Renowned novelist Ace Atkins, the popular and prolific author of two dozen mysteries and thrillers, will receive the Hall-Waters Prize from Troy University on April 20, 2018. The following day, Mr. Atkins will speak at the Alabama Book Festival, in Montgomery, Alabama.
The award marks a special return for both the author and the university. Ace’s father, Bill Atkins, was the football coach at Troy State from 1966 to 1971, where he remains the second most winningest coach in school history, including a 1968 NAIA National Championship. During his father’s tenure at the school, Ace was born in Troy.
The Hall-Waters Prize is endowed by TROY alumnus Dr. Wade Hall, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.
Dr. Hall, a native of Bullock County, endowed the prize as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. The award is presented regularly to a person who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts. Past winners include Rep. John Lewis, Bobbie Ann Mason, Pat Conroy, Natasha Trethewey, and Cassandra King, among others.
Mr. Atkins published his first novel, Crossroad Blues, in 1998 and by the age of thirty was successful enough to earn his living from fiction. His first four novels followed the adventures of Nick Travers, a former New Orleans Saint-turned-blues-historian at Tulane whose cases revolve around the tangled legacy of Southern blues. In 2011, Mr. Atkins’ prominence in the mystery genre made him the ideal candidate to continue the classic Spenser detective series after the death of thriller icon Robert B. Parker. The seventh Spenser mystery by Mr. Atkins, Old Black Magic, will be published in May 2018. In addition to the Spenser novels, Mr. Atkins has established a second, highly successful series centering around former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, who tackles crimes in fictional Tibbehah County, Mississippi. Over the course of twenty years, Mr. Atkins has additionally written thrillers featuring historical figures such as Dashiell Hammett, the outlaw George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Fatty Arbuckle. One of his most popular novels, Wicked City (2008), explores the infamous 1954 murder of attorney-general nominee Albert Patterson in Phenix City.
“Ace Atkins is a master of noir, pure and simple,” says Dr. Kirk Curnutt, chair of English at Troy University and a co-director of the Alabama Book Festival, which Troy University co-sponsors with Old Alabama Town and several other organizations. “He came out of the gate twenty years ago with a brilliant understanding of what attracts readers to mysteries and thrillers, and he knows how to create complex characters out of what Dashiell Hammett called the ‘blood simple’ impulse toward violence and crime that corrupts society. His novels pack expertly delivered plot twists with suspenseful action sequences, but audiences are always aware of the deep research that goes into his writing, a legacy of his early days as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune in the 1990s. There is always a rich substratum of Southern history in Ace’s novels, whether set in Florida, Alabama, or Mississippi, and whether they deal with politics, football, or the blues. And in creating his fictional Tibbehah County in the Quinn Colson novels, he really has become the William Faulkner of crime fiction.”
Ace Atkins graduated from Auburn University in 1994 and lettered for the Auburn team in 1992 and 1993. He was featured on the Sports Illustrated cover commemorating the Tigers’s perfect 11-0 season of 1993.
Atkins lives with his family near Oxford, Mississippi.
Now in its thirteenth year, the Alabama Book Festival is a free event celebrating reading, literacy, and the history of the book, held at Old Alabama Town at 301 Columbus Street in Montgomery. In addition to Atkins, upwards of forty writers from various genres and for various ages will speak and sign books. The festival is also offering workshops in fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, podcasting, self-publishing, and making audio books. For a schedule of authors and events on April 21, 2018, please visit www.alabamabookfestival.org.