Book Review: 'Mississippi Noir'

 

By Chaning Green, News Writer

“Mississippi Noir” is a collection of short stories edited by Oxford’s own Tom Franklin and set for release on Aug. 2. <>

Each of the 16 stories that make up the 281-page anthology is set in Mississippi and was written by a Southern author that has a strong connection to the state. Many of the all-star contributors like Ace Atkins are Mississippi transplants who now call the state home, while others were born in and still have strong ties to the state.

The stories in this collection are dark. Each one has something to do with murder, secret affairs, kidnapping, family secrets and sometimes all of the above. The book is dived into four sections with each containing four stories. Part one is titled “Conquest and Revenge,” the second is titled “Wayward Youth,” the third is “Bloodlines” and the final section is called “Skipping Town.”

Readers will be taken everywhere in the state from the coast to Olive Branch with several stops in between, some of them fictional. The collection of stories Franklin has assembled provides a collaboration of voices from various different backgrounds that resonate on so many different levels and give this collection a unique tone. The collection is able to incorporate the gritty realism of Atkins while at the same time including the witty and immersive style of Jack Pendarvis.

Though each story is dark and deals with very heavy subject matter, the prose reflects the striking, albeit morbid, writing that has been associated with Southern fiction since Faulkner dreamed up Yoknapatawpha County. Several times I found myself flipping to the book’s table of contents to see where the next story started, not because I was anxious for the current one to end, but in a vain attempt to predict where the darkness would bloom out of the beautiful prose when only three pages were left in the current story.

Many of the stories have such vivid imagery of the state and the unique and entertaining characters who populate the pages that it can be easy to forget that someone is probably about to die, while other stories let you know from the beginning that something is very wrong.

Being divided by themes, the book follows no chronological order as it takes readers across various times in Mississippi history. A drug-dealing white teenager in a present-day Madison mega-church youth group, a black woman in 1936 Grenada, the tale of a boy named Hero who lost the ability to speak in one of those tiny Mississippi towns frozen in time are all featured within the book’s pages.

This collection provides readers with well-crafted, dark stories of Mississippi mistakes and misdeeds that are told in such a way that allow for each individual contributor’s voice to shine through, uniting all of it with a reverence, or perhaps even distaste, for the possibilities of what could be lurking in the Mississippi night.

“Mississippi Noir” will be hitting shelves with a special book launch at Square Books on Aug. 4. Mark your calendars because the latest addition to dark Mississippi fiction is not one to be missed.

Twitter: chaningthegreen

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