The Forsaken (Quinn Colson Series #4) [NOOK Book]


The extraordinary new novel in New York Times-bestselling author Ace Atkins' acclaimed series about the real Deep South—“a joy ride into the heart of darkness” (The Washington Post).
Thirty-six years ago, a nameless black man wandered into Jericho, Mississippi, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a pair of paratrooper boots. Less than two days later, he was ...
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The Forsaken (Quinn Colson Series #4)

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The extraordinary new novel in New York Times-bestselling author Ace Atkins' acclaimed series about the real Deep South—“a joy ride into the heart of darkness” (The Washington Post).
Thirty-six years ago, a nameless black man wandered into Jericho, Mississippi, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a pair of paratrooper boots. Less than two days later, he was accused of rape and murder, hunted down by a self-appointed posse, and lynched.

Now evidence has surfaced of his innocence, and county sheriff Quinn Colson sets out not only to identify the stranger’s remains, but to charge those responsible for the lynching. As he starts to uncover old lies and dirty secrets, though, he runs up against fierce opposition from those with the most to lose—and they can play dirty themselves.

Soon Colson will find himself accused of terrible crimes, and the worst part is, the accusations just might stick. As the two investigations come to a head, it is anybody’s guess who will prevail—or even come out of it alive.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Admirers of Ace Atkins are grateful that he has been working overtime. Every year since 2012, he has gifted us with not only a new installment of his riveting Deep South Quinn Colson series; he's also serving double duty as the new keeper of Robert B. Parker's beloved Spenser series. The Forsaken, the latest Quinn Colson entry, evidences no sign of creative slackening. In it, he spins a jarring tale about a nameless black man who wanders into a small Mississippi town and, less than two days later, is lynched for a rape and murder that he didn't commit. Thirty-six years later, county sheriff Colson attempts to both identify the hapless victim and track down the true culprit of the crime, but for some townspeople, that long ago event is a dead issue still worth killing for.

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
A more focused plot would have been nice, but Atkins doesn't construct a cohesive narrative so much as chase down articulate characters who can contribute to his densely layered stack of stories. Johnny Stagg has a wonderfully filthy mouth, but Atkins finds his natural-born storytellers everywhere, from Mr. Jim's barbershop to a pancake breakfast at the V.F.W. Even a brute like Chester…who rides with the Born Losers, has a certain way with the few words in his limited vocabulary. It's all music to these ears.
Publishers Weekly
Lean prose, solid pacing, and a compelling lead distinguish bestseller Atkins’s gritty fourth Quinn Colson novel. The aftermath of the violence that ended the previous entry, The Broken Places (2013), continues to enmesh Colson, the sheriff of Jericho, Miss., though the former U.S. Ranger also has two cold cases to unravel. On July 4, 1977, a driver stopped his car on a country road and accosted 17-year-old Diane Tull and her 14-year-old friend, Lori Stillwell. The stranger shot Lori to death after raping Diane. When Lori’s father urges the now middle-aged Diane to finally get the case reinvestigated, Quinn agrees to take on the job. Along the way, Quinn comes across a related unsolved murder that ends up striking close to home. That Quinn resembles the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser—both are uncomplicated, principled men unafraid to use violence to protect themselves and others—isn’t surprising, since Atkins now writes the continuation of the Spenser series. Author tour. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-06-19
Cases both hot and cold force a Mississippi sheriff to confront issues from the past. For now at least, former Army Ranger Quinn Colson (All the Broken Places, 2013, etc.) is the sheriff of Tibbehah County. Hidden behind the county’s down-home atmosphere is a seething mass of corruption, drug dealing and violent crime. Quinn and his sharpshooting deputy, Lillie Virgil, are under investigation for shooting a crooked sheriff and stealing money. Former sheriff Johnny Stagg remains Tibbehah’s political power. His legitimate business is vastly overshadowed by his income from drugs and prostitution, and he aims to get the all-too-honest Quinn removed from office. Stagg has hired a tough new bodyguard because his nemesis, Chains LeDoux, a crazed biker who ran the Born Losers, is about to be released from prison. Quinn himself is preoccupied by crimes committed before he was born. Some time after Diane Tull was raped and her friend Lori Stillwell murdered, an unidentified man was found beaten, burned and hanged. But Diane, who knows the dead man wasn’t the rapist, asks Quinn to right that old wrong and find whomever killed the nameless victim. Lori’s father, Hank Stillwell, was part of the Born Losers. So was Quinn’s father, Jason, who got sucked into the biker gang on a visit home from his job as a Hollywood stuntman. Quinn’s mother would never reveal why Jason left his family. Now Quinn must investigate the father he hasn’t seen since childhood for murder. Meantime, Stagg, the Born Losers, and rival black and Mexican drug lords continue to fight for control of the lucrative drug market. Atkins is at the top of his game in Quinn’s fourth appearance, filled with nonstop action and moral ambiguities. The sheriff’s many flaws only enhance his human appeal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101592922
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/24/2014
  • Series: Quinn Colson Series, #4
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 29,871
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Ace Atkins
Ace Atkins is the author of fifteen books, including three Quinn Colson novels, the first two of which—The Ranger and The Lost Ones—were both nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. He is also the author of three New York Times-bestselling novels in the continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
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Read an Excerpt


July 4, 1977

After Diane Tull caught her boyfriend in the back of his cherry-red Trans
Am making out with some slut from Eupora, she told Lori she didn’t give a damn about the fireworks. Jimmy had run up after her, right in front of everyone and God, grabbed her elbow, and said she didn’t see what she thought she saw. And Diane stopped walking, put her hands to the tops of her flared
Lee’s, wearing a thin yellow halter and clogs, big hoop earrings, and Dr
Pepper–flavored lipstick. She wanted Jimmy to see what he was missing just because a six-pack of Coors had clouded his brain and he’d jumped at the cheapest tail he could find on the Jericho Square.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I swear. She just crawled on top of me.”

“Here, would you hold something for me?” Diane said.

Jimmy smiled and nodded. Diane shot him her middle finger, turned on a heel, and walked through the Square toward the big gazebo, all lit up for the celebration, a band playing a half-decent version of “Freebird.” There were a lot of old men and young men hanging out in folding chairs and folding tables,
big metal barbecue pits blowing smoke off chicken and ribs, talking about
Saigon and the Battle of the Bulge. The town aldermen had called it a celebration of Tibbehah County’s “Contribution to Freedom.” Damn, Diane just wanted the hell out of there to go smoke a cigarette and settle in and watch
Johnny Carson before her father, a Pentecostal minister, told her to turn off that Hollywood filth.

He was never much fun. He didn’t even laugh when Johnny had on those animals who would crap on his desk.

“Let’s get a ride,” Lori said. Damn, she’d never forget that, Lori not wanting to walk the two miles home. Diane remembered being mad at Jimmy in that seventeen-year-old heartbreak way, but also feeling the freedom of the summer and a night like the Fourth of July when Jericho actually felt like a place she wanted to be, with the music and good-smelling food and cold watermelon.

All the boys with their big shiny trucks and muscle cars circling the
Square like sharks, revving their motors, tooting their horns, and trying to get
Diane and Lori inside like some kind of trophies for the boy parade.

“We could see the fireworks,” Lori said. “After that, lots of people would give us rides.”

Lori was three years younger and lots less developed, still sort of gawky,
with her plastic glasses and braces, hair feathered back, wearing a tight Fleet-
wood Mac T-shirt, ass-hugging bell-bottoms, and clogs identical to Diane’s.
Diane and Lori had lived next door to each other since they’d been born, and
Diane for a long time felt like the mother before she became the big sister. She was glad that Lori saw that shit with Jimmy. She wanted Lori to know a girl didn’t get treated like toilet paper, no matter if Jimmy was a senior and that his dad owned the big lumber mill and had bought him that red Pontiac for his birthday. You didn’t take a goddamn tramp thrown in your face.

“I never liked that bastard anyway.”

“The way he’s always brushing his hair, thinking he’s pretty,” Lori said.
“Talks down to me like I’m a kid. Like when he comes over on Sunday before your parents get home and he tells me to get lost. Who talks to someone like that?”

“He’s a real jackass.”

“Maybe this would make us feel better,” Lori said, stopping in front of the closed storefront of Snooky Williams’ Insurance, opening her purse and showing
Diane a little baggie with a couple joints in it. “I stole them from my mom. She won’t say anything because she doesn’t think I know about her liking to smoke.”


“Yeah,” she said, as they walked side by side around the shops, the Tibbehah
Monitor, the old laundromat, Kaye’s Western Wear, and the old Rexall Drugs.
“You’re my hero,” she said.
Around the Square, the old movie marquee showed The Exorcist II still.

They wouldn’t be getting that Star Wars movie for another two years. They turned away from the big celebration and followed Cotton Road to the west,
out of town and into the country, and the little houses off County Road 234
where they lived. They made the walk a lot of days, sometimes coming into the
Rexall for milk shakes or ice cream, mainly to meet up when there wasn’t much to do, before Diane had taken that afternoon job at the Dairy Queen off
Highway 45. Something else that her dad didn’t like, again saying she’d come into highway trash. Diane thinking he must have a whole system of how to divide trashy people by geography.

The music was still loud coming from the Square a quarter mile away as they walked through people’s yards and little gullies and on the soft gravel shoulder of the road. Headlights popped up only every few minutes, and they’d walk into shadows and away from the road when a car would be coming up on them from town. When they got to the creek bridge, just a little concrete span, they walked down the bank, a hell of a lot easier when they took off their clogs and didn’t slide. There was a big flat rock where they could jump over the shallow sandy creek. They used to come here a lot as kids and play and watch the old men fish. Lori’s stepfather and Diane’s dad had been friends for a while but had a falling-out when Lori’s parents had left the church and become

Lori pulled out a joint and lit it with a matchbook from the Rebel Truck
Stop. She sucked on it a few moments, coughed out most of the smoke, and smiled as she passed it.

“Listen,” Diane said, straining to hear the music off the Square. “What’s that song?”

“ ‘My Name Is Lisa.’ ”

“Yes,” Diane said, taking a long pull. “Yes. Jessi Colter. God damn, I love
Jess Colter.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you favor her?”

“Jess Colter?” Diane said. “Um, no. You can’t be high yet.”

“You’re dark like her,” Lori said. “And the way you do your hair, all black and feathered. Makes you look like an Indian.”

“I am part Indian,” Diane said. “On my momma’s side. Her daddy was full

“You never told me that.”

“My daddy says it’s an embarrassment to have Indian blood,” Diane said.
“He said those people were godless and did nothing but worship trees and rocks.”

Lori passed back the joint. There was a very large moon that night and a lot of stars, the rock where they sat still warm from the hot summer days. They both heard cracks off in the distance and both turned to the sky above Jericho thinking that the fireworks had started.

“Shit,” Diane said. “Just some rednecks shooting off pistols. Every Christmas and Fourth of July they got to make a lot of noise and raise hell. They’ll be shooting all night long.”

“You think we can see the fireworks from here?”

“Sure,” Diane said. “Why not?” Diane reached into her purse and pulled out a pint of Aristocrat Vodka and took a swig.

“Are we both going to hell?” Lori asked. She said it with a great deal of seriousness, spending way too much time as a kid at Diane’s daddy’s church.

“All I really know, Lori, is that I don’t want to be like my dad or even my mother,” Diane said. “What they do is not living. It’s preparing to die. My dad won’t be satisfied until he’s fitted into his coffin, waiting to take the journey to heaven to square-dance and drink apple juice.”

Lori laughed so hard, she spit out a little vodka. Diane smoked the joint, the idea of Jimmy making her laugh, too. The hair, all that goddamn blond hair,
and that little joke of a mustache. He thought he looked like Burt Reynolds but really looked like he’d forgotten to wipe his face.

After a while under the moon, and finding warmth on that hot rock, they finished the joint and a lot of the vodka and walked back up the hill to the road. They slid into their clogs and laughed and walked over the bridge, a big expanse of cattle land stretching out to the north of them, cows grouped under shade trees as if they couldn’t tell when the sun had gone down, and a gathering of trailers and little houses every quarter mile or so. Their road wasn’t too far, a turn at Varner’s Quick Mart and about a half mile beyond that into the hills. Diane would have to run straight to the bathroom to get off the smoke smell and brush her teeth, she could guarantee the pastor would be checking on her before he turned in from his nightly Bible readings at the kitchen table. And if he started in on her again, the animated yelling and screaming,
her mother would be just assured to be back in their bedroom covered up and hiding, waiting to be bright-faced and beaming in the morning as if the words hadn’t been said.

They were about a quarter mile past the bridge, laughing and talking,
planning some kind of revenge for Jimmy, learning of two boys that Lori thought she could get once her braces came off, and deciding that if it came down to Jan-Michael Vincent and Parker Stevenson, that Parker seemed to be much smarter and better-looking. They both liked how he handled himself on the Battle of the Network Stars.

“Who’s that?”

Diane turned and looked over her shoulder, walking kind of sloppy on the gravel, not caring to move back off the highway. “Who cares?”

“They’re slowing down.”

“Shit,” Diane said. “Probably Jimmy wanting to explain how it was really that tramp’s fault for jumping into his backseat and starting to make out.”

The car had slowed to a crawl, but when she looked back again, she didn’t see those telltale cat eyes of the Trans Am. This was a bigger car, black, probably a Chevy, with big headlights that switched onto bright and blinded them a bit, the engine in neutral and growling.

“Fucking asshole!” Diane yelled.

“Yeah,” Lori said. “Fucking asshole!”

The engine growled again, leaving the high beams on, following them slow and steady. The creep really getting on Diane’s nerves. She waved for the car to move on, and when that didn’t work, raised her right hand high and shot the bird. The driver revved the engine and blasted up ahead of them and then just as fast hit the brakes hard. The car idled in the hot summer air up in the high gentle curve of the country road, the exhaust chugging, taillights glowing red.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Someone is just messing with us,” Diane said. “I’m not scared.”

“Me either,” Lori said. “Fuck you, man!”

They laughed and kept walking, waiting for the car to speed off, but instead it just sat there maybe forty yards away, and then the driver shot the car into reverse, heading back for them. The girls jumped off the shoulder and found themselves caught between the road and a long barbed wire fence. Diane felt the fence poking and catching her top and biting into her side. “Goddamn son of a bitch.”

The car was a Chevy, a black Monte Carlo, and it waited at the roadside,
both of the girls stuck down between the gulley and the road. Diane grabbed
Lori’s hand and told her to be quiet and just walk, and they followed the road as the Monte Carlo drove slow alongside of them. Revving the motor every few seconds, Diane now scared, scared as hell, because she didn’t know this car or the driver and knew they were still a good ways from Varner’s, where they could call someone, or scream near some trailers, and not be hanging out here in the night. She couldn’t even imagine what her daddy would say if she told him.

The passenger window rolled down. She could not see the driver but caught part of his face when he fired up a cigarette and said, “You little dolls want a ride?” In half shadow, he was black and wore a beard, she could see, a jean jacket collar popped around his neck, something wrong with his skin, as if some of it had been burned at one time. The lighter went out and the girls kept walking. She held Lori’s hand tighter. The younger girl was trembling and staring at the ground. That proud, sexy strut from the Square was gone; now it was fast and shameful and following that barbed wire path, her muttering that she should never ever have taken those joints, that they shouldn’t have been drinking and messing about.

“Hush,” Diane said. “Just hush.”

The Monte Carlo revved. The man followed them slow but didn’t say another word. Diane thought maybe they could run, but running might make it worse, show the man they were scared, although he probably already knew it and liked it.

When an old truck passed them on the road, one headlight busted out, and heading to town, the girls ran up to the side of the road and waved and yelled,
but the truck just kept on puttering by them, leaving them full out exposed in the headlights of the Monte Carlo and caught in the high beams. As the old truck disappeared over the hill, there was still the sound of the big party, a mile away, playing some Tanya Tucker. “Delta Dawn.”

Diane held on to Lori’s hand tighter.

The driver’s door opened and the shadow of the man appeared behind the lights. Diane tried to shield her eyes and yelled for the man to get the hell away from both of them. Lori was crying. And that made Diane madder than anything.
“What the fuck do you want?”

The man had a gun and was upon them faster than Diane would have thought possible, snatching up a good hunk of her hair and forcing her back to  
his car. She screamed as loud as she could. Lori could have run. She could have run. Diane yelled so much she felt her lungs might explode.

The car door slammed behind them just as the fireworks started above, coloring their windshield in wild patterns, and the man sped off to the west. The soft crying of Lori in the backseat.

Lori was only fourteen.


I’ve always wondered, Quinn,” W. R. “Sonny” Stevens, attorney-at-law,
said. “Did you ever see your daddy work, doing those stunts, up close and in person?”

“Caddy and I went out to Hollywood a couple times when we were really young, back in the eighties,” Quinn Colson said. “By then he was on
Dukes of Hazzard, A-Team, and MacGyver. He let us hang out on set and see him race cars and flip them. It scared the hell out of my sister. But I
kind of liked it. I once saw my dad run around for nearly a minute while completely on fire.”

Stevens leaned back into his chair, his office filled with historic photos of Jericho, Mississippi’s last hundred years, from its days as prosperous lumber mill and railroad town to the day last year when a tornado shredded nearly all of it. One of them was a picture of Jason Colson jumping ten Ford Pintos on his motorcycle back in ’77. The office seemed to have remained untouched since then, windows painted shut and stale air locked up tight, dust motes in the sunlight, the room smelling of tobacco, whiskey,
and old legal books.

“Maybe the reason you joined the Army?” Stevens said, smiling a bit,
motioning with his chin.

Quinn was dressed for duty, that being the joke of it for some: spit-
polished cowboy boots, crisp jeans, and a khaki shirt worn with an embroidered star of the county sheriff. He wore a Beretta 9mm on his hip,
the same gun that had followed him into thirteen tours of Iraq and Trashcanistan when he was with the Regiment, 3rd Batt. He was tall and thin,
his hair cut a half-inch thick on top and next to nothing on the side. High and tight.

“You liked all that danger and excitement like your dad?”

“I liked the Army for other reasons,” Quinn said. “I think my dad just liked hanging out with movie stars, drinking beer, and getting laid. Not much to the Jason Colson thought process.”

Stevens smiled and swallowed, looking as if he really didn’t know what to say. Which would be a first for Stevens, known for being the best lawyer in Tibbehah County when he was sober. And the second-best when he was drunk.

He was a compact man, somewhere in his late sixties, with thinning white hair, bright blue eyes, and cheeks flushed red from the booze.
Quinn had never seen him when he was not wearing a coat and a tie.
Today it was a navy sport coat with gold buttons, a white dress shirt with red tie, and khakis. Stevens stared in a knowing, grandfatherly way, hands clasped on top of the desk, waiting to dispense with the bullshit and get on to the case.

“OK,” Quinn said. “How’s it look?”

“Honestly?” Stevens said. “Pretty fucked-up.”

“You really think they’ll take our case to the grand jury?” Quinn said.
“I answered every question the DA had honestly and accurately. Never believed they’d run with it. I thought I’d left tribunals and red tape when
I left the service.”

Sonny Stevens got up and stretched, right hand in his trouser pocket jingling some loose change, and walked to a bank of windows above
Doris’s Flower Shop & Specialties. The office had a wide, second-story porch and a nice view of the town square, most of it under construction right now as a good half was ripped apart by that tornado. There were concrete trucks and contractors parked inside what had been a city park and veterans’ memorial. Now it was a staging area for the workers who were trying to rebuild what was lost. “I just wish you’d called me earlier,”
Stevens said. “The DA has had a real time turning a pretty simple,
straightforward story into one of intrigue and corruption. I might could’ve stopped this shit from the start. But now? Politically, it’s gone too far.”

“What’s to study on?” Quinn said. “Deputy Virgil and I met those men to get my sister and my nephew back. A sniper up in the hills killed two men, and when we looked to get out, Leonard Chappell and his flunky tried to kill me.”

“And you shot them?” Stevens said, staring out the window.

“I shot Leonard. Lillie shot the other officer.”

“Can you step back a little, Quinn?” Stevens said. “Tell it to me again,
as straight and simple as possible. The cleanest and easiest version is the one a jury will believe. Start with Jamey Dixon. How’d you end up driving out to that airfield with him?”

“That convict Esau Davis kidnapped my sister and nephew, Jason,”
Quinn said. “Jason was four. Davis had sunk an armored car in a bass pond before he was incarcerated. He blamed Dixon for beating him to the car and taking the money.”

“Did he?”

“Yes, sir,” Quinn said. “Those two convicts had bragged to Dixon about all that money they stole and hid. You know Dixon was a chaplain at
Parchman? He came out of there a full ordained minister.”

“And started that church out in the county,” Stevens said. “The one in the barn. The River?”

“Dixon used their confessions and told Johnny Stagg about that armored car, who used some of that money for Dixon’s pardon and took the rest for his trouble.”

“But that part can’t be proved,” Stevens said. “Just stay with the basics.
Two escaped convicts kidnapped your sister, who was Jamey Dixon’s girlfriend,
and her young son.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And those convicts demanded their money back?”

“One convict,” Quinn said. “The other one got killed while on the run.”

“So that one convict, Esau Davis, wanted to exchange cash for your sister and nephew? You were scared as hell they might be harmed.”

“Yes, sir,” Quinn said. “Lillie found a vantage point in the hills by that old landing strip. She was to provide cover if Davis started shooting. You know Dixon only had twenty grand on him? And that wasn’t from the bank job. That was from donations after the tornado.”

“And how did Chief Chappell and his officer figure into this?”

“They were waiting for all of us to show,” Quinn said. “They knew about the exchange and came for the money and to protect Stagg’s interests.
They also had a sniper in the hills on the opposite side of Lillie who took out Dixon and Davis. When the shooting started, that’s when Chappell and his man turned on me.”

“Me and you both know Leonard Chappell was a joke as police chief and the head stooge for Johnny Stagg,” Stevens said. “But one lawman killing another lawman makes for bad press and lots of political pressure on the DA.”

“Leonard had no reason to be there but to steal that cash.”

“Of course,” Stevens said. “But the story the DA will tell is that they came to save the goddamn day and that you and Lillie killed them both to cover y’all’s ass. That way all that money was yours without witnesses.”

“Bullshit,” Quinn said. “They had another man up in the hills. He killed the two men there to make the money exchange. No one seems to be wondering who killed those convicts, Dixon and Davis.”

“They’re going to say it was Lillie Virgil.”

“Guns didn’t match,” Quinn said. “State tests prove it.”  

“They’ll say she brought another gun.”

“That’s insane.”

“You bet,” Stevens said. “But you better prepare for that part of their story.”

Stevens swallowed and moved from the window. He reached for a cut-
glass decanter at a small bar near his desk and motioned to Quinn. Quinn declined. It was two in the afternoon. Stevens poured some bourbon into a coffee mug and swished it around a bit. He was deep in thought, looking across his old office, with all those barrister bookshelves and faded certificates, Citizen of the Year and Outstanding Ole Miss Alumnus, as he sipped.

“They can twist the story as they please,” Stevens said. “We got two dead lawmen, two dead convicts, and a shitload of cash, flying wild and free, after this all went down. They claim nearly ten thousand is still unaccounted for.”

“You know how many people went out into the hills after this happened?”
Quinn said. “Families went there on weekends with butterfly nets and duffel bags. That money was found but never turned in.”

“However this goes, it’ll destroy your name,” Stevens said. “They’ll destroy Lillie’s, too. They’ll ask questions about y’all’s relationship, relationships she might have with other, um, individuals. You got an election in April.”

“You saying I should make a deal?”

“No, sir,” Stevens said, sipping a bit more from the mug. His light blue eyes and red cheeks brightened a bit, him inhaling deeply as things were getting settled. “There’s no deal to make. Not yet. Just preparing you for the shitstorm as we go into an election year. I don’t think that fact is lost on anyone, particularly not Johnny Stagg.”

“Mr. Stevens, how about we not discuss Johnny Stagg right now,”
Quinn said. “I just ate lunch.”

“Whiskey makes it a little easier,” he said. “Soothes the stomach. Stagg’s been running the supervisors for a long while. I’ve gotten used to the fact people like him walk among us.”

“Lillie saved my ass,” Quinn said. “I shot Leonard Chappell because he was about to kill me. But Jamey Dixon and Esau were killed by someone else.”

“Could’ve been any one of Stagg’s goons.”

“This individual wasn’t a goon,” Quinn said. “This person was a pro, a hell of a precise shot at a distance.”

“You see anything at all?”

“Hard to look around when you hit the ground and crawl under a pickup truck.”

“Imagine so,” Stevens said. “And Lillie?”

“No, sir,” Quinn said. “But you need to ask her.”

“How could you be sure Leonard wanted you dead?”

“He was aiming a pistol straight at my head,” Quinn said. “This was an ambush.”

Stevens turned and leaned back against the windowsill and stared out at the rebuilding of downtown Jericho. Among the piles of brick, busted wood, and torn-away roofs, all that remained standing on that side of downtown after the storm was the old rusted water tower by the Big Black
River. Now they were even repainting the tower from a rusted silver to a bright blue. New sidewalks. New roads. The Piggly Wiggly had reopened,
with the Dollar Store not long to follow. There was word that Jericho might even be getting a Walmart.

“Did you hear Stagg is going to cut the ribbon when they reopen the
Square?” Stevens asked.

“I did.”

“To read about it in the papers, he is the sole person responsible for the rebirth of this town with the grants and handshakes he’s made in Jackson.”

“I guess anyone can be a hero.”

“We’ll get this matter straight, Quinn,” Stevens said, “don’t you worry.
Just keep doing your job. Lots of folks appreciate all you done for this place since coming home from the service.”

“And what can I do while we wait to hear from the DA?”

“Not much,” Stevens said. “But if they indicate for a moment this goes beyond just an inquiry, you better have my ass on speed dial.”

In Memphis, Johnny Stagg slid into a booth at the Denny’s on Union,
across from the Peabody Hotel and down the street from AutoZone Park.
He accepted the menu but shut it quick, telling the waitress a cup of coffee and ice water would be just fine, smacking his lips as he watched her backside sway in the tight uniform. His new man, Ringold, took a seat up at the bar near the kitchen, giving Stagg a little space for when Houston arrived. Houston had called the meeting, saying it was about time, as
Stagg always had someone else talking business, making the exchanges,
and figuring out just what in Memphis was black and what was white.
Stagg had relayed one message since Bobby Campo was put in prison: All of Memphis was nothing but green.

Stagg toasted Ringold with his coffee mug. Ringold nodded back. Man probably didn’t weigh a hundred eighty pounds or stand much higher than five foot ten. He was plain and bland as Wonder Bread, with a shaved head and stubbled black beard, his blue eyes almost translucent.
While you wouldn’t notice Ringold in a crowd, he probably had a hundred ways to kill a man with a salad fork.

Ringold had come to him that summer, not long after the storm, looking for work and laying out credentials that made him smile. He was three years out of uniform, a former Special Forces soldier, Blackwater operator, and all-around bad dude with a gun. Stagg had made some calls to some people Ringold had worked for and they couldn’t say enough about how he handled himself. Stagg figured losing Leonard had been a damn blessing. He’d traded out a goddamn Oldsmobile for a Cadillac.

Stagg sucked a tooth, turned the Denny’s fork, and grinned a good long while when Houston and his four thugs walked into the restaurant.
Ringold stopped the thugs and motioned Houston to go take a seat in that back booth facing across the alley to the Rendezvous rib joint. Houston was black, short and muscular, wearing a flat-billed St. Louis Cardinals ball cap and hexagonal rose- colored glasses.

Houston didn’t look happy when he joined Stagg at the booth or when he said, “No offense, Johnny, but we a package deal. My fucking boys don’t sit at no kids’ table.”

“C’mon, Mr. Houston,” Stagg said, grinning. “You’re the one that wanted to meet. Come on. I’ll buy you and your boys whatever you want.
Grand Slam breakfast? Santa Fe Skillet, Banana Caramel French Toast?”

“I wouldn’t let my dog eat that shit,” Houston said. “And he licks his ass.”

“How about coffee, then?”

“Don’t drink coffee,” Houston said. “I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs.”

“Ain’t that something?” Stagg said. “What some folks might call ironic.”

“It’s my fucking religion,” Houston said. “I made it out. What I heard,
you made it out, too. Where you get your start? You don’t look like you came from no trust fund, coming out the cooch with a silver spoon.”

Stagg just grinned at him, bony hands warming up on his coffee mug.
He wore the tattersall shirt he’d bought on the Oxford Square during football season, with a red Ole Miss sweater-vest and pleated navy pants.
He wasn’t ashamed to say he’d spent nearly three hundred dollars on a pair of handwoven moccasins to be worn with fancy socks. Stagg recalled when his momma made him and his brother exchange underwear on different days of the week because she hated doing wash. Stagg brushed at his chapped, reddened cheek, motioning away the waitress with the nice backside for a few moments while they discussed all the options Denny’s,
America’s Favorite Diner, offered them.

“My people from Marshall County,” Houston said. “You heard of R. L.
Burnside, the blues player? He was my great-uncle. Man could rip the shit out of a guitar. Women in France would rip their bras off and hand them over just to hear him play.”


“You don’t know him?”

Stagg sucked on his tooth, rotating the warm mug in his hand. “I don’t listen to nigger music, Mr. Houston.”

Houston grinned wide, showing some gold teeth. Stagg knew the man would like him to cut through the shit, get right to the point, that this wasn’t about them becoming buddies and pals, but just how they would keep the goddamn Mexicans out of the city and keep a good thing going.
There really wasn’t much to consider. Stagg moved it. Houston sold it.
Now Houston wanted more of a cut and that wasn’t exactly surprising to
Stagg. What was surprising is that Houston would want to be seen anywhere near Stagg, as you could bet sure as shit that the DEA or FBI or
ATF or who the hell ever would be bugging their Banana Caramel
French Toast this morning, wanting Stagg to follow his old pal and mentor
Bobby Campo to the Cornhole Suite at the federal pen.

“You got kids?” Houston said.

“I got one.”

“Boy or girl?”

“Boy,” Stagg said. “Don’t see that it matters.”

“I got twelve kids,” Houston said. “I got two of them with a Mexican woman I met when hiding out from Johnny Law down in Mexico. You ever been with a Mexican woman? Whew. Damn straight, with all that sweet brown skin and black hair. I’d live down there if those motherfuckers hadn’t decided they wanted to have me killed.”

“Those Mex sonsabitches mean business,” Stagg said. “We had some of those boys in Tibbehah a year or so ago. They found out this local boy was trying to screw them out of a gun deal. Lord have mercy, they rode into

Jericho like they was Pancho Villa wanting to fill him full of a million holes.”

“They kill him?” Houston asked.

Stagg shook his head. “Gave himself up to the Feds. I’m still waiting to read about him getting shanked by ole Speedy Gonzales in the shower.”

Houston nodded. “Man, you a trip.”

Stagg studied him, tilting his head a bit. “Son, are you wearing two watches?”

“Yep,” Houston said. “One is platinum and one is gold. East Coast and

“May I ask why?”

“’Cause I’m expanding.”

Stagg laughed. Even through all that black shuck-and-jive bullshit that never made any sense to him, Stagg liked the boy. He liked that he’d called the meet, liked that he was going to ask for a larger cut, and liked that he’d crawled up from a world of shit to control his future. Stagg had been born to a manure salesman out of Carthage. Houston had come from a goddamn inner ring of hell in the Dixie Homes housing project.

“Sure you don’t want breakfast?” Stagg said. “It’s on me.”

“OK,” Houston said. “Maybe some of that French toast shit.”

“With the fruit or without?”

“All the way.”

“Figured that’s what we got.”

“Or maybe I want some of that goddamn Moon Over My Hammy,”
Houston said. “But that don’t mean I’m gonna eat the whole thing. You can have your half and a few extra bites. I ain’t asking to go equal on this shit. Just give me a little of that ole Hammy and maybe some hash browns and shit and a sip of Coke.”

“I know,” Stagg said, holding up his hand, “ain’t nobody that goddamn stupid. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t in agreement.”

Houston snapped shut his menu. The waitress arrived and he told her that he just wanted pancakes and hash browns and to bring a bottle of ketchup.

“A whole bottle?”

“You know, Mr. Stagg, you ain’t at all like Bobby Campo.”

Stagg nodded. “Appreciate that, sir.”

“I never sat down at the table with Bobby Campo.”

“He made a lot of mistakes,” Stagg said. “He was reckless. A fuckup.”

Houston readjusted his rose- colored shades and grinned. Two of his teeth were gold with diamonds inlaid. He smiled some more, adjusting each watch on each wrist. “Who you got up there by the door?” Houston said. “He don’t look old enough to shave.”

Stagg sipped some coffee. Put down the mug, warmed his hands as the heat curled up to his face. “Oh, just a new friend.”

“Funny how you being all cool with the meet and greet and all that shit.”

“Me and you got a good thing going,” he said. “If someone were to try and break it up, I just want to make sure he knows he ain’t invited.”

“I think you and me gonna make a fine team,” Houston said. “Don’t let anyone fuck with my people.”

“Good to hear that, Mr. Houston,” Stagg said. “Much appreciated.”

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2014

    Exceptional installment in a pitch-perfect series.

    Exceptional installment in a pitch-perfect series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    Sweet Death

    Pretty good. It could be longer, though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 6, 2014

    This series is one of the best to come along in a long time. Qui

    This series is one of the best to come along in a long time. Quinn Colson is a former Ranger who takes his job as sheriff seriously. Breathtaking action, steamy sex, perfect depiction of the Mississippi locales and people who inhabit them. Hope we see another book with Sheriff Colson in the very future.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    I enjoy Atkins' writing style but sometimes I find it difficult

    I enjoy Atkins' writing style but sometimes I find it difficult to stay with as he flitters from one episode to the next. I do not enjoy his free use of profanity as if it adds to his novels but only serves to detract from the story being told. He has somewhat of a rough edge when it comes to writing. He can be enjoyable and then with the jumping around and profanity he can get old quickly. I have all the Quinn Colson novels but I often wonder if I can continue to read his books.

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  • Posted September 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    It seems as if nothing is relatively normal in the small Missis

    It seems as if nothing is relatively normal in the small Mississippi county in which Quinn Colson serves as sheriff. Or is more like the proverbial corrupt Huey Long Louisiana with politicians on the take and a blind eye to all sorts of shenanigans, including lynching and murder, motorcycle gangs and drugs. All take place in this third novel in the series and then some.

    Carrying over from the previous entry in the series, Quinn and his chief deputy Lillie are facing possible murder charges for the killing a a former sheriff in a shootout that climaxed the previous book. This prospect hangs over them as they are confronted with a cold case which arises from the rape of one teenager and murder of another 37 years before. At the time, a black man was beaten up and lynched. The survivor, now a prominent citizen, told Quinn’s uncle, who was sheriff at the time, the wrong man was murdered since she saw the perpetrator two weeks later. Now, Quinn and Lillie undertake to find out the truth. This brings Quinn into the uncomfortable position of contacting his long estranged stuntman father who rode with the motorcycle gang in the period, giving he author the opportunity of inserting italicized introductions to succeeding chapters with historical information, providing the basis for current investigations.

    Colson is developing into one of the more interesting protagonists. A former ranger with a deep, inherent feeling for honesty and fairness, he exhibits the sense that law and its practical application is necessary to keep order in the unruly town dominated by q shady board of supervisors. Atkins has created a Faulkner-like collection of believable characters populating suspenseful plots. Recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    The cage

    Blazing wakes up in a stable tied to a steak.
    Whats going on? He says in his mind. He tries to call for help but he has a gag tied to his mouth.
    "I see you woke up." A pony that is a shadow so he cant see who it is. Blazin pulls out the steak. "Might as well let you walk in your cage instead of being tied up."

    "Mmmmmmm." Blazin tries to say butt the gag on his mouth. "All I have to do is get rid of the ones that can stop me." "Next imma get AL." (Do you like this so far?) ~Dawn

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2015

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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