Mississippi Books and Writers

August 1996

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

Cruel as the GraveCruel as the Grave

A Novel by John Armistead

Carrol & Graf ($23.00, ISBN: 0786703032)

Publication date: August 1996


Grover Bramlett, beloved Mississippi sheriff, is back in his third dazzling mystery. On a rain-swept night in Sheffield, Sheriff Bramlett steps into the middle of a decades-old clandestine love affair when a middle-aged furniture salesman is gunned down in the parking lot of his apartment building. The sheriff soon finds that another unsolved murder could be related to this crime.

The Last FamilyThe Last Family

A Novel by John Ramsey Miller

Bantam Doubleday ($21.95, ISBN: 0553102133)

Publication date: August 1996


Devastated by guilt after two young agents die while saving his life during a drug raid, DEA agent Paul Masterson fled to the mountains of Montana and secluded himself in a prison of silence. Now his family, whom Paul has not seen in six years, is the final target of a coldly brilliant killer seeking revenge. And to stop this madman, Paul must rediscover his fierce survival instincts.

The WaterbornThe Waterborn

By J. Gregory Keyes

Ballantine (Hardcover, $22.00, ISBN: 0345403932)

Publication date: August 1996


It’s that story again: unsophisticated adolescent boy, spunky, curious princess, large landscape for them to tour, troublesome deities, a magic sword. J. Gregory Keyes’s knowledge of epics, myths, and human cultures is a solid foundation for his series, making it far better than the average product: a story that might have happened sometime between the Ice Ages when numinous deities still dwelled in every tree, rock, and pool. The detailed social structures and customs feel more authentic, though they’re also familiar—the urban monotheists, the shamanistic horseback nomads, and so on. The writing is workmanlike, but the anthropological soundness and echoes of ancient stories give life and dimension to the old archetypes.

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History

A Novel by Donna Tartt

Ballantine ($12.95, ISBN: 0449911519)

Publication date: August 1996

Description from Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 1992):

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn’t ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn’t shown signs of cracking under the secret’s weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you’re thinking remorse-drama, conscience-masque, or even semi-trashy who’ll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—“Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion.” First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very ’80s—and in Tartt’s strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie. —Copyright © 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Song of the TreesSong of the Trees

By Mildred D. Taylor

Skylark (Paperback, $3.99, ISBN: 0440413966)

Publication date: August 1996 (reprint edition)

Description from the publisher:

Cassie’s mother told her, “Times are hard, honey.” With jobs scarce, Cassie’s daddy had gone to Louisiana to lay track for the railroads to get money to feed his children back in Mississippi. That was when the trouble started. Mr. Andersen dared cheat Big Ma by forcing her to sell the giant old trees in the forest surrounding the house. The trees were Cassie’s friends, singing her a special song that others insisted was only the wind. What would happen now with daddy away?

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