Mississippi Books and Writers

November 1999

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 (Hardcover, $24.00, ISBN: 0395954290)

Publication date: November 1999

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.

My Cat Spit McGee My Cat Spit McGee

Nonfiction by Willie Morris

Random House (Hardcover, $18.95, ISBN: 0375503218)

Publication date: November 1999

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

The pleasurable confessions of a dog man gone ailurophile—that is, become a cat man—from Morris (The Ghosts of Medgar Evers, 1997, etc.). Morris, who died last month, was an inveterate dog lover—he had even made a tidy boodle off a book and film about his dog, Skip—who underwent a conversion. His fiance had already warned him she wanted a kitten: “Her announcement, as you can only fathom, struck me in my inmost sinews.” Then, into his life, without warningand “unwarranted,” as he put it—strode an abandoned kitten, a gift from his stepson. He couldn’t very well get rid of it, so he made do, naming the cat Rivers Applewhite. Now R.A. slowly became joy enough to Morris, but nothing akin to Rivers’s son, the Spit McGee celebrated here, a cat that Morris coaxed life into when his young mother blew an emotional gasket during the birth and rejected the litter. It’s the kind of tie that binds, as Morris discovered. Through a series of linked cat tales, Morris tries to get a grip on why he became a menial to this cat and in the course of his attempt draws a deeply affectionate picture of the evolution of their friendship. The stories flash with humor, but the best also tap into Spit’s veil of mystery, when Morris attempts to decipher the cat’s interest in the telephone, or his arcane eating habits, his seemingly psychic facilities, his communicative gestures (many of which have to do with the language of the tail), and why he slept on his back, four feet to the sky, a figure of habitude like a dead cockroach. Spit goes so far as to offer Morris an insight into the music of the spheres: “Without wishing to sound histrionic, the birth of Spit … evoked for me a reserve of continuity, of the generations, of life passing on life, of the cycles.” From a man who was owned by a cat, a tender, melodious tribute. —Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Deep Sleep Donor

A Novel by Charles Wilson

St. Martin’s Press (Paperback, $6.99, ISBN: 0312970285)

Publication date: November 1999

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Murder, migraines and mambos mix messily in this latest from veteran thriller writer Wilson (Extinct; Direct Descendant). At the South Louisiana Sleep Disorders Institute, a young woman lies strangled while obese accountant Henry Womack, another patient, has disappeared into the bayou. Nearby, the parents of a celebrated local freak named Boudron are found butchered, and Boudron is discovered hiding behind a screen of voodoo amulets.

Enter Mark French, a deputy just back on duty after a three-year hiatus following his botched attempt to rescue three hostages from a crazed gunman in New Orleans. Spooked by offers of help from the blatantly sinister institute head, Shasha Dominique, a secret voodoo priestess, Mark and his colleagues vacillate between fingering the one-armed Boudron and the plainly zombified Womack. But when Womack and Boudron both turn up dead, it’s clear that the bad guys are still on the prowl, even with a surfeit of good guys trying to apprehend them—including Mark’s love interest, forensic psychologist Kelly Dalton. Someone is evidently manipulating the institute’s so-called “lucid dreaming” technique to persuade innocents to carry out crimes through hypnotic suggestion.

To the author’s credit, there are one or two unforeseen twists to the otherwise humdrum plot. By the time its dastardly dynamic is exposed, however, most readers will long since have lost interest. Cut-up paragraphs and touristy descriptions of voodoo practices litter the pages without much pattern, and the prose ranges from wooden to downright leaden. —Copyright © 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Them Bones Them Bones

A novel by Carolyn Haines

Bantam (Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 0553581716)

Publication date: November 1999


If only I hadn’t kidnapped the dog … but the ransom paid the mortgage…. Now I seem to be a private eye…. I shouldn’t have listened to that ghost….

Meet Sarah Booth Delaney … an unconventional Southern belle whose knack for uncovering the truth is about to make her the hottest detective in Zinnia, Mississippi … if it doesn’t make her the deadest. No self-respecting lady would allow herself to end up in Sarah Booth’s situation. Unwed, unemployed, and over thirty, she’s flat broke and about to lose the family plantation. Not to mention being haunted by the ghost of her great-great-grandmother’s nanny, who never misses an opportunity to remind her of her sorry state—or to suggest a plan of action, like ransoming her friend’s prize pooch to raise some cash.

But soon Sarah Booth’s walk on the criminal side leads her deeper into unladylike territory, and she’s hired to solve a murder. Did gorgeous, landed Hamilton Garrett V really kill his mother twenty years ago? And if so, what is Sarah Booth doing falling for this possible murderer? When she asks one too many questions and a new corpse turns up, she is suddenly a suspect herself … and Sarah Booth finds that digging up the bones of the past could leave her rolling over in her grave.

Shakespeare's Christmas Shakespeare’s Christmas

By Charlaine Harris

Dell (Paperback, ISBN: 0440234999)

Publication date: November 1999

Description from Kirkus Reviews:

But its neither Shakespeare nor Christmas, actually, since Lily Bard, the most formidable cleaning woman in Shakespeare, Ark., leaves her adopted hometown in the opening chapter to return to her family’s queasy bosom in Bartley for her sister Varena’s wedding, a Christmas Eve affair that’s bound to upstage the usual round of holiday festivities.

What it doesn’t upstage is a long-unsolved kidnapping—the snatching of newborn Summer Dawn Macklesby from her family’s porch eight years before, a crime that springs to alarming life again courtesy of an anonymously donated newspaper clipping announcing that Summer Dawn is one of the three eight-year-olds pictured.

The candidates: Varena’s next-door neighbor Eve Osborn, her minister’s daughter Krista O’Shea, and Anna Kingery, daughter of Varena’s intended. Lily, who’s herself the survivor of a brutal abduction and would rather be working than socializing anyway, isn’t about to back down from this challenge, particularly after she and Varena stumble on the bodies of Dr. Dave LeMay and his nurse Binnie Armstrong—a powerful reminder that the Macklesby kidnapping has yet to be laid to rest.

The detection is routine (Lily snoops around as she cleans the suspects’ houses), and bucolic Bartley is no Shakespeare. Only Lily herself, in full attack mode, carries the day. —Copyright 1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

A William Faulkner Encyclopedia A William Faulkner Encyclopedia

Edited by Robert W. Hamblin and Charles A. Peek

Greenwood Press (Hardcover, $99.95, ISBN: 0313298513)

Publication date: November 1999

Description from Booklist:

The year 1997 was the centennial of the birth of William Faulkner, and the editors, both professors of English, chose this opportunity to begin work on an updated analysis of one of the masters of twentieth-century literature. This encyclopedia is not so much about Faulkner’s personal but his literary life, with entries covering primary influences and major themes, works, major characters, family members, and critics. All entries are signed and have further reading lists included. The length of the entries varies from a long paragraph to three pages. Arrangement is alphabetical.

Examples of entries on primary influences include Impressionism; Joyce, James; Paris; and Shakespeare. Examples of major themes include Religion, Slavery, and Sport. Entries that analyze Faulkner’s writing include Point of view and Stream of consciousness, along with those for individual novels, short stories, screenplays, and other works. More than 50 contributors from a wide variety of colleges and universities were selected to participate in this study; and although this variety of well-known and newer Faulkner scholars allows for a multitude of opinions and voices, the editors admit that there is a wide range of writing styles. The volume concludes with a selected bibliography and an index.

The editors’ stated goal was to “apprise an already literate reader of what constitutes the main body of Faulkner’s work and to demonstrate why the critical estimation of that work is so secure and still growing.… Ideally, the volume will encourage in all its users further exploration of the varied issues and circumstances that situate Faulkner’s work for readers.” Aimed at an audience already familiar with Faulkner or one ready to do research, this title is best suited for academic and larger public libraries, as well as high schools with Advanced Placement American Literature classes.

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