Redneck Noir is Ace!

O.K., show of hands on the part of all those mature and discerning viewers of televised crime fiction who remain baffled and uncomprehending of Television New Zealand’s decision to discontinue what was arguably one of the most engaging, different, and exciting “redneck noir” crime fiction series to grace our Free to Air screens in recent years.

I refer, of course, to the Elmore Leonard-inspired television series Justified sent off to outer darkness (otherwise known as pay TV) after only two seasons.

Cover of The Broken PlacesIt seems unlikely that Television New Zealand will relent and bring back Justified with its two intensely charismatic central characters: Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens and hillbilly bad boy Boyd Crowder.

However, through the medium of the printed page lovers of good-old-boy American rural crime fiction (a distinct sub-genre all of its own, I would argue) can, with the assistance of talented author Ace Atkins, make the acquaintance of ex-Army Ranger and now Sheriff Quinn Colson of the (fictional) Tibbehah County in the (non-fictional) Mississippi Delta.

There are currently three Quinn Colson novels available through Christchurch City Libraries: The Ranger, The Lost Ones and The Broken Places with a fourth to be published later in 2014. Your Humble Blogger (hereinafter, for the sake of brevity, to be referred to as YHB) has read and thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Ones with its disturbing themes of the exploitation of children and child trafficking, and The Broken Places which raises, but does not answer, challenging questions about the possibility of the reformation of a violent offender. I am impatiently waiting to get my hands on The Ranger.

Cover of The RangerBecause YHB does not wish to reveal too much more about the respective story-lines of the novels mentioned above, I will simply content myself with saying that the plots are tight and move along rapidly. Many of Ace Atkins’s characters are less than attractive but they are never dull, blending, as they do, social conservatism, religious fundamentalism and a pre-disposition to violence as a problem-solving strategy. Recourse to violence is never far away but, as is made patently clear, the use of violence never has a happy outcome.

So, for fans of the now departed and much missed Justified TV series, Sheriff Quinn Colson may not be of quite the same stature or have quite the anti-authority panache as Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens, however Sheriff Colson makes for a very acceptable and absorbing alternative within the genre YHB has learned has been described by some as “Grits Lit”. Read and enjoy.