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Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard




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Fans of Elmore Leonard’s writing count on him for clear dialogue and imaginative characters and settings. Readers won’t be disappointed with Leonard’s new novel, Tishomingo Blues. A traveling high dive performer named Dennis Lenahan lands in a Mississippi town to perform his act and becomes involved with the Dixie Mafia. By the end of the novel, Dennis has matured and developed to the point where a reader is no longer surprised by his behavior. A Civil War re-enactment allows Leonard to present characters in their most extreme roles and actions. Either read this novel now, or wait for the movie, which might do as well at the box office as Get Shorty. Here’s an excerpt:

“ ‘I started telling you about this man name Kirkbride,’ Robert said. ‘He started his business from what he made owning trailer parks. But you go back a couple of generations the Kirkbrides are farmers. Was Mr. Kirkbride’s grandpa, the first Walter Kirkbride, owned land over in Tippah County and had sharecroppers working it for him – one of ‘em being my great-granddaddy. Worked forty acres of cotton, what he did his whole life. He’s the one I’m named for, the first Robert Taylor. Lived with his wife and children in a shack, five little girls and two little boys, my granddaddy being number seven, Douglas Taylor.’
Dennis said, ‘This is a true story?’
 ‘Why would I make it up?’
They turned off the highway to approach Tunica, leaving open country and the night sky for trees lining the road and the lights that showed Main Street.
 ‘That’s the police station,’ Dennis said, ‘coming up on the left. The squad cars we saw were county, they didn’t come from here.’
Robert said, ‘Like you been checking up on crime yourself.’
 ‘Go on past the drugstore and turn left, over to School Street and turn left again.’
 ‘You want to hear my story or not?’
 ‘I want to get home.’
 ‘You gonna listen?’
 ‘You’re dying to tell it. Go ahead.’
 ‘See if you can keep quiet a few minutes.’
Dennis said, ‘I’m listening.’ But then said, ‘Is this how the Taylors came to Detroit and your granddad went to work at Ford?’
 ‘Was Fisher Body, but that isn’t the story. I’m holding on to my patience,’ Robert said. ‘You understand what the consequence could be, you keep talking?’
Dennis was starting to like Robert Taylor. He said, ‘Tell the story.’”

Enjoy the pleasure of letting Elmore Leonard tell the Tishomingo Blues story with his clear dialogue, great plot and imaginative characters.

Steve Hopkins, February 6, 2002


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