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Mississippi Books and Writers

March 2003

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

Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and LegacySons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Legacy

By Paul Hendrickson

Knopf (Hardcover, $26.95, ISBN: 0375404619)

Publication date: March 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly:

“Nothing is ever escaped,” is the woeful reminder Hendrickson imparts in this magisterial group biography-cum-social history, a powerful, unsettling, and beautifully told account of Mississippi’s still painful past. Hendrickson, author of the searching Robert McNamara chronicle The Living and the Dead (an NBA finalist), sets out to profile seven Mississippi sheriffs photographed while one of their number postures with a billy club just before the 1962 riots against the integration of the University of Mississippi at Oxford (“Ole Miss”). The picture, shot by freelance photographer Charlie Moore, was published in Life magazine soon after, and it captured Hendrickson’s imagination when he came upon it decades later.

Chapter by chapter, Hendrickson reconstructs the everyday existences of the seven sheriffs, concentrating on the time of the photo, but taking his subjects through to their deaths. None are now living, but Hendrickson interviewed former Natchez sheriff John Ed Cothram in the early ’90s, and the Cothram chapters comprise a paradigmatically subtle and eerie portrait of the intelligence and banality of evil, and how it destroys individuals. The number of telling quotes, interviews with friends and family, primary and secondary sources, allusions to art and history, and gut reactions Hendrickson offers are what really make the book. He begins with a wrenching retelling of the Emmett Till lynching—seven years before James Meredith fought for and finally won admission to Ole Miss, a bloody story Hendrickson also recounts (in addition to a fascinating recent interview with Meredith himself).

The book’s final third tries to get at the legacy of Mississippi’s particular brand of segregation—the whites and blacks Hendrickson interviews throughout articulate it masterfully—by profiling the children of the men in the photo and of Meredith, with sad and inconclusive results. While Hendrickson can be intrusive in telling readers how to interpret his subjects, he repeatedly comes up with electric interview material, and deftly places these men within the defining events of their times, when “a 100-year-old way of life was cracking beneath them.” —Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Shelby Foote: A Writer's LifeShelby Foote: A Writer’s Life

By C. Stuart Chapman

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $30.00, ISBN: 1578063590)

Publication date: March 2003

Description from the publisher:

A biography that plumbs the ambiguous life of the gentlemanly novelist and historian.

For a biographer Shelby Foote is a famously reluctant subject. In writing this biography, however, C. Stuart Chapman gained valuable access through interviews and shared correspondence, an advantage Foote rarely has granted to others.

Born into Mississippi Delta gentry in 1916, Foote has engaged in a lifelong struggle with the realities behind his persona, the classic image of the southern gentleman. His polished civil graces mask a conflict deep within. Foote’s beloved South is a changing region, and even progressive change, of which Foote approves, can be unsettling. In letters and interviews, and in his writings, he often waxes nostalgic as he grapples to recover the grace of an earlier time, particularly the era of the Civil War. Indeed, Chapman reveals that the whole of Foote’s novels and historical narratives serves as a refuge from deeply ambiguous feelings. As Foote has struggled to understand the radical shifts brought to his native land by modernization and the region’s integration into the nation, his personal history has been clouded by ideological conflict.

This biography shows him pining for aristocratic, antebellum culture while rejecting the practices that made possible the injustices of that era. Privately and vehemently, Foote opposed George C. Wallace’s and Ross Barnett’s untenable segregationist stance. Yet publicly during the 1960s and ’70s he skirted the explosive race issue.

Foote is best known for his dazzling and definitive The Civil War: A Narrative. Written from 1954 to 1974, the three-volume opus was published during years when the South exploded with racial and political tensions and was forever changed. This biography recognizes that nowhere are Foote’s personal conflicts, ambivalence, and outright contradictions more on display than in his fiction. Although Love in a Dry Season, Jordan County, and September, September are set in the contemporary South, they reach no firm social resolutions. Instead they entertain, dramatize, and come to grips with the social, gender, and racial barriers of the southern life he experienced.

While showing how Foote’s guarded embrace of the South’s past and present characterizes his identity as a thinker, a historian, and a writer of fiction, Chapman discloses Foote’s reluctance to address burning contemporary issues and his veiled desire to recall more gracious times.

C. Stuart Chapman is a Massachusetts State House aide living in Jamaica Plain. His work has been published in the Clarksdale Press-Register, Memphis Business Journal, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Jamaica Plain Gazette, Modern Fiction Studies, and other publications.

Robert G. Clark’s Journey to the House: A Black Politician’s Story

By Will D. Campbell

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $22.00, ISBN: 1578065267)

Publication date: March 2003

Description from the publisher:

The story of a black man's unprecedented rise to power and political prominence in the formerly segregationist state of Mississippi

This biographical profile written by one of the South’s most notable authors traces the life of Robert George Clark (b. 1928) from his Jim Crow boyhood in Ebenezer, Mississippi, through his notable career as the first black Mississippian since Reconstruction to be elected to the state house of representatives.

In this compelling book Will D. Campbell fuses Clark’s family history with his political career and tells of Clark’s struggle with segregationists, his powerful influence in the passing of the state's 1982 Education Reform Bill, and the continued influence of his work on Mississippi politics and culture.

Based on interviews, research, and primary sources, Campbell’s book is an evocative, fascinating, and elegantly written portrait of a man who shaped and is shaping the culture of contemporary Mississippi.

In details of Clark’s days as a student at Jackson State University, Campbell’s narrative depicts Clark both as a strong individual and as a symbol of African American civil rights activism. As he follows Clark’s progress as a politician, educator, and civil rights advocate, he showcases a history of race relations and racial politics in Mississippi during the state's most turbulent era. In this steamy cauldron, however, Campbell never loses sight of Clark’s singular life and notable accomplishments. Clark continues today as a sitting member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Robert G. Clark’s Journey to the House unites one of Mississippi’s foremost citizens of the twentieth century and one of the state’s most notable literary voices. During the civil rights struggle the lives of Clark and Campbell were in interplay. This striking book, a valuable addition to the ever-growing documentary literature of the civil rights movement, shows that their lives and philosophies continue to converge.

Will D. Campbell, among the most diligent white Southerners campaigning for social justice in the civil rights era, is the author of such prize-winning books as Brother to a Dragonfly, Providence, and The Glad River. He has been profiled in Rolling Stone, Life, Esquire, and The Progressive.

The HitThe Hit

By Jere Hoar

Context Books (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 1893956342)

Publication date: March 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly :

Hoar makes a crackling debut (after the story collection Body Parts) with this Southern noir thriller about a decorated Vietnam vet up to no good in Mississippi. Luke Carr is locked away on the psychiatric ward of a VA hospital in the deep South. The diagnosis is post-traumatic stress disorder. The therapy consists of a series of notebooks in which Luke is supposed to tell his story “using colored pencils—pastels when I am unsure, darker colors for certainties.” Through these notebooks, Luke records his post-Vietnam downfall, as the bookish, sensitive vet becomes a gun for hire.

After returning home from his three tours in Southeast Asia, the solitary, disturbed Luke plots to steal art from Tom Morris, a wealthy businessman and collector. Along the way he encounters Morris’s wife, Kinnerly, the former love of his life. Predictably, they resume the affair they’d ended years ago as students at Ole Miss. Within six weeks, the scheming Kinnerly has Luke convinced that offing her husband is the only decent thing to do. But soon another local rich guy, Jeff Ballard, also offers Luke a handsome payment for a hit on Tom. Luke discovers that Jeff and Kinnerly have recently been lovers and suspects something fishy, but agrees to take the job anyway. The hit goes awry when a local farmer catches Luke red-handed and blackmails him. Soon, Luke has to kill him, too. Seduction, betrayal, revenge and surprises lurk around the corner as the lovers plot their getaway. The plot makes rapid switchback turns all the way to the last page. Readers will be rapt. —Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Built by the Owner's DesignBuilt by the Owner’s Design: The Positive Approach to Building Your Church God’s Way

By Danny Von Kanel

CSS Publishing (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 078801952X)

Publication date: March 2003

Review from Midwest Book Review:

Written by Danny Von Kanel (a church growth consultant with 20 years of experience), Built By The Owner’s Design: The Positive Approach To Building Your Church God’s Way is a straightforward instructional guideline to reaching out with the community Christian church in a balanced, sustainable, and positive manner. Charting a solid middle ground between declining attendance and excessive zeal, Built By The Owner’s Design is a profound and meaningful resource to keeping both the needs of man and the will of God in mind with regard to managing the evangelical church community.



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