Best-selling crime fiction writer Ace Atkins was only two years old when his family moved from Troy, but he still considers the city home.
The son of former TROY football coach the late Billy Atkins came “home” on Friday to receive Troy University’s Hall-Waters Prize.
“As a writer, it is always nice to be honored for your work,” Atkins said. “I consider Troy my home so it is terrific to be honored in such a way here. This is a very special place to me. I am so appreciative to Troy University. Every time I come back here, everyone is so gracious and makes me feel welcomed.”
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. The award includes a monetary prize and a plaque.
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.
“Many of us are fans of the genre of crime fiction,” said Dr. Kirk Curnutt, chair of the University’s English Department. “Ace has produced more than 20 novels. The last several years, he has written two novels a year, which speaks to his professionalism and work ethic. We are very pleased to recognize him with this award and welcome him back to Troy University.”
While being an author is sometimes thought of as an easy job, Atkins said it requires daily work.
“Sitting down at the keyboard and doing it every day, there are certainly days that you don’t really want to do it,” Atkins said. “Those days you just have to suck it up, get your coffee and go to work. Some people think it is an easy job, but it really is something you have to work at every day”
At Friday’s ceremony, held in the Stadium Club overlooking the football field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, University officials remembered Atkins’ father and all he meant to the school’s football program. Several members of Billy Atkins’ 1968 NAIA National Championship team were in attendance at the event.
“Alabama is known for college football, but what is not as well known is that Alabama is home to many great writers,” said Al Head, a member of the 1968 team and a 1971 TROY graduate. “It has truly been a pleasure for me to watch Ace’s career. Coach Atkins was a pretty good story teller, but I suspect Ace got his writing abilities from his mother. What Ace did inherit from his dad was a commitment to hard work and to excellence.”
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.
Atkins graduated from Auburn University in 1994 and lettered in football in 1992 and 1993. Today, he lives with his family in Oxford, Miss.