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The Ranger (Quinn Colson Novels) Hardcover – June 9, 2011
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"With terrific, inflected characters, and a dark, subtle sense of place and history, The Ranger is an exceptional novel." -John Sandford
"One of the best crime writers at work today." -Michael Connelly
Ace Atkins returns with an extraordinary new series. Northeast Mississippi, hill country, rugged and notorious for outlaws since the Civil War, where killings are as commonplace as in the Old West. To Quinn Colson, it's home-but not the home he left when he went to Afghanistan.
Now an Army Ranger, he returns to a place overrun by corruption, and finds his uncle, the county sheriff, dead-a suicide, he's told, but others whisper murder. In the days that follow, it will be up to Colson to discover the truth, not only about his uncle, but about his family, his friends, his town, and not least about himself. And once the truth is discovered, there is no turning back.
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'The Ranger' introduces us to Quinn Colson, an Army Ranger back home in northeast Mississippi for the first time in six years. Quinn's returned to bury his Uncle. He's been told the death was a suicide but doesn't believe it, and he's determined to find the truth. Doing so means taking on meth dealers, white supremacists, official corruption, and friends who aren't what they seem.
Atkins is on par with John Grisham as a storyteller, and his prose is detailed in the fashion of Stephen King's. His characters are larger than life, and the poverty of the region and the hopelessness of its uneducated and underemployed residents leaps off every page. If you grew up in a small town or lived in a poor county you'll recognize the main characters, from the good ol' boy sheriff, to the local preacher/ meth dealer, to Quinn's sister, who abandoned her son for a life as a drug-addled stripper, to the white nationalist building an army of unemployed young men with no hope and no future.
I'll be busy over the next few months burying myself in Atkins' library of work. If his other books are half as good as The Ranger it will be time well spent.
FYI: the dog Hondo is not killed.
Interesting storyline with descriptive writing that draws the reader into both the scenes and emotions of the characters. Plenty of twists, surprise ending. Not all questions are answered.
The characters are believable with distinct personalities.
The realistic dialogue is thought-provoking, informative and snarky.
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. —G . K . CHESTERTON
Don’t ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed. —ROGERS’ RANGERS STANDING ORDER No. 11
'After a point, you have to give up on some people. People wear their own paths.'
'...tuned to an infomercial about a religious enema called the Almighty Cleanse.'
'Wouldn’t that be something if you could just sh@@ out your problems? Damn, I’d be on the toilet for a week.'
'He’d learned to appreciate strong coffee out on maneuvers, grounds and all, and wished he had some now. But sometimes coffee is just warm company, especially when it’s cold with the heater off in your truck, and he sat there in a dark...'
“Only religion I found gets counted at the church.”
I will re-read this story and always look forward to works by this author.
But I do read the Wall Street Journal, and I saw an intriguing piece that described William Faulkner's having served Four Roses whiskey (the long-gone American Blended Whiskey variety of the 1950s, rot gut of the worst kind, legendary in a bad away, the butt of jokes everywhere, and not the excellent Four Roses bourbon that is on the shelves today) to his guests, while pouring for himself from a bottle of Jack Daniels. The old fox.
The writer of the piece was a man named Ace Atkins. I looked him up.
Ace is a former Tampa, FL crime reporter who now lives on a farm outside of Oxford, MS, which was Faulkner's home. He writes novels. The reviews are generally pretty good. One that caught my eye is called The Ranger. It is the first of several books he has written about a character called Quinn Colson.
I downloaded it onto the Kindle and started reading. I am not an accomplished book reviewer, but I'll share my impressions with you.
I'll save that until last. The book is good. Why I think so: it is exciting.
There is a perhaps just little too much detail in some places in the beginning, and it can slow down the reader. I really didn't need to know that the Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix is down at the end of Aisle 8 at the Piggly Wiggly. Maybe that's the crime reporter in the author coming through.
But that effectively ceases to be an issue at all, once the stage has been set and the story starts to unfold. At that point, the reader will be engulfed in it.
Some passages--not many at all, really, but a few--are just a little too earthy for my taste. Ace is a whole lot younger than I am. But I would not recommend against the book for that reason.
A Short Review
The story is set in the modern American South, in a fictional county in the rural area of Mississippi along the state highways that run near and through Oxford. The protagonist is a US Army soldier who has returned home for a funeral.
A rather shallow review in a major Eastern newspaper described the book as part of a genre that the reviewer called "redneck noir". Indeed, Atkins has said that five Southern movies heavily influenced the Quinn Colson books. They are Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, White Lightning, Thunder Road, and Walking Tall. Of those, I have only seen Thunder Road.
However, I think that The Ranger is much better described as a Western novel, transplanted in time and place.
Sixty years ago, my maternal grandfather in Itta Bena, MS liked to end the day by reading paperback Western novels, such as the works of Zane Grey, before going to sleep. The "good guys" were bigger than life, and they "commanded the stage", as it were. They bravely set things right against the forces of evil by force of character, toughness, and if necessary, by drawing the "big irons" on their hips. They rode magnificent horses. The hand-drawn cover illustrations showed wonderful dry, colorful, and picturesque Western ranches and mountain settings that made one imagine going there. At the time, I was reading comic books about the Masked Man and the other western good guys.
Quinn Colson is the same kind of man as the fictional heroes in those novels and the movies of the 1950s. He returns home not from the Civil War, but from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that he is tough, because he has served as an Army Ranger. Of course, "Ranger" fits the Western theme. He has a big but more modern revolver, and instead of riding a horse, he drives an aging Ford F-150 pickup truck. He doesn't sing as he rides, like Gene Autry, but he does listen to Country Western music on the radio as he drives. He isn't followed around by a deputy with a limp, but he is helped by an able partner who is missing an arm. And unlike any of the westerns of old, his partner is African American, and the tough deputy sheriff with whom he teams, female.
The setting is suited to the story in its own away, but unlike those in the westerns, the descriptions do not evoke nostalgia for the old frontier. Descriptions of dilapidated places in a badly depressed area populated by dangerous meth addicts and hate-filled white supremacists will not make many people fantasize about going there.
I think the local color is well portrayed, but I have to take into account that decades ago I spent some summers in nearby counties, and my impressions are formed by a combination of what Atkins describes today and what I remember about the way things were. And things have changed--not much is the same at all.
The bad guys are bad--really bad. One would certainly avoid them. They are today's villains, and they run the gamut from the explosively violent meth addict to the evil, corrupt business man. In place of the black hats and the sadistic expressions of squinting gunmen hired by evil cattle barons, there are the tattoos and the skinheads of people who are even meaner. In place of fictional renegade Indians who won't stay on the reservation, we meet survivalists who resent the Government. There are cattle rustlers, but they use motorized vehicles and do their work in the darkness of night.
The interactions among people are described realistically, and the conversations are not contrived.
The action sequences are riveting, and frankly, much more realistic than what was portrayed in High Noon.
The plot of The Ranger is well crafted, and that's what made it hard for me to put down. It is much more complex than those of the morality play genre such as High Noon. The evil perpetrated by the "bad guys" insinuates itself against more victims in more ways than one sees in the classic Western, requiring Colson and the deputy to solve a multifaceted and interwoven mystery.
I'm not sure how one would going about writing a coherent screenplay for the story, but one can readily imagine Tom Selleck playing the part of Quinn Colson.
I do recommend The Ranger.
Most recent customer reviews
Husband really enjoyed this book and would like the rest of the series,. Thanks for a good read