relevant locations: San Francisco, Alabama (where he was born) and Tampa. A mixture of first-hand interviews, original research into police and court records and tightly woven plots, they reflect Atkins' interest in true crime stories. In Devil's Garden, Atkins explores the early life of one of his heroes, Dashiell Hammett, the originator of the hard-boiled crime novel.

Recently Atkins began a series featuring Quinn Colson, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who returns home to north Mississippi. In 2011 the estate of Robert B Parker tapped him to continue the Spenser novels. When he was offered the previous books for reference, he answered that wouldn't be necessary - he already owned all of them! Robert B Parker was one of his literary heroes. Release of the two series is being coordinated so that the Spenser books will appear in the spring and the Colson books in the summer.

When asked why he moved to Mississippi, Atkins said, "Because most of my books are set in Mississippi, because the looks of the land and the people are different from the rest of the country, and because Mississippi is a very culturally rich state." He lives on a historic farm outside Oxford with his family.

Lovers of Parker's books I have spoken to have received Ace Atkins as a worthy successor, and that is really saying something! The next Spenser novel, Wonderland, will be out in May.

Find out more about him at his website.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Favorite Reads 2012: The Greater Journey

I love to read nonfiction, especially history and biography. Obviously, David McCullough is one of my favorite authors. His books are so well written that you might think they were fiction. They definitely are not, as they are meticulously researched.

His latest, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, is a bit different from his earlier books. It's not about one person or event, and it doesn't take place in the United States. It's about the hundreds of Americans who went to Paris between 1830 and 1900 - not to visit or live - but to study. These were American artists, doctors, writers, scientists, and others who were adventurous enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean (which in those days was a dangerous and long trip) just to learn. They went on to have a tremendous effect on American culture and history.

What we as Americans may not realize is that during these years there was no place in America to learn these skills. Since they had to leave home, they decided to go to the best place to learn - Paris, France. Paris was the intellectual and cultural center of the world at that time. The book ends in 1900, because by then, it was no longer necessary to leave the US to study, mainly because of these intrepid adventurers who brought their knowledge home.

I was amazed at how many well known American artists, physicians, writers, and others made the "greater journey" to Paris. Elizabeth Blackwell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Sumner, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt are just a few.

Through the eyes of this author you will come to love Paris and vividly see the impact of this city upon these American students. You will also come to realize the tremendous effect these travelers had on our country. It also has many magnificent color pictures. This is an inspiring, enlightening, and entertaining book that I can highly recommend.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Favorite Reads 2012: Have You Met Pete the Cat?

Have you read to your child today? Have you been upstairs in our Children's Department lately? If not then I must introduce you to one of my new favorite characters, Pete the Cat!

Pete is a cool, laid back, blue cat who never sweats the small stuff. He never gets flustered when he runs into a problem, and he always manages to find a way to make lemonade out of lemons. He teaches young kids ages 4 and up to be resilient and to bounce with the bumps in life.

My first introduction to this "cool cat" was the book Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean.  The book begins with Pete singing about how much he loves his new white shoes. On each new page he steps into colorful piles of strawberries, blueberries, mud; each time changing his shoes to a new color. Does he whine? Does he complain? Heck No! He just sings a new song about red shoes, blue shoes, and brown shoes and so on.

Frankly, things don't get much better than a happy song about each and every bad luck event, each of which can be turned into something positive. This is a book any child would love, as well as would the adult in his or her life.

The Library has been building up our collection of Pete the Cat books so come in and introduce yourselves to Pete. You can also find Pete at his web page. Here you will be introduced to the author and illustrator who also have very interesting background stories themselves.