Troy native Ace Atkins, the New York Times best-selling author of more than two dozen novels including the “The Forsaken” and “Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot,” will receive the Hall-Waters Prize from Troy University on Friday, April 20.
Atkins will be honored during a reception on the Troy Campus beginning at 2 p.m. in the Stadium Club, located on the fourth floor of the Douglas Hawkins Press Box Tower at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Hall-Waters Prize was endowed by the late 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, Rick Bragg, Bobbie Ann Mason, Pat Conroy, Natasha Trethewey and Cassandra King, among others.
“Ace Atkins is a master of noir, pure and simple,” said 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 other organizations. “He came out of the gate 20 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. 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”
Atkins is the son of the late Billy Atkins, who served as TROY’s head football coach from 1966-1971 and won an NAIA National Championship in 1968. A former crime reporter at The Tampa Tribune, Atkins published his first novel, “Crossroad Blues,” in 1998 at the age of 27 and became a full-time novelist at 30. In 2011, he was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the bestselling adventures of Boston’s iconic private eye, Spenser. The seventh Spenser mystery by Atkins, “Old Black Magic,” will be published in May.
As a reporter, Atkins earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series based on his investigation into a forgotten murder of the 1950s. The story became the core of his critically acclaimed novel, “White Shadow,” which earned raves from noted authors and critics. In his next novels, “Wicked City,” “Devil’s Garden” and “Infamous,” he blended first-hand interviews and original research into police and court records with tightly woven plots and incisive characters.
“The Forsaken,” “The Broken Places,” “The Lost Ones” and “The Ranger” — all part of the unfolding Quinn Colson saga — represented a return to Ace’s first love: hero-driven series fiction. The stories, contemporary tales with a dash of classic westerns and noir, are currently in development for a major television series.
Atkins graduated from Auburn University in 1994 and lettered in football in 1992 and 1993. Today, he lives with his family in Oxford, Miss.
On April 21, Atkins will speak at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery. Now in its 13th year, the Alabama Book Festival is a free event celebrating reading, literacy and the history of the book, held at Old Alabama Town, 301 Columbus Street in Montgomery. In addition to Atkins, upwards of 40 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, visit www.alabamabookfestival.org.