Mississippi Books and Writers

June 1998

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

Cruel as the Grave: A Sheriff Bramlett Mystery

A Novel by John Armistead

Dell (Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 0440224373)

Publication date: June 1998


Bramlett keeps tabs on the country roads of Chakchiuma County, rich folks as well as poor, white as well as black. When a salesman is gunned down in the sleepy town of Sheffield, the sheriff digs into clues that connect the victim to an unsolved murder case that has perplexed Bramlett for three years. Digging deeper into witnesses’ memories, Bramlett heads for the dangerous territory where race, passion, and hatred meet and a ruthless killer awaits.

Breaking Through to the Next Level

Nonfiction by Zig Ziglar

Honor Books (Paperback, $6.99, ISBN: 1562924958)

Publication date: June 1998

Dreamer: A Novel

By Jack Butler

Knopf (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 0679446656)

Publication date: June 1998

Description from Kirkus Reviews (May 11, 1998):

The author of two send-ups of southern politics, Jujitsu for Christ (1986) and Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock (1993), as well as a well-received SF novel, Nightshade (1989), makes another departure: a thriller centered on dream research. With a little help from a pharmaceutical company, Jody Nightwood has set up her dream research lab with her old friend Toni in Santa Fe. The two treat sleep disorders such as apnea and insomnia by day, while Jody records and analyzes dreams by night—her own dreams included. She hopes to develop a sort of unified field theory of dreaming, finally dislodging Freud’s notions that dreams have to do with the issues facing us while we are awake, and also that they’re mostly about sex. Jung’s archetypes and idea of a collective unconscious enjoy more successful currency in trendy Santa Fe, and Butler has a good time satirizing not only Jung but regressive therapy, channeling, militant vegetarianism, Carlos Casteñeda, and language poetry. Much of what Butler has to say about dreams is compelling, and when malevolent aspects of Jody’s dreams begin to dominate even her waking life, every reader will be intrigued. Unfortunately, though, Butler also layers on a trite thriller plot in which a CIA maverick, Benjamin George, assigns two klutzy gay men to tail Jody and invade her computer files, etc., because Benjamin has a theory that true artificial intelligence will be achieved once dreams can be programmed into it. Meanwhile, a rival set of spies bump into Benjamin’s own, but it’s hard to care, since these are only stock characters and Benjamin’s theory never seemed plausible in the first place. Anyone drawn to Butler’s sometimes poetic considerations of dreaming will simply be irritated. The espionage plot, which Butler handles poorly, doesn’t graft well with his novel of ideas, which he handles well. Copyright © 1998, Kirkus Associates, LP.

Not About Nightingales

A Play by Tennessee Williams, edited by Allean Hale

New Directions (Paperback, $10.95, ISBN: 0811213803)

Publication date: June 1998

A Pirate Looks at Fifty

Nonfiction by Jimmy Buffett

Random House (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 0679435271)

Publication date: June 1998

Description from Kirkus Reviews (15 June 1998):

This first nonfiction outing from singer/songwriter Buffett (Where Is Joe Merchant?, 1992, etc.) is more food for his Parrothead fans, but there is some fine writing along with the self-revelation. Half autobiography and half travelogue, this volume recounts a trip by Buffett and his family to the Caribbean over one Christmas holiday to celebrate the writer’s 50th birthday. Buffett is a licensed pilot, and his personal weakness is for seaplanes, so it’s primarily in this sort of craft that the family’s journey takes place. While giving beautiful descriptions of the locales to which he travels (including a very attractive portrait of Key West, from which he sets out), Buffett intersperses recollections of his first, short-lived marriage, his experiences in college and avoiding the Vietnam draft, and his brief employment at Billboard magazine’s Nashville bureau before becoming a professional musician. In the meantime, he carries his reader seamlessly through the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Amazon basin, and Trinidad and Tobago. Buffett shows that he is a keen observer of Latin American culture and also that he can “pass in these surroundings when he needs to. It’s perhaps on this latter point that this book finds its principal weakness. Buffett tends toward preachiness in addressing his mostly landlubber readers, as when he decries the seeming American inability to learn a second language while most Caribbeans can speak English; elsewhere he attacks “ugly Americans out there making it harder for us more-connected-to-the-local-culture types. On the other hand, he seems right on the money when he observes that the drug war of the 1980s did little to stop trafficking in the area and that turning wetlands into helicopter pads for drug agents isn’t going to offer any additional help. Both Parrotheads and those with a taste for the Caribbean find something for their palates here.

—Copyright © 1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

When First We Deceive

A Novel by Charles Wilson

Leisure Books (Paperback, $4.50, ISBN: 0843944013)

Publication date: June 1998 (Reprint Edition)

Where the Sea Used to Be

A Novel by Rick Bass

Houghton Mifflin (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 0395770157)

Publication date: June 1998

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

In sensuous descriptive prose whose incantatory rhythms invite comparison with both Lawrence and Faulkner, Bass tells a take of familial, sexual, and in a way, fraternal conflict among four uneasily related characters who are, simultaneously, denizens, preservers, and destroyers of Montana’s north country near the Canadian border. Old Dudley is a veteran oil driller who sends Wallis, a young geologist in his employ, to that wilderness to seek oil. It’s an expression of Dudley’s power, as is well known by his 40ish daughter Mel, a schoolteacher and naturalist who “follows the lives of wolves, and by Wallis’s predecessor (and Mel’s former lover) Matthew — and as will be learned by Wallis, a young Texan still mourning the deaths of his loved ones. Though the wary relationship of Wallis and Mel (his host, and mentor in this strange new world) is delineated with great skill, and though the story of their slowly developing closeness is punctuated by vividly rendered episodes (digging a limousine out of the snow, observing a summer drought and an ensuing forest fire), the story is essentially an extended meditation on the prickly, necessary interrelationship of man and the natural world. Variety is provided by a handful of lively townspeople (reminiscent of TV’s Northern Exposure) and by lengthy excerpts from old Dudley’s notebooks (as Wallis reads them), which comprise an almost mystical interpretation of how the earth’s physical features were formed (“It’s kind of like the Bible, Dudley explains). But one reads this novel for such descriptive passages as this: “Flaming trees and burning snags and limbs...falling like swords with whiffs of sound like the cutting of paper with sharp scissors.”

The story’s drama builds not through action per se, but from the intensity of its characters’ observations of themselves and of the exterior world that nutures, tests, and reshapes them. Read it slowly, and it won’t let go of you.

Jackson: The Good Life

By Walt Grayson

Towery (Hardcover, $44.95, ISBN: 1881096572)

Publication date: June 1998


“When pressed by the question, ‘Well, what is so great about Jackson?’ we’re stuck for superlatives. We don’t have the South’s tallest buildings or the largest population or the most money. Yet, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of things about this town that we like, or we wouldn’t bother to live here.”

So says our storyteller and broadcaster Walt Grayson in Jackson: The Good Life as he sets out to name a few of the many elements that make his adopted hometown such a fascinating place. It’s a crossroads city, where cultures merge and creative forces are born. It’s also the state capital, with all the power and prestige that comes with being the seat of Mississippi’s government.

Put these forces together, writes Grayson, and you end up with a city that is rich and diverse—“a big old country town” that is quickly outgrowing its Deep South roots to become one of the New South’s most desirable locales.

Aided by hundreds of outstanding images collected by photography editor Gib Ford, Grayson creates a mosaic of tales and images that help define what makes Jackson such a special place to call home.

“Only when you put all of the parts together does a total picture emerge.” Grayson concludes, “It’s like experiencing a kaleidoscope: It’s the overall pattern formed from all of the many changing colors that you’re really seeing.” Take a closer look, and you too can experience the good life that Grayson and his fellow Jacksonians already know so well.

Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier

Nonfiction by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith

University of Oklahoma Press (Paperback, $16.05, ISBN: 0806130547)

Publication date: June 1998

Description from Booklist :

The rarely seen and startlingly vital black-and-white photographs in this volume capture the fortitude and pride of the clear-eyed women of the frontier, women who had to practice all the tender arts of nurturing a family under the most rugged of circumstances. Peavy and Smith cut through all the myths of frontier life in their frank and engaging commentary, getting down to the cold, gritty facts under such headings as “Keeping Spirits Up,” “Night Fears,” “Warding Off Insects and Animals,” and “Little Ones Lost.” This litany alludes to the loneliness and isolation of pioneer existence, where every act, from securing clean drinking water to making clothes, required long, hard labor, and where pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood often involved as much tragedy as joy. Little-discussed issues, such as marriages between Anglo men and Indian and Hispanic women, are examined, as are the lives of women who found employment outside the homestead as teachers, physicians, businesswomen, journalists, and even prostitutes. A book as fresh and inspiring as a bright, breezy day on the plains. —Donna Seaman

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