I try to keep a handle on new American writers because I'm always on the lookout for people to learn from.
Ace Atkins surprises me - not because he's good, which he is - but because he's written half a dozen or more books and I hadn't stumbled across him or his work until a few weeks ago.
The Ranger is the first book in the 'Quinn Colson' series. Colson is a Ranger - a high-class Special Forces soldier - who returns at the beginning of the book from seeing action in Afghanistan. You get a sense of the man in the opening paragraph:
Quinn headed home, south on the Mississippi highway, in a truck he’d bought in Phenix City, Alabama, for fifteen hundred, a U.S. Army rucksack beside him stuffed with enough clothes for the week and a sweet Colt .44 Anaconda he’d won in a poker game. He carried good rock ’n’ roll and classic country, and photos from his last deployment in Afghanistan, pics of him with his Ranger platoon, the camp monkey “Streak” on his shoulder, Black Hawks at sundown over the mountains.
Look at the detail in that - Mississippi highway, second-hand truck, 1500 dollars, US Army rucksack, Colt .44 Anaconda, poker game ... concluding with his last deployment in Afghanistan and the Black Hawks in the background. That opening paragraph does so much work in just three sentences, giving us some backstory, some of his personality and even some of his skills ('his Ranger platoon'). We don't get five paragraphs of detailed explanation of who he is, where he's come from and what he can do. We get three packed sentences.