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Home:  >News & Events   >Newsletter   >2002

Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for November 15-21, 2002

In this issue:


The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.

1909: Obstetrician-gynecologist Landrum Brewer Shettles was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi. (Nov. 21)

1911: Novelist William Attaway was born in Greenville, Mississippi. (Nov. 19)

1915: Novelist and journalist Elliott Chaze was born in Mamou, Louisiana. (Nov. 15)

1915: Religious writer Graham R. Hodges was born in Wesson, Mississippi. (Nov. 20)

1916: Novelist and historian Shelby Foote was born in Greenville, Mississippi. (Nov. 17)

1917: Sociologist Lisa Lekis was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Nov. 19)

1923: Fiction writer and English professor P. H. Lowrey was born in Verona, Mississippi. (Nov. 20)

1925: Poet and fiction writer Robert Canzoneri was born in San Marcos, Texas. (Nov. 21)

1932: Music professor Ben E. Bailey was born in Durant, Mississippi. (Nov. 19)

1948: Mystery and children’s literature writer Robert W. Walker was born in Corinth, Mississippi. (Nov. 17)

1956: Historian Stephen Cresswell was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Nov. 15)

NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

Visible SpiritsVisible Spirits: A Novel

By Steve Yarbrough

Vintage Books (Paperback, $13.00, ISBN: 0375725776)

Publication date: August 2002

Description from Publishers Weekly:

The South depicted in Steve Yarbrough’s haunting new novel irresistibly calls to mind Yeats’s famous lines, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity.” The best and worst, in this case, are brothers who, despite their common upbringing, are diametrically opposed on issues of race. Tandy Payne, who returns to Loring, Miss., in the early 20th century after squandering his inheritance on gambling, whores and liquor, has absorbed all the hypocrisy and racism of the old South. Loring’s mayor, Tandy’s brother, Leighton, stands 6'5", harbors liberal opinions and is handicapped by a perpetual awkwardness. He runs Loring’s newspaper and uses it as a platform for moderation.

Yarbrough divides his story between the Payne siblings and Seaborn and Loda Jackson, who are black. Loda is the town’s postmistress, the only African-American in the state with a government appointment. Tandy covets her job, and he decides to steal it by starting a race-baiting campaign, claiming Loda encouraged a black laborer to behave insolently. To prevent conflict, Loda resigns, but Theodore Roosevelt’s administration decides to make a civil rights stand by not accepting her resignation. In the escalating dispute, Leighton becomes a pariah for siding with Loda.

Connecting Loda, Tandy and Leighton is their common father, Sam, a plantation owner who massacred a group of black men and women who tried to escape the Delta in the 1880s. Based on a real 1902 incident, Yarborough’s sad, elegantly wrought story proceeds like a mesmerizing lesson in the skewed logic of violence, and it builds to a powerful ending, a tragic testament to the dark heritage haunting the South. Yarbrough, who earned critical kudos with The Oxygen Man, has again written a novel that resonates with understanding and compassion.

While his subject matter is somber, Yarbrough’s restrained narrative pulls the reader into its time and place with beautifully calibrated suspense. Critical recognition that he’s a writer to watch should bring attention to this novel. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Holt CollierHolt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear

By Minor Ferris Buchanan

Centennial Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $30.00, ISBN: 1893062376)

Publication date: August 2002


November 14, 2002, marks the 100th anniversary of the world famous Teddy Bear. The origin of the Teddy Bear stems from an occasion when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the wilderness of Mississippi in hopes of killing a black bear. He was guided on this hunt by Holt Collier, a former slave, Confederate veteran (yes—amazing though it sounds), Texas cowboy, Mississippi lawman, and noted pioneer. He is known to have killed over 3,000 bear in his lifetime, more than Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett combined. Roosevelt, who also hunted with Collier in Louisiana in 1907, called him “the greatest hunter and guide I have ever known.”

Collier killed many white men, several in Mississippi. One exciting incident in his biography is a detailed description of the gunfight at Washburn’s Ferry where Collier out-drew the notorious Louisiana outlaw Travis Elmore Sage. He was prosecuted only once—for the murder of a Union captain after the Civil War—but he was acquitted. Collier was famous nationally during his lifetime, but the racial atmosphere in Mississippi for the last eighty years kept his remarkable story from being told. There is no detailed and authoritative work on Holt Collier or the origin of the Teddy Bear other than this book.

Minor Ferris Buchanan is a native Mississippian. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1973 with a degree in History and English, graduated from Mississippi College School of Law in 1978, and has been a litigation attorney for twenty-three years. He has researched the life of Holt Collier for a decade over archival collections through much of the country.

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Nov. 15: Burke’s Bookstore, Memphis, Tennessee, 5:00 p.m.

Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History, will sign and read from her long-awaited second novel, The Little Friend, at Burkes Bookstore in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information, visit the store web site,

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at 


The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.

January 16, 2003

Poetry Reading by Tom Chandler, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

February 6, 2003

U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2002) Billy Collins reads from his poetry and offers commentary on his work and other matters. Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

February 17, 2003

A reading by Clifton L. Taulbert on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

March 25, 2003

Poetry Reading by Andrew Hudgins, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

March 26-30, 2003

Seventeenth Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana. For information, visit their web site at

April 10-13, 2003

Oxford Conference for the Book, Oxford, Mississippi.

July 20-25, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at

For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:

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