If there's anybody out there who doesn't know where The Delta is, you must not be from Mississippi. Some have claimed it's as much a state of mind as a geographical designation. But for those who may not have set foot in the Mississippi Delta, it's the flat, rich farmland tucked between the Mississippi and the Yazoo rivers, the northwestern part of the state. And it's my birthplace and my heart’s home.
It's also the birthplace of the Blues. Music, that is. And now it's the title of a collection of short stories, edited by Carolyn Haines.
In this very readable collection, James Lee Burke, John Grisham, Les Standiford, Beth Ann Fennelly, and more—a total of twenty of the best Southern writers—link music, crime, passion, the Blues and the Mississippi Delta.
Many of the stories really grabbed me, sent me searching for more by that author.
In Suzanne Hudson’s “All the Way to Memphis,” two unlikely characters set out on a road trip, stopping at Buck’s Diner, a place where time has stopped. A lone waitress saunters to the table offering more tea, calling them honey and sugar and baby, her “blood red fingernails clicking against heavy glass.”
The characters in Lynne Barrett’s “Blues for Veneece” uncover, quite literally, a crime scene one family had hoped was buried forever. In another story, the wife of a captain of the Parchman State Penitentiary dreams of any life but the one she has.
In fact, most of the characters in these stories seem to dream of elsewhere, singing their own Blues tunes to the beat of an ordinary life.
Often played out against a backdrop of murder and misappropriation, the stories tell of second chances and new beginnings, lives wasted and more than a few rescued. Moonlit nights, shape shifting, concealed and un-concealed weapons make appearances, leaving readers with chills running up spines or hearts beating faster.
As if reading this collection for the pure enjoyment of the writing isn’t enough, a portion of the sales will be donated to literacy efforts in the Delta. Well done, on many counts.