As spring arrives and the grass finally turns green and flowers begin to bloom, our minds turn to fixing up the yard and digging in the dirt. But crime writer Ace Atkins gives us a reason to spend time in a different garden. One where fame, celebrity, sex, alcohol, and intrigue cloud the notorious story of Fatty Arbuckle.
In Devil’s Garden, Atkins uses the lens of a struggling investigator named Dashiell Hammett to examine the allegations that Arbuckle killed a woman in a tawdry sex scandal. At the time, Hammett was not yet a masterful noir writer, he was just a stiff working for the Pinkertons. The combination of Hammett’s character and the salaciousness of Arbuckle’s case make for a page-turning read.
In Devil’s Garden, Atkins merges fact with fiction, a technique he employed with his two previous novels. The book accurately re-creates the time and place and brings to light incredible little-known facts to deliver a powerful story. The most shocking elements of this case are the true details, from Hammett’s work investigating the case to the overzealous prosecutor determined to see Arbuckle imprisoned. This strategy of journalistic fiction has been workign for Atkins. The San Francisco Chronicle described his 2008 novel Wicked City as “a hot read that’s got adroit reportage in the right places — and juicy pulp in the better places.”
Atkins is appearing tonight at a book release party at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. The festivities get started at 5pm with short films featuring the Hollywood star in question, Fatty Arbuckle. If you can’t make it, call 662-236-2262 to order a signed copy. Or, catch up with Atkins at one of his other booksigning tour stops. His website has details on signings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Scottsdale, Houston, Memphis, and Birmingham with more to be announced soon.