Mississippi Books and Writers
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A novel by Nevada Barr
Putnam (Hardcover, $23.95, ISBN: 0399145869)
Publication date: March 2000
Description from Kirkus Reviews :
Though she loves her varied postings as a National Park Service ranger (Liberty Falling, 1999, etc.) and hates administration, Anna Pigeon’s not getting any younger or richer, so she puts in for promotion, and next thing she knows shes driving hell-for-leather alongside Mississippi mud and alligators en route to her posting as district ranger of the Port Gibson District. The area is fabulously fertile (new weeds spring from dead trees before their last leaves have fallen), obsessed with the past (Anna stumbles on a group of Civil War reenactors soon after her arrival), and about to become the site of an ugly murder (a prom queen is found bashed to death draped in a sheet, her neck in a noose that can’t help reminding Anna of the KKK the locals assure her is long dormant). As always in this rewarding series, the people, from Anna’s slyly insubordinate subordinates to a local sheriff who just happens to be an Episcopal priest, walk and talk and break the law with memorable authority, and Barr paints Port Gibson and its environs, natural and man-made and -unmade, in vivid strokes. But her decision to treat all rural Mississippi as Anna’s bailiwick, instead of concentrating on the individuality of one of the national parks Annas worked so brilliantly in the past, gilds the place a little too thickly with cultural mythsas if all Dixie were a biosphere for endangered species and lays bare the contrivances of her ingenious plot. Still, Barr’s many fans, eager to see her take on every federal property in the nation, will treasure her atmospheric presentation of Mississippi as the countrys biggest little town. —Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
A Novel by Larry Brown
Algonquin Books (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 1565121686)
Publication date: March 2000
Description from Kirkus Reviews:
The search for love and family has seldom been portrayed with such harsh realism as in this almost literally stunning fourth novel by the highly acclaimed Mississippi author. Brown’s first substantial female protagonist, Fay Jones, is a 17-year-old virginal beauty who runs away from her mean and drunken father and impoverished family (migrant workers camped near Oxford, Mississippi) in a vividly detailed opening sequence that recalls the beginning of Faulkner’s classic Light in August. Fay is a complete innocent, can scarcely read, has never seen a movie or used a pay phone. State trooper Sam Harris finds her hitchhiking and brings her home, where his wife Amy (still grieving over the accidental death of their teenaged daughter) essentially adopts her. But a chain of bizarre coincidences ends this idyllic family relationship, and Fay is soon on the road again, now pregnant, and easy prey (as she moves south, to Biloxi) for a hard-bitten waitress who pushes her toward stripping, then for easygoing Aaron Forrest, who turns out to be an unstable drug dealer.
The story builds terrific momentum as things continue to go hopelessly wrong for Fay. She leaves Aaron, attempting to return to Sam, and the three converge in a skillfully deployed and violent finale that confirms Brown’s close kinship both with crime novelist Jim Thompson and with that underrated master of literate southern melodrama, Erskine Caldwell. The novel is probably too long, and it goes egregiously over the top at least once (in depicting an airplane pilot’s fate). But it’s filled with spare, precise, musical, observantly detailed prose and hair-raising extended scenes (an account of the effort to rescue a gas-truck driver from a flaming wreck is a piece of action writing few contemporary authors could match). Fay herself is an intensely real character, and Brown (Father and Son, 1996, etc.) tells her lurid, sorrowful story magnificently. Close to a masterpiece. Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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