Archive for September, 2011

Author John Pritchard and his character Junior Ray talk ebooks

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Junior Ray: A Novel, by John PritchardWith the news that John Pritchard’s novels Junior Ray and The Yazoo Blues were now available as ebooks, Pritchard hurried to tell his eponymous character, Junior Ray Loveblood. The results were as unpredictable as Junior Ray himself …

Shortly after I found out about the forthcoming “e”-editions of Junior Ray’s books, I sent word to him that I wanted to have a chat, and when I caught up with him I began innocuously enough by asking, “How are you, Junior Ray?”

To which he replied: “That’s personal, Pritchard. But I’m fine. What did you want to talk to me about? Am I in some kinda trouble?”

“No,” I said, “you are not in trouble. I just thought you’d be delighted to learn that both of your books will soon be on Kindle . . . and I wanted to hear what you thought of it.”

Kindle?” He asked.

“That’s right,”  I said. “Kindle.”

“Both books?


“On Kindle?”

“Correct,” I said.

“Da-um!” he said. “They gon’ set em on fire?!!”

Before I could respond, he took off like Miss Ruth McGrew, back in 1952, when she found a three-foot water moccasin coiled up in her mother’s yellow Buttercup-Spode serving platter in the kitchen cabinet above the sink: “I knew it!” he shouted. “Bygod I knew it! I knew sure as shootn that sooner or later them Baptists — and all the rest of them Bible-Bangers was gon’ get around to burnin up my books!”

At this point Junior Ray was at ramming speed. “In fact,” he went on, “I had a datgum dream the other night. Yassuh. I dreamt I was out in front of the Baptist church, and almost everybody in the town, not just them Baptists but the whole Jesus-jumpin crew — Methodists, Presbyterians, one or two of them Piscobuls and about half-a-Cath’lic, plus a whole truck-load of Holy Rollers — all of em, was just a’minglin and a’dinglin, boppin and a’hoppin around a’ e-normous barn-fire [sic], havin theysevs a big ol’ churchy time chunkin Junior Ray and The Yazoo Blues into the roarin flames. But . . . I heard a voice that spoke to me in both my ears, and the voice said: ‘Don’t worry, Sumbich; it’s just the special charcoal edition.'”

Though Junior Ray might be considered strong, he is most certainly not the silent type, thus it came as no surprise that he continued to continue — “The voice,” he said, “made me feel better, but I wuddn just watchin. I was standin on the sidelines handin out free copies of my books for all the hymn-hummers to th’ow in fire. I guess I figured that was the only way any of em would voluntarily request a copy. Plus, for all I knew, some good might come of it. As you know, my philosophy is that movin around and doin sumpm, even if it don’t make no sense, is better than setn down and not doin nothin even if that does makes sense — like if you was huntn turkeys. But stayin-still makes me feel like I got cooties, and that’s why I do all my turkey huntn at the Kroger store. Anyway, unless I’m watchin Law & Order, I got to be movin.”

A pause emerged. Angels passed, and I was able to explain to our Mr. Loveblood that “Kindle” — a Kindle — was one of several electronic devices through which people all over the world would be able to receive his message and that it didn’t have anything to do, except perhaps metaphorically, with starting a fire. Also I told him that I should have said his work would be coming out on e-books, which meant electronic books, and I apologized to him for my having used the word “Kindle” as a generic term and getting him all upset.

He told me he felt much better knowing that a Kindle didn’t have anything to do with kindling, “Cause,” he said, “suddenly I thought all the good I had done was gon’ go up in smoke and I wouldn have nothin to say for my life but ashes!”

Visibly relieved by the truth, Junior Ray declared he thinks making his books “electrical” is a good idea and that he’d bet the “EN-tire hist’ry of the whole f-n world woulda been a lot different if old Jehovah, hissef, hadda put the Ten Commandments on a’ e-book.”

And in the spirit of his well-known propensity for inconsistency with regard to religion, Junior Ray tossed a weenie to the notion that the early distribution of Western theology might also have been more efficiently accomplished “if all them old Apostles’ud had some Kindles to help em spread the Word without havin to hike out through the desert in sandals and ride around on jackasses.”

“However,” he said, “They was Democrats.” Ever the master of the bon mot, Mr. Loveblood’s perceptive wires were hot.

“I guess,” he continued, “when it comes to electricity, Benjamin Franklin never ‘magined sumpm electrical like me would come from flyin a kite in a rainstorm. But that’s how things always is. They start out one way and, on down the road, they wind up unimaginable. Anyhow, just like old Ben, all you need is a spark and a door-key. Plus, they shoulda put him on a bigger bill.”

In the end, Junior Ray’s conclusion was predictably unpredictable: “I am not surprised,” he said, “that it takes a whole lot more’n a buncha paper to handle all the important stuff I want to tell people about the (!@#$%^&*) Miss’ssippi Delta. And now that I know my books is gon’ be electrified and out there everywhere, just a’sparklin in the air, any place and no place all at the same time — from us right here clear to China! — it makes me realize, as a historian, as a philosopher, and as a law-enforcement professional . . . that my mission to give readers the real picture of the Yazoo Basin, also known as THE Miss’ssippi Delta, will no longer be carried out just with words on paper which you could wrap your pork chop in. Nossuh. Things is different — because now if you was to have my electrical books in one hand and that same pork chop in the other . . . you could cook it.”

Junior Ray and The Yazoo Blues are available in print and for all major ebook platforms from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite book or ebook retailer. Barnes and Noble named Junior Ray a 2005 Sensational Debut Novel, calling it “beautifully crafted … deserves shelf space beside the best southern literature.”

Leah Rawls Atkins praises Mary Ann Neeley’s Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery’s First Historian

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

The Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery's First Historian, by Mary Ann Neeley

This review originally appeared in The Alabama Review: A Quarterly Journal of Alabama History, July 2011, Vol. 64, No. 3. Review by Leah Rawls Atkins, Auburn University.

The Works of Matthew Blue: Montgomery’s First Historian. Edited by Mary Ann Neeley. Montgomery: NewSouth Books, 2010. xvi, 459 pp. $45.00. ISBN 978-1-58838-031-9.

Anyone researching a nineteenth-century Alabama topic that touches Montgomery must consult Matthew Blue. Before the appearance of Mary Ann Neeley’s edition of Blue’s works, this was difficult because copies were rare and fragile. Finding who or what you were interested in without a comprehensive index, understanding all the facts and events, knowing the family and political interrelations of the people whom Blue mentioned were impossible for most researchers. Significant nuances were surely missed by those of us not familiar with the history and people of Montgomery.

Neeley’s book places this history in easy reach with an index and copious annotations and notes. Blue’s text is in boldface type, and Neeley’s annotations follow in regular type. Her notes are placed by appropriate paragraphs on the outside margin of her book, which makes the scholarship easily accessible to the reader. Neeley, now retired, was the longtime director of the capital city’s living history museum, Old Alabama Town. She spent her life studying Montgomery, its people, and events. Taking more than a decade to complete the book, Neeley used numerous primary sources, especially the Blue family papers in the Alabma Department of Archives and History.

Matthew Blue was born in a log cabin on September 24, 1824, on the hill where the Alabama capitol now stands. He died in Montgomery on December 20, 1884. In his lifetime, Blue was a mail clerk, the city’s postmaster, the publisher and part-owner of the Montgomery Advertiser, a columnist for the Montgomery Daily Post, a coroner, and secretary of the state senate. Most of all, he knew everyone, was a keen observer of people and events, and he had a sense of the importance of recorded history.

Blue wrote an early history of Montgomery and compiled a list of events in the city, both included in the 1878 City Directory of Montgomery. His essay on church history was published in 1851, and his early study of the organization of the city’s churches was privately printed in 1878. Blue’s history and genealogy of the Blue family appeared in 1886, two years after Blue died. These works, along with the unpublished diary of Ellen Blue, are included in Neeley’s work. One strength of the book is the copious illustrations and photographs, which are fully explained in captions. The large number of names and the easy index will be an asset for genealogical and family researchers.

Blue’s descriptions of many historical events in Montgomery have been the authority for much that has made its way into modern articles and books — General Lafayette’s entrance into Montgomery on April 3, 1825, and his reception “on the hill upon which the State Capitol now stands”; the fire on December 14, 1849, that destroyed the first capitol building in Montgomery; the city as capitol of the Confederacy and Montgomery during the Confederate period.

Neeley’s edited and annotated volume of Blue’s works should be in major research libraries in the nation and included in most of Alabama’s public and academic collections. Collectors of Alabamiana will welcome this volume.

The Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery’s First Historian, by Mary Ann Neeley, is available direct from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite book retailer.

Deadline trailer premieres, based on Ethridge’s book Grievances

Friday, September 16th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

We’re only growing more and more excited for the premiere of Deadline, the new movie starring Steve Talley and Eric Roberts, and based on Mark Ethridge’s thrilling novel Grievances, in theaters in 2012. And now, the official Deadline trailer has finally arrived!

In Deadline, young Nashville Times reporter Matt Harper begins investigating a decades-old civil rights murder, risking his life against forces that want to keep the truth hidden. Author Mark Ethridge’s novel Grievances is based on true events, and borrows heavily from Ethridge’s long career as a reporter and editor.

Pat Conroy called Grievances “as riveting as the best Grisham courtroom thriller … [with] heart that will resonate with readers long after they have turned the final page.”

Watch the Deadline trailer on YouTube or learn more about the film at

Grievances, by Mark Ethridge, is available in hardcover and ebook formats from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite book retailer, and on all major ebook platforms.

Aileen Henderson starts Eugene Allen Smith book tour at UA’s Hoole Library

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 by Lisa Harrison

Eugene Allen Smith's Alabama:  How a Geologist Shaped a State by Aileen HendersonAileen Kilgore Henderson will return to her alma mater, the University of Alabama, on September 20 for a book-signing celebrating publication by NewSouth Books of Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama: How a Geologist Shaped a State. This book has been a labor of love for Henderson, who spent 10 years researching and writing it, with much of her work being done at the Hoole Special Collections Library where she will speak.

Eugene Allen Smith was for fifty years Alabama’s state geologist. Until his death in 1927 this gifted man devoted his abundant energy and stout heart to the welfare of Alabama. What he accomplished, against monumental odds, became the catalyst that transformed the state from a poverty-stricken agricultural land to an industrial giant. Aileen Henderson’s book — based on Smith’s letters and field notes and gorgeously illustrated with the photos he took — is the first to that chronicle his significant contributions.

In a Tuscaloosa News interview, Henderson revealed that her interest in Smith began during her childhood, when her father worked with Smith’s diaries:

“Back during the Depression, Daddy lost his job as a time-keeper when the mines closed and had to go to work for the WPA,” Henderson said. “Daddy worked at Smith Hall on a crew that was typing Dr. Smith’s journal from yellow sheets or second sheets, and they would discard the second sheets. And those that Daddy thought were amusing or interesting, he would bring home for the family to read.”

After pursuing a career as a teacher and author of children’s fiction, Henderson returned to the subject of Eugene Allen Smith, discovering that his journal was rich in history not only about Smith as a man, but about the state he worked tirelessly to promote.

Aileen Henderson will speak and sign copies of Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama at the Hoole Library on September 20 at 5:00 pm and at the Tuscaloosa Library on September 29 at noon. She is scheduled to speak at the Tuscaloosa Public Library, the Birmingham Public Library, the LaFayette Public Library, and at other libraries around the state in the next few months.

Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Dot Moore presents new book on John Wallace to rapt audiences

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by Noelle Matteson

No Remorse: The Rise and Fall of John Wallace by Dot MooreOn August 31, Dot Moore spoke at the Coweta County Courthouse about her latest book No Remorse: The Rise and Fall of John Wallace. Historian and author Daniel Langford states that Moore’s “gripping” work “answers a thousand questions about the Turner/Wallace case.”

According to the Times-Herald, Moore held audiences “spellbound” as she described perhaps the most famous murder in Coweta County history. She also presented Wallace’s Bible, pocket watch, tie, and pistol.

Moore told the LaGrange Daily News that Wallace had a real life Jekyll and Hyde personality: he had both a generous reputation and a demonic temper. A prominent Meriwether County farmer and landowner, he killed one of his farmhands William Turner in 1948. Wallace was sentenced to death, and he is one of the richest men to have ever been executed. Another unusual aspect in the case is that he, a powerful white man, was put away by the testimony of two black men.

Dot Moore launched her new book with a big signing at Scott’s Bookstore in Newnan. On Monday, Moore autographed copies of No Remorse at the Chipley Historical Society in Pine Mountain. She will be signing books in Montgomery’s NewSouth Bookstore on Thursday, September 15 at 4 p.m. and at Horton’s Books & Gifts in Carrollton on Saturday, September 24 at 11 a.m. She will talk at the Powell Expo Center on Temple Avenue in Newnan on Oct. 29.

Read more about Dot Moore’s presentation in the LaGrange Daily News piece “Killer’s items displayed as book debuts” and the Times-Herald articles “Was it murder in Meriwether County?” and “Dot Moore to speak at Pine Mountain and at Expo Center.”

Moore grew up in Heard County, Georgia. She is a retired educator and political activist, and lives in Montgomery, Alabama. She is the author of Oracle of the Ages, the story of Mayhayley Lancaster, also published by NewSouth Books. Oracle of the Ages told about fortune teller Mayhayley Jackson, who testified at Wallace’s trial. It won the Georgia Historical Society’s Lilla Hawes Award.

Dot Moore’s No Remorse is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Howell Heflin inducted to Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame

Friday, September 9th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

A Judge in the Senate by John Hayman with Clara Ruth HaymanFormer Alabama Supreme Court chief justice and US Senator Howell Thomas Heflin will be inducted into the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, and a plaque will be inscribed with his name in the Samford University library. Heflin died in 2005. In 2001, NewSouth Books published his authorized biography, A Judge in the Senate, by John Hayman with Clara Ruth Hayman. Senator Edward Kennedy called A Judge in the Senate “required reading for all citizens who believe that one person can make a difference.”

Heflin was the son of a Methodist minister and was a highly decorated combat Marine in World War II, before serving as chief justice and later, as a US senator for eighteen years. Historian Wayne Flynt noted that Heflin’s “exaggerated drawl, his gargantuan size, his bombastic oratorical style easily misled those who were forever labeling Southerners as escapees from a Lil’ Abner cartoon. Informed Alabamians knew better as did his colleagues in the U.S. Senate. As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, architect of the 1973 judicial reform article that modernized the state’s court system, and thoughtful champion of expanded rights for African Americans, Heflin was one of the most successful Democrats in post-George Wallace Southern politics.”

In an article in the Times Daily, Heflin’s former chief of staff Steve Raby described the hall of fame induction as a “great honor for the family.” He continued, “I’m glad they are going to see this recognition … They deserve this moment and the honor is very much deserved.”

The Hall of Fame will induct Heflin alongside post-Civil War era governor Thomas Goode Jones. The Hall of Fame notes that “this year’s honorees, attorneys in different centuries, both left legacies of judicial and ethics report.”

The full article on Heflin’s induction is available at the Times Daily website. Learn more about the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame at the Samford University website.

A Judge in the Senate: Howell Heflin’s Career of Politics and Principle is available direct from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite book retailer.

David Rigsbee receives Oscar Arnold Young Award

Thursday, September 1st, 2011 by Noelle Matteson

The Red Tower by David RigsbeeIn 2011, Poetry Council of North Carolina received more entries than ever for the Oscar Arnold Young Award. David Rigsbee’s collection The Red Tower: New and Selected Poems won “outstanding book of poems published by a North Carolina poet in 2010.”

Final judge Paul Nelson, former Director of the Ohio University Creative Writing Program and award-winning author of six collections of poetry, selected Rigsbee’s book. Nelson said that it was the most “unique and fully realized” of the candidates. Rigsbee will be the featured reader on Poetry Day, and his work will appear in the Council‚Äôs annual awards anthology Bay Leaves.

Rigsbee edits for The Cortland Review and has received fellowships and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. Amongst his 18 books and chapbooks, Rigsbee’s collection The Pilot House won the 2009 Black River Poetry Prize. School of the Americas is due out from Black Lawrence Press in 2012.

Recently Rigsbee and his wife Jill Bullitt, the painter, discovered “Jill’s Toes,” a poem about Jill by her mother Carolyn Kizer. In 1985, Kizer won the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry volume Yin.

Constantly struggling against the patriarchy, Kizer taught poetry at the University of Iowa, Washington University, and Stanford University and translated Japanese, Chinese, and Urdu poetry. She also acted as first director of literature programs at the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Jill’s Toes” was published for the first time in the spring/summer 2011 issue of the journal Poetry Northwest, which Kizer co-founded in 1959. After being moved and suspended, Poetry Northwest has been revived and now has offices at Everett Community College in the Puget Sound area.

Bullitt’s passion for art and Rigsbee’s dedication to poetry carry on Kizer’s legacy.

David Rigsbee’s The Red Tower is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.