Archive for the 'Yazoo Blues' Category

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.”

John Pritchard, Rheta Grimsley Johnson Nominated for Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Awards

Thursday, March 19th, 2009 by Andrew

The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters recently named NewSouth authors John Pritchard and Rheta Grimsley Johnson to a short list of nominees for their annual awards ceremonies. Previous winners included such celebrated novelists as Richard Ford and Shelby Foote.

John Pritchard, a college-level English teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, is nominated in the fiction category for his second novel The Yazoo Blues. The Yazoo Blues is the hilarious sequel to his critically acclaimed debut novella Junior Ray, both of which are set in Pritchard’s birthplace, the Mississippi Delta. Pritchard received high praise from Publisher’s Weekly, which awarded The Yazoo Blues a starred review, calling it “laugh out loud” and “insightful.”

Mississippi’s Rheta Grimsley Johnson is nominated in the non-fiction category for Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, which is equal parts memoir and travelogue of her time spent in Southwest Louisiana’s Cajun Country. She has covered the South for over three decades as a newspaper reporter and columnist, writing about ordinary but fascinating people, mining for universal meaning in individual stories. Syndicated today by King Features of New York, Johnson’s column appears in fifty newspapers nationwide.

Since 1978, The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters annually recognizes the greatest accomplishments in art, music, literature, and photography among current Mississippi residents, or former ones with continued, significant ties to the state. Winners in each category receive a cash award of $1,000. Judges for the awards are chosen from out of state and are prominent in their respective fields.

This year’s MIAL awards gala marks the 30th anniversary of the foundation and will be held on June 13, in Laurel, Mississippi at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, accompanied by an art exhibition of previous winners from the pasty thirty years.

The Yazoo Blues and Poor Man’s Provence are available directly from NewSouth Books or your favorite local or online book retailer.

John Pritchard Talks Literary Bad Boys with TurnRow Books

Thursday, November 20th, 2008 by Suzanne La Rosa

Maybe not just because the folks at TurnRow Books in Greenwood are smart and discerning where literary fiction is concerned, but possibly also because they’re unafraid (after all, they did open a bookstore in Greenwood, MS, of all places at a time when a good many book retailers wanted out), John Pritchard had a successful first event there for The Yazoo Blues a few weeks ago and was never asked to bow to the politically correct. He delighted the audience with a reading from his new book that let its virtuosic prose all hang out.

Pritchard also received blog attention on the TurnRow website that in NewSouth’s opinion is first-rate. The Q&A with our author offers a wealth of insights into the creation of Junior Ray Loveblood — the eponymous but dubious hero of Pritchard’s first novel who continues to make jaws drop in the second. TurnRow followed the posting with yet another about favorite literary bad boys. We’re thrilled John Pritchard made the list.

Yazoo Blues Praised in Tunica Times, Delta Magazine

Thursday, November 20th, 2008 by Suzanne La Rosa

Three cheers for Brooks Taylor’s Q&A with John Pritchard in the Tunica Times and Mary Dayle McCormick’s on-the-money review of The Yazoo Blues for Delta Magazine, posted on the McCormick Book Inn website. Guess it goes to show that Mississippi knows (and even embraces) its own!

Smoke Signals Publishes Yazoo Blues Excerpt

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Andrew

Smoke Signals, an online literary journal, recently published an excerpt from The Yazoo Blues. The Yazoo Blues is NewSouth author John Pritchard’s sequel to his critically acclaimed debut novella Junior Ray. Publishers Weekly awarded The Yazoo Blues a starred review, calling it “insightful” and “laugh-out-loud.”

Junior Ray Loveblood, one of the most outrageous and original personalities to appear in American literature in many years, returns in The Yazoo BluesHe relates dual stories, both that of a soldier slowly driven mad by the haunting countryside, and of Loveblood’s friend Mad Owens, whose search for existential love meets its greatest challenge in the arms of the stripper Money Scatters. Loveblood’s conclusions are hilarious, absurd, and at times intensely revealing. Equally profane and profound, the fictional narrator of Pritchard’s novel illuminates the complex stew of evolving race relations, failed economies, and corrupt politics that define much of the post-civil rights rural Deep South.

Smoke Signals is a quarterly online literary journal featuring fiction, essays, and reviews. Read an excerpt from The Yazoo Blues at Smoke Signals’ website.

The Yazoo Blues is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Fall NewSouth Books Receive Publishers Weekly, Library Journal Starred Reviews

Thursday, September 25th, 2008 by Lisa Harrison

Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal for upcoming Fall 2008 titles do NewSouth Books proud. Publishers Weekly (August 18, 2008) featured The Yazoo Blues, a sequel to John Pritchard’s Junior Ray, one of Barnes & Noble’s Top Ten Sensational Debut Novels of 2005. Library Journal (August 15, 2008) featured The Wrong Side of Murder Creek by Bob Zellner with Constance Curry, a compelling memoir about Zellner’s role in the civil rights movement.

From the Publishers Weekly review:

In this insightful, laugh-out-loud follow-up to his debut novella, Junior Ray, Pritchard again indulges the profanely backwoods, occasionally backwards, voice of Mississippi “good ol’ boy” Junior Ray Loveblood. 

Between expletives and misanthropic digressions, Junior Ray reveals a lifetime of deep, unlikely friendships, even getting at an occasional truth in a humble manner that’s–as Junior Ray might put it–“as soft as a quail’s fart.”

Read the full review at the Publishers Weekly website.

From the Library Journal review:

Zellner’s memoir focuses on his experiences as a civil rights activist from 1960 to 1967. He tells a story that is sometimes horrific, always interesting, and ultimately inspirational about a white Southerner’s commitment to racial justice. 

Read the full review at the Library Journal website.

The Yazoo Blues and The Wrong Side of Murder Creek are both available at their respective links, or from your favorite local or online book retailer.