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Mississippi Books and Writers

May 2001

Note: Prices listed below reflect the publisher's suggested list price. They are subject to change without notice.

Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss

Nonfiction by Frederick Barthelme and Steven Barthelme

Houghton Mifflin (Paperback, $13.00, ISBN: 0156010704)

Publication date: May 2001

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

Neither Frederick (Bob the Gambler, 1997, etc.) nor Steven (And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story, 1987, not reviewed) has tried his hand at an extended work of nonfiction before, but this grim tale of compulsive gambling and personal disaster should present no problems apart from the ones built into their subject. Rick (as Frederick is called) and Steve were transplanted Houstonians, now teaching writing at Southern Mississippi, when they discovered the casinos moored in the Mississippi [Sound] in Gulfport, an hour’s drive from them. The sons of an eccentric but highly regarded architect and a former schoolteacher and actress, they plunged into the timeless, neon world of the casino with abandon. When the death of their parents brought them a substantial inheritance, they began to gamble with a feverishness that resulted in their loss of over a quarter of a million dollars over some two years. In the end, they found themselves indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud their regular casino, allegedly in cahoots with a dealer they barely knew. The memoir that results from this spiraling journey into darkness is strange in the extreme. Although neither of the authors denies he has a serious problem, their narrative all too often reads like the series of rationalizations a compulsive gambler gives before he runs out of excuses. Rick and Steve describe a sort of sealing off of emotion as a family trait, one that became a dangerous safety valve in the casinos, where their studied uncaring made it possible to withstand the batterings of repeated loss. Regrettably, that sealing off comes into play in their own writing, giving it an eerily disembodied quality that makes for depressing reading far beyond the darkness of the subject matter. A queasy, uneasy mixture uniting confessional autobiography with arch literary navel gazing. (16 b&w photos)

Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

The Year of Jubilo: A Novel of the Civil War The Year of Jubilo: A Novel of the Civil War

Fiction By Howard Bahr

Picador (Paperback; $14.00, ISBN: 0312280696)

Publication date: May 2001

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

A brilliantly woven Civil War story about the “jubilant” year (1865) following the supposed cessation of hostilities, from the author of the highly praised (and rather similar) debut novel The Black Flower (1997). The latter unfortunately all but drowned in the wake of the spectacular success enjoyed by Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. This time around, Bahr ought to nab the hosannas and prizes, for he has produced a stunningly imagined and lyrically written chronicle of the return home (to war-ravaged Cumberland, Mississippi) of Gawain Harper, a former schoolteacher (and an Arthurian seeker) who had reluctantly enlisted as an infantryman in the Confederate Army, in order to earn permission to marry his sweetheart, widowed Morgan Rhea. Morgan’s father, devout secessionist Judge Nathaniel Rhea, had demanded that all Southerners do their duty. Having done so, Gawain returns to find his own family decimated, the Rheas dispossessed and powerless, and to learn that the Judge has set him another task: to kill “King Solomon” Gault, a rabid white supremacist (“the gentleman farms without niggers”) and self-anointed leader of the vigilante rangers who had murdered Morgan’s sister and her husband, a Union sympathizer. But this is only prelude to a thrillingly articulated tragic romance that tells several convoluted stories, artfully juxtaposed, and creates a remarkably vivid cast, including Gawain’s fellow survivor, Harry Stribling, self-proclaimed “philosopher” and ironical observer of the South’s stubborn vision of its own “chivalry”; imperious, passionate Morgan and Gawain’s flinty Aunt Vassartwo of the strongest female characters in the whole range of historical fiction; Union Army officer Michael Burduck, haunted and driven by his memories of slavery’s horrors; hideously deformed, obsessed slave- catcher Molochi Fish; and the aforementioned Gault, an avenging demon whose thirst for slaughter precipitates a harrowing climax. The shadow of Faulkner looms over an intricate webwork of festering secrets, conflicting passions, and ancestral guilt. No matter. The Year of Jubilo is a triumphant giant step forward for Bahr.

Copyright 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Islands, Women, and God: Stories

Fiction By Paul Ruffin

Browder Springs Press (Hardcover; ISBN: 0965135985)

Publication date: May 2001

Description:

Empire of Unreason Empire of Unreason

By J. Gregory Keyes

The Age of Unreason, Book 3

Del Rey (Paperback, $6.99, ISBN: 0345406109)

Publication date: May 2001

Description from Booklist:

In Keyes’ alternate-universe fantasy, The Age of Unreason, of which this is the third but not necessarily last book, Sir Isaac Newton discovered the rules of alchemy instead of the laws of nature, thereby releasing a flood of dark magic. Now, Indian and European armies are locked in a deadly struggle in North America. In Europe, intrigues abound, and palace revolutions seem to happen every Thursday, not all of them well enough developed by Keyes to enable readers to tell them apart. Evil angels hover over human folly, and behind everything lurk the perverse and powerful demons, the Malekin.

Keyes still is master of the details that make much of this universe believable, and the amount of action definitely makes the book exciting. But his gifts aren’t deployed to also make this book intelligible to those who haven’t read its predecessors, Newton’s Cannon (1998) and A Calculus of Angels (1999). On the other hand, they shouldn’t feel put upon to go back to the beginning. They won’t regret doing so.

—Roland Green. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Dead Until Dark Dead Until Dark

By Charlaine Harris

Book 1of The Southern Vampires Series

Ace Books (Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 0441008534)

Publication date: May 2001

Description from the publisher:

Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life—and one of her coworkers checks out….

Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

Visible SpiritsVisible Spirits: A Novel

By Steve Yarbrough

Knopf (Hardcover, $23.00, ISBN: 0375411593)

Publication date: May 2001

Description from Publishers Weekly:

The South depicted in Steve Yarbrough’s haunting new novel irresistibly calls to mind Yeats’s famous lines, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity.” The best and worst, in this case, are brothers who, despite their common upbringing, are diametrically opposed on issues of race. Tandy Payne, who returns to Loring, Miss., in the early 20th century after squandering his inheritance on gambling, whores and liquor, has absorbed all the hypocrisy and racism of the old South. Loring’s mayor, Tandy’s brother, Leighton, stands 6'5", harbors liberal opinions and is handicapped by a perpetual awkwardness. He runs Loring’s newspaper and uses it as a platform for moderation.

Yarbrough divides his story between the Payne siblings and Seaborn and Loda Jackson, who are black. Loda is the town’s postmistress, the only African-American in the state with a government appointment. Tandy covets her job, and he decides to steal it by starting a race-baiting campaign, claiming Loda encouraged a black laborer to behave insolently. To prevent conflict, Loda resigns, but Theodore Roosevelt’s administration decides to make a civil rights stand by not accepting her resignation. In the escalating dispute, Leighton becomes a pariah for siding with Loda.

Connecting Loda, Tandy and Leighton is their common father, Sam, a plantation owner who massacred a group of black men and women who tried to escape the Delta in the 1880s. Based on a real 1902 incident, Yarborough’s sad, elegantly wrought story proceeds like a mesmerizing lesson in the skewed logic of violence, and it builds to a powerful ending, a tragic testament to the dark heritage haunting the South. Yarbrough, who earned critical kudos with The Oxygen Man, has again written a novel that resonates with understanding and compassion.

While his subject matter is somber, Yarbrough’s restrained narrative pulls the reader into its time and place with beautifully calibrated suspense. Critical recognition that he’s a writer to watch should bring attention to this novel.

—Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.



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