The life of Ace Atkins would make for an interesting book in-and-of-itself. He played football for Auburn and then worked the crime beat for The Tampa Tribune. During his time at the paper, he was nominated for a Pulitzer prize for the work he did on a series of articles about a long-forgotten murder of a Tampa underworld figure. And he even met his future wife over a dead body.
Try topping that one… next time you’re at a dinner party and all the couples share tales of how they met while passing the wine and cheese, try announcing that you lingered around a crimescene in order to say hello to the beautiful reporter from a rival newspaper.
So Atkins has led a helluva writerly life. But it’s not his life, instead it’s the history of his family and homestate that fuels his newest novel, Wicked City. Atkins grew up hearing whispers of this family member that was a bootlegger and that family member was a bagman. The criminal connections of the extended Atkins clan was something many wanted to keep a secret, but the budding young writer reveled in those stories. Years later, the successful fiction author Atkins knew just the location where he could explore some of those old family tales.
Phenix City, Alabama was once labelled by journalists as “the wickedest city in America” because of the widespread infestation of gamblers, prostitutes, crooked politicians, and other lowlifes. The city was so overwhelmed with crime that the governor had to call in the National Guard to restore order.
Atkins takes this setting — rich with noir possibilities — combines it with exacting historical research and blends it with elements of page-turning fiction and comes up with a highly entertaining novel. The San Francisco Chronicle said the book is “a brawlin’, sprawlin’, caterwaulin’ tale, and Atkins steers it along like a big gas-guzzling ’54 Cadillac.”
Ace Atkins will be at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi today signing copies of Wicked City. Then he heads on to Houston, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona for more appearances. Call 1-800-648-4001 to get a signed copy from the gang in Oxford or catch up with Atkins on his tour.
And be sure to check out his website for more tour dates as well as cool extras relating to Wicked City.