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Mississippi Books and Writers

February 2003

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

The King of TortsThe King of Torts

By John Grisham

Doubleday (Hardcover, $27.95, ISBN: 0385508042)

Publication date: February 2003

Description:

The office of the public defender is not known as a training ground for bright young litigators. Clay Carter has been there too long and, like most of his colleagues, dreams of a better job in a real firm. When he reluctantly takes the case of a young man charged with a random street killing, he assumes it is just another of the many senseless murders that hit D.C. every week.

As he digs into the background of his client, Clay stumbles on a conspiracy too horrible to believe. He suddenly finds himself in the middle of a complex case against one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, looking at the kind of enormous settlement that would totally change his life—that would make him, almost overnight, the legal profession’s newest king of torts…

FlashbackFlashback

By Nevada Barr

Putnam (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 0399149759)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly :

When it comes to a vibrant sense of place, Barr has few equals, as deliciously demonstrated in her 11th Anna Pigeon novel (after 2002’s Hunting Season), set in little-known Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles off Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. Anna takes up her new post on Garden Key, home to Fort Jefferson, a notorious Union prison during the Civil War, after fleeing a marriage proposal from just-divorced Sheriff Paul Davidson. As she goes about her duties, Anna quickly becomes ensnared in one life-threatening situation after another. Anna’s fans expect no less; all her postings somehow turn dangerous. Indeed, the contrast between the natural beauty of the landscapes and the human evils within them is a recurring theme. But this one has an added twist: a mystery concerning alleged Lincoln assassination conspirator Dr. Samuel Mudd interweaves with current crimes. In a coincidence best left unscrutinized, Anna’s great-great-great-aunt was the wife of the fort’s commanding officer, and her letters, relating a story of intrigue and murder, have surfaced. The two stories are told in alternating chapters, and only Barr’s skill keeps this familiar device fresh. The pitch-perfect 19th-century phrasing in the letters makes it easy to forgive the occasional over-the-top prose in the modern scenes. But this is a quibble. Those who already admire the doughty National Park ranger will rejoice in this double-layered story with its remarkable setting, passionately rendered; new readers have a treat in store.
—Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Hunting SeasonHunting Season

A novel by Nevada Barr

Berkley (Paperback, $6.99, ISBN: 0425188787)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from Booklist:

In the tenth adventure in Barr’s National Park series (each installment is set at a different park), District Ranger Anna Pigeon investigates a murder at an old inn on Mississippi’s Natchez Trace Parkway. After the discovery of the corpse—naked and marked in such a way as to suggest an S & M ritual—interrupts Anna’s brunch with her new romantic interest, local sheriff Paul Davidson, the intrepid ranger finds herself forced to untangle a poaching plot with roots deep in Mississippi history. This latest entry in Barr’s popular series marks a definite return to form after the disappointing Blood Lure. The edgy, fast-paced tale generates plenty of tension, making the most of several nighttime crimes, and Barr does a good job of developing the character of Anna, adding romance to the mix and giving the ranger plenty of opportunity to display her slightly dark, off-center wit. Descriptions of grand National Park vistas, so prominent in the earlier books, are missing this time, but Barr still makes the most of her setting, evoking the special charms of autumn in the South. Series fans will be pleased to see the return of Randy Thigpen, Anna’s nemesis from earlier novels. Barr, the undisputed queen of the eco-mystery, has turned a novel premise into a thriving subgenre. —John Rowen. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Operation Pretense: The FBI's Sting on County Corruption in MississippiOperation Pretense: The FBI’s Sting on County Corruption in Mississippi

By James R. Crockett

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $40.00, ISBN: 1578064961)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from the publisher:

A narrative detailing an FBI ploy that exposed the largest public corruption scandal in Mississippi history.

During the 1980s fifty-seven of Mississippi’s 410 county supervisors from twenty-six of the state’s eighty-two counties were charged with corruption. The FBI’s ploy to catch the criminals was code-named Operation Pretense.

Ingenious undercover investigation exposed the supervisors’ wide-scaled subterfuge in purchasing goods and services. Because supervisors themselves controlled and monitored the purchasing system, they could supply sham documentation and spurious invoices. Operation Pretense was devised in response to the complaint of a disgruntled company owner, a Pentecostal preacher who balked at adding a required 10 percent kickback to his bid.

Detailing the intricate story, this book gives an account of the FBI’s stratagem of creating a decoy company that ingratiated itself throughout the supervisors’ fiefdoms and brought about a jolting exposé, sweeping repercussions, and a crusade for reform.

The case was so notable that CBS’s Mike Wallace came to Mississippi to cast the Sixty Minutes spotlight on this astonishing sting and on the humiliated public servants it exposed to public shame.

The conditions that gave rise to such pervasive malfeasance, the major players on both sides, the mortifying indictments, and the push to finish the clean up are all discussed here.

In the wake of Operation Pretense were ruined careers, a spirit of watchdog reform, and an overhauled purchasing system bared to public sunshine. However, this cautioning book reveals a system that remains far from perfect.

This narrative report on the largest public corruption scandal in Mississippi history serves as a reminder of the conditions that allow such crime to flourish.

James R. Crockett is a professor of accountancy at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work has been published in Journal of Accounting Education, Accounting Educator’s Journal, and Journal of Education for Business, among others.

Faulkner in the Twenty-first Century

Edited by Robert W. Hamblin and Ann J. Abadie

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $45.00, ISBN: 1578065135)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from the publisher:

A turn-of-the-century map of where Faulkner studies have traveled and where they are headed.

Where will the study of William Faulkner’s writings take scholars in the new century? What critical roads remain unexplored?

Faulkner in the Twenty-first Century presents the thoughts of ten noted Faulkner scholars who spoke at the twenty-seventh annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference at the University of Mississippi. Theresa M. Towner attacks the traditional classification of Faulkner’s works as “major” and “minor” and argues that this causes the neglect of other significant works and characters. Michael Kreyling uses photographs of Faulkner to analyze the interrelationships of Faulkner's texts with the politics and culture of Mississippi.

Barbara Ladd and Deborah Cohn invoke the relevance of Faulkner’s works to “the other South,” postcolonial Latin America. Also approaching Faulkner from a postcolonial perspective, Annette Trefzer looks at his contradictory treatment of Native Americans.

Within the tragic fates of such characters as Quentin Compson, Gail Hightower, and Rosa Coldfield, Leigh Ann Duck finds an inability to cope with painful memories. Patrick O’Donnell examines the use of the future tense and Faulkner’s growing skepticism of history as a linear progression. To postmodern critics who denigrate “The Fire and the Hearth,” Karl F. Zender offers a rebuttal. Walter Benn Michaels contends that in Faulkner’s South, and indeed the United States as a whole, the question of racial identification tends to overpower all other issues. Faulkner’s recurring interest in frontier life and values inspires Robert W. Hamblin’s piece.

Robert W. Hamblin is a professor of English and the director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. Ann J. Abadie is associate director at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

Charitable Choices: Religion, Race, and Poverty in the Post-Welfare EraCharitable Choices: Religion, Race, and Poverty in the Post-Welfare Era

By John P. Bartkowski and Helen A. Regis

New York University Press (Hardcover, $60.00, ISBN: 0814799019; Paperback, $19.00, ISBN: 0814799027)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from the publisher:

Congregations and faith-based organizations have become key participants in America’s welfare revolution. Recent legislation has expanded the social welfare role of religious communities, thus revealing a pervasive lack of faith in purely economic responses to poverty.

Charitable Choices is an ethnographic study of faith-based poverty relief in 30 congregations in the rural south. Drawing on in-depth interviews and fieldwork in Mississippi faith communities, it examines how religious conviction and racial dynamics shape congregational benevolence. Mississippi has long had the nation’s highest poverty rate and was the first state to implement a faith-based welfare reform initiative. The book provides a grounded and even-handed treatment of congregational poverty relief rather than abstract theory on faith-based initiatives.

The volume examines how congregations are coping with national developments in social welfare policy and reveals the strategies that religious communities utilize to fight poverty in their local communities. By giving particular attention to the influence of theological convictions and organizational dynamics on religious service provision, it identifies both the prospects and pitfalls likely to result from the expansion of charitable choice.

John P. Bartkowski is Associate Professor of Sociology at Mississippi State University. He is the author of Remaking the Godly Marriage: Gender Negotiation in Evangelical Families. Helen Regis is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Louisiana State University. Her work on New Orleans jazz funerals and second lines has appeared in American Ethnologist and Cultural Anthropology.

Splintered BonesSplintered Bones

By Carolyn Haines

Dell (Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 0440237211)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Described on the somewhat staid cover as “a mystery from the Mississippi Delta,” Haines’s third Southern cozy (first in hardcover) is heavy on the cornpone, but is saved from the totally ridiculous by a hearty leavening of laughter. Sarah Booth Delaney and her cohorts, Tinkie Richmond and Cece Dee Falcon (formerly Cecil but that’s for another story) band together to save friend and horse breeder Eulalee “Lee” McBride from a first-degree murder rap. Lee has confessed to the murder of her loutish husband, Kemper Fuquar, in order to save her mixed-up 14-year-old daughter, Kip Fuquar, from the charge. The sheriff is hard-put to find a woman any woman on the outlying magnolia-scented estates who didn’t have a motive to crush Kemper’s skull, then sic Avenger, a temperamental show horse, on the rotter. When she’s not busy being a PI, Sarah Booth stays busy playing with her red tick hound, Sweetie Pie; talking to a resident ghost, Jitty, in her antebellum mansion; reluctantly scouring the area for a date to the hunt ball; baby-sitting for a willful Kip; and reading Kinky Friedman books. Sarah Booth keeps up with her friends’ lipstick and nail polish colors, and even goes along with having Sweetie Pie’s hair dyed brown from its graying shade. The author’s long on accent, if short on clues that help elucidate the mystery. But Haines (Them Bones) keeps her sense of humor throughout, holding the reader’s attention and internal laugh track right down to the last snicker. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

The Granta Book of the American Long StoryThe Granta Book of the American Long Story

Edited by Richard Ford

Granta Books (Paperback, $16.95, ISBN: 1862072779)

Publication date: February 2003

Description:

In this collection, Pulitzer prize-winning author Richard Ford brings together 11 of the finest examples of American long stories or novellas. Selecting at least one story from each decade since the 1940s, this anthology includes “June Recital” by Eudora Welty; “The Long March” by William Styron; “Goodbye, Columbus” by Philip Roth; “A Long Day in November” by Ernest J. Gaines; “The Old Forest” by Peter Taylor; “The Age of Grief” by Jane Smiley; “I Lock My Door Upon Myself” by Joyce Carol Oates; and “Hey, Have You Got a Cig, the Time, the News, My Face?” by Barry Hannah.



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