Mississippi Books and Writers


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

The BrokerThe Broker

By John Grisham

Doubleday (Hardcover, $27.95, ISBN: 0385510454)

Publication date: January 2005

Description from the publisher:

In his final hours in the Oval Office, the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems Backman, in his power broker heyday, may have obtained secrets that compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive — there is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, who will kill him?

High Country

By Nevada Barr

Berkley (Paperback, $7.99, ISBN: 0425199568)

Publication date: February 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly :

The serene snow country suddenly turns deadly for Anna Pigeon in Barr’s riveting 12th novel to feature the intrepid National Park Service ranger (after 2003’s Flashback). On assignment to locate four young park employees who went missing in a fierce storm, the 50ish Anna is working undercover as a waitress at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, where she must deal not only with an exacting supervisor and a surly head chef but also share a dorm with 20-something roommates. Evoking the stunning beauty of the park in winter, Barr contrasts the relative safety of Yosemite Valley with the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains into which Anna treks in search of the missing kids. Danger crackles like ice on the frozen lake where she finds a partially submerged plane loaded with drugs. Attacked by vicious poachers, Anna flees into the absolute, terrifying darkness for an ordeal that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages. So well done is this nail-biting sequence that the resolution can come only as something of a letdown. Barr has a true gift for outdoor writing, using the lush snow as natural cover for the violent life in the wild as well as among the park’s human custodians. Anyone contemplating a nice winter hike will think twice after entering the wilderness with Anna, but her fans always come back for more.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Prisoners of War

By Steve Yarbrough

Vintage (Paperback, $13.95, ISBN: 1400030625)

Publication date: March 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Set in the same small Mississippi town as Yarbrough’s critically acclaimed Visible Spirits, this complex WWII-era novel explores questions of morality and social inequity in the rural South when a group of German POWs are quartered at a local camp and sent to work as day laborers on nearby farms. The novel opens with the uncomfortable friendship between young Dan Timms, who drives one of his enterprising Uncle Alvin’s “rolling stores” (old school buses boasting all the necessities of country life: sodas, coal-oil lamps, radios), and L.C. Stevens, the black employee who drives the other. While L.C. vainly struggles to make his work partner see the “parallel universe” in which black Americans are trapped, Dan yearns to join the army and escape the fresh memory of his father’s recent suicide and his suspicions about his mother’s past. But Dan’s friend Marty Stark shows him another side of war when he returns damaged and changed from the German theater and is reassigned to help guard the town’s German POWs. The story shifts subtly when a Polish prisoner informs Dan of an escape planned by several other prisoners, setting in motion a chain of events that eventually brings Marty’s troubled war memories to the surface. Meanwhile, L.C. suffers a beating by an older, powerful white man who, after losing his own son in the war, uses his influence to ensure that the young black man is drafted. The multiple subplots slow the novel’s pace, but Yarbrough’s warm, measured voice, clean prose and rich character studies make this an unusually tender and accomplished study of the reverberations of war on the home front.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Writing Life

By Ellen Gilchrist

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $28.00, ISBN: 1578067391)

Publication date: March 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly:

In this collection of wry and poised autobiographical essays, most previously unpublished, National Book Award winner Gilchrist (Victory over Japan, etc.) is disarmingly direct in evoking herself as a trapped young wife and mother who returned to college, studied under Eudora Welty and became involved in the New Stage Theatre in Jackson, Miss., during the civil rights era, a turning point in her eventual “escape from the bourgeoisie.” She writes frankly and without self-loathing about overcoming alcoholism, and reflects on the powerful influence of her disciplined, sporty father, drawing analogies between tennis and writing, coaching and teaching. She tells of writing her first published book of stories, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, in three months and of how its publication coincided with the birth of her first grandchild. Affording insights into her writing process, including the necessary evil of letting down friends and family in order to put writing first, Gilchrist’s droll, optimistic and seasoned voice is irresistible. A final series of pithy essays focuses on her adaptation to academia late in life; she enthralls with witty, tender observations of her writing students’ progress. Gilchrist’s love of life, her tireless work ethic and her self-assured sense of fun and folly shine in this vital and inspiring collection.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist: An Appreciation

By Brad Hooper

Praeger Publishers (Hardcover, $39.95, ISBN: 0275985938)

Publication date: March 2005


Winner of the National Book Award for her short story collection Victory Over Japan, Ellen Gilchrist has entertained audiences with her vivid fictional portraits of strong women, eccentric lives, and the difficulties of love and life. Known both for her short fiction and her novels, Gilchrist has been awarded several honors throughout her career, and her work continues to receive both critical and popular acclaim. This book examines her fiction, book by book, and offers an appreciation of her craft through a careful analysis of the stories themselves, their critical reception, and their lasting effect on the reader. Hooper offers the first complete evaluation of Gilchrist's entire fiction oeuvre. Author of such works as In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, The Annunciation, I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, and several other novels and collections of short stories, Ellen Gilchrist has transcended the bounds of Southern writing, appealing to audiences in all corners of the nation. Here, Hooper celebrates her fiction, focusing on the strong, feisty female characters that populate her works, exerting their will and independence regardless of traditional restraints on their activities. In addition, he pays special attention to her strengths and weaknesses as both a short fiction writer and a novelist, arguing that while her novels may entertain, her lasting contribution to American letters can more easily be found in her short fiction.

Hard Truth

By Nevada Barr

Putnam (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 0399152415)

Publication date: March 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly :

In Barr’s taut 13th thriller to feature Anna Pigeon (after 2004’s High Country), the 50-ish National Park Service ranger leaves her new husband, Paul, back in Mississippi, to assume a new post in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, where she encounters a serial killer and a strong, determined woman, Heath Jarrod, much like herself. Heath, a former ice climber now confined to a wheelchair after a near-fatal fall, feels depressed, isolated and helpless. She’s camping in the national park with her physician, who’s also her aunt, when a pair of battered young girls, two of three missing from a nearby religious retreat, appear at the campsite. Heath and Anna at first dislike one another, but join forces to break the silence enforced by the retreat’s domineering head and discover why the youngsters vanished, who took them, where they were and what happened to the third girl. Barr skillfully weaves contemporary issues of parental responsibility, religious and political separatism, and sexual abuse into her harrowing story. She carefully sets the scene in the first part of the book, which builds to a spectacular climax that pits Anna against evil incarnate. Noted for her precise plotting and atmospheric descriptions of nature, Barr again proves her skill in putting believable characters in peril against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Diezmo: A Novel

By Rick Bass

Houghton-Mifflin (Hardcover, $22.00, ISBN: 0395926173)

Publication date: May 2005

Description from Booklist:

Whether Bass is writing his profoundly affecting narrative nonfiction, which includes Caribou Rising (2004), or such spellbinding short story collections as The Hermit’s Story (2002), he expresses awe over life’s glory and ruefulness over humankind’s folly. Bass has now perfected his novelist’s voice in this commanding tale inspired by the Mier Expedition, an infamous chapter in the brief and bloody story of the Republic of Texas. Bass’ eminently trustworthy narrator, James Alexander, is still in his teens when he and a friend impulsively join a militia ordered by Sam Houston to patrol the border with Mexico, but which, instead, turns rogue, crosses the Rio Grande, and slaughters innocent people and soldiers alike. James and many of his worse-for-wear cohorts are captured, shackled, put to work building a road, then imprisoned in an isolated, vermin-infested mountain fortress, all the while suffering brutal deprivations and terrors (one Mexican commander enforces the diezmo, or tithe, arbitrarily executing 1 prisoner in 10). As Bass recounts the prisoners’ epic suffering and consequential stoicism, he achieves the molten beauty, compassion, and longing for justice found in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage and the novels of B. Traven and Cormac McCarthy. But he also articulates his signature passion for life’s endless improvisations and persistence as manifest in everything from the grandeur of desert landscapes to lice, orchids, jaguars, a young woman in love, and even the cruelty and aberrations of men entangled in illegitimate warfare, a tragic practice we seem doomed to perpetuate generation after generation.

—Donna Seaman. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Nora Jane: A Life in Stories

By Ellen Gilchrist

Back Bay Books (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 0316058386)

Publication date: August 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Gilchrist (I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting With My Daddy) gathers 14 moving, lightly humorous short stories (previously published) and a novella (new) starring Nora Jane Whittington, as she robs a New Orleans old-boys bar with icy aplomb and sets off, “like a woman in a dream,” to meet her faithless lover in San Francisco. Rising above a tragic upbringing, Nora Jane becomes a “self-taught anarchist and quick-change artist” set to scam her way out of the South. But when she pulls her gun on wealthy bookstore owner Freddy Harwood, her steely edge melts in his all-consuming adoration. Then Nora Jane must learn to accept the blessings that rain down upon her, starting when Freddy marries her and raises her gifted twin girls of dubious paternity as if they were his own. Gilchrist finds a font of inspiration in Nora Jane, an intriguing blend of magnolia charm and iron will, and in her circle of friends, whose fierce love and faith invites serendipity at every turn. With insightful, illuminating prose, Gilchrist nimbly slips into their lives, story after story, to meditate on the miracles that see them through dark days. The Berkeley milieu, with its giant Buddha statue that captures Nora Jane’s fancy, inspires Gilchrist to spike her writing with a heady optimism, mingling science with mysticism and dabbles of magical realism. Even Freddy’s illness brings out the wonders of Gilchrist’s world. Frequent overlap between stories cause a few narrative bumps, but that’s a minor quibble. Taken together, the stories amount to a stirring saga of a charmed life.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

ASalty Piece of Land

A Novel by Jimmy Buffett

Back Bay Books (Paperback, $14.95, ISBN: 031605996X)

Publication date: November 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly:

There’s a Condé Nast Traveler article fighting to get out of bestseller Buffett’s first new novel in a decade, a groovily laid-back, ramblingly anecdotal, sun-soaked bit of Caribbean escapism that his Parrothead fans will relish like another chorus of “Margaritaville.” Tully Mars, a 40-ish ex-cowboy turned guide at the Lost Boys Fishing Lodge island resort, undertakes various sojourns around the Caribbean, to Mayan ruins, a jungle safari camp, a spring break bacchanal in Belize. Nothing much happens—“That day, we spent the rest of the daylight hours on the shallow waters of Ascension Bay and the lagoon amid incredible natural beauty unlike anything I had ever seen before” is about as busy as it gets—except that Tully meets a parade of colorful natives and expatriates, including a Mayan medicine man, a British commando and a 103-year-old woman who skippers a sailing schooner and wants to restore a historic lighthouse on Cayo Loco, the titular island. The characters are all hospitality entrepreneurs, and Buffett (A Pirate Looks at Fifty) also gives them shaggy-dog anecdotes, tidbits of Caribbean history and desultory life lessons to relate. There are glimmers of plot—bounty hunters, loves lost and found—but mostly Tully has little to do but savor the accommodations and atmospherics of tourist locales while the sea washes him with waves of love, happiness and maturity as infallibly as the tides. This book is as cheery and tropical as Buffet’s music.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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