Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The South's Own Gangster

George "Machine Gun" Kelly is a name from the heyday of the American gangster era as familiar as "Baby Face" Nelson, Bonnie & Clyde, "Ma" Barker and many other colorful outlaws, but the details of his life and crimes are far less well-known.

Mississippi author Ace Atkins, who has carved out a distinctive niche for himself with a number of historical crime novels, decided it was time to change that fact. Thus, Kelly's exploits are the subject of Atkins latest: Infamous.

As Atkins explains in his Cover to Cover interview, the story of "Machine Gun" Kelly can't be told without focusing equally on his wife, Katherine. Kelly, unique among the famous gangters, was a native of the South and raised in relative priviledge. He was a good looking, somewhat lazy character, content being a minor player in various criminal endeavors until the beautiful, ambitious Katherine came into his life.

Together they pulled off the kidnapping of one of the wealthiest oilmen in the country. The crime gave Katherine the kind of notoriety she sought but ultimately led to the couple's capture, all of which Atkins describes in Infamous with flourish and detail.

As unlikely a figure for a famed outlaw as Kelly was, Atkins has taken an equally distinctive path into the world of popular fiction. He starred on Auburn University's undefeated football team of 1993 before beginning a career as an award-winning newspaper reporter in Florida. Eventually, his fascination with crime led to the popular series of mystery novels featuring former football star/blues historian Nick Travers.

is Atkins' fourth historically based crime novel. Altogether his work has led no less an expert than bestselling novelist Michael Connelly to call Atkins “one of the best crime writers at work today."

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