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Delta Blues


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The blues are at home anywhere, but the epicenter is Clarksdale, Miss., the setting for at least a third of the 19 original stories in this virtuoso crime anthology. Despite the common theme, this diverse volume ranges from Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly's "What His Hands Had Been Waiting For," a memorably redemptive story set during the 1927 flood of the Mississippi, to John Grisham's long, haunting "Fetching Raymond," in which members of a dysfunctional family trek to notorious Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary. James Lee Burke's "Big Midnight Special" is a powerful story about a Parchman Farm inmate driven too far. Several tales play off the legendary crossroads meeting of the devil and Robert Johnson, including Michael Lister's "Death at the Crossroads," Charlaine Harris's "Crossroads Bargain," and Daniel Martine's "Kidd Diamond." Other contributors include Les Standiford, Ace Atkins, Nathan Singer, Dean James, and Haines. (May) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

This proficient collection of 19 short stories is compiled along the lines of Akashic Books' noir anthologies set in a wide range of cities such as Washington, DC, Miami, Los Angeles, London, and New Orleans. The stories here take place in the Mississippi Delta, and directly or peripherally they all involve the blues. Some contributing authors will be familiar to crime aficionados: John Grisham's "Fetching Franklin" is the best, simplest, and most direct story in the collection, and there are solid tales by James Lee Burke and Ace Atkins. Others will be pleasant surprises: set during the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi, Tom Franklin and Beth Henley's "What His Hands Had Been Waiting For" revolves around a vigilante group that stumbles upon some starving homesteaders in a rundown house. What happens is too good to give away, but it's lovely. As in any compilation like this, some stories are better than others, but the overall quality is high. The Delta seems to evoke stories of wild men and bitter women, hungry blues singers, and a sneaky Devil. It's all quite fun. Verdict This pleasing collection of crime noir should attract fans of the genre. [One dollar from the sale of each book will be donated to actor Morgan Freeman's Rock River Foundation to address literacy issues in the Mississippi Delta.-Ed.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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