South, America – Action, mystery and gritty Southern noir – #bookreview

South, America

A Jack Prine Novel

Rod Davis

(New South Books – paperback, Kindle)

Here’s one way to get yourself into deep trouble: Try to perform a simple act of kindness.

Jack Prine, the central character in this gritty, well-written new mystery novel, reluctantly tries to help a young woman understand what has happened to her brother. And from there, the favor quickly goes downhill, to fear, violence, threats, gunfire and the need to make quick escapes.

Prine lives in New Orleans, and he is, in his own words, “trying to figure out a line on my future….”

As he tries to sort out just what that “line” might be, he has been “doing some freelance writing and the occasional unlicensed PI investigation for a divorce lawyer/ex-Army buddy….”

Early one Sunday morning, Prine has nothing much on his mind except his hangover and a strong need for some Guatemalan coffee. But as he is walking to get the cup of coffee, he discovers a dead body. A man has had the back of his head bashed in. Prine dutifully calls the police and answers the investigator’s questions. Later, Prine gets a phone call from the victim’s sister, Elle Meridian. Reluctantly, he agrees to meet her, so he can tell her more about what he saw and show her where her brother died.

Once they do meet, their attraction for each other develops fairly quickly. And as Jack Prine’s relationship with Elle grows, he soon finds himself drawn into circumstances and dangers he could never have imagined when he first heard her voice on the telephone.

Suddenly, the “unlicensed PI” is having to be a hard-boiled detective. And he and Elle wind up on the run from the vicious and tenacious Dixie Mafia. They race through Alabama and Mississippi on their way back to New Orleans– where no safety awaits them.

South, America is an engrossing tale alive with Southern landscape, thugs, family secrets, voudou, art treasures, racial tensions, sex…and love. And the book’s ending offers an excellent setup for the next Jack Prine novel, hopefully coming soon from Rod Davis.

Si Dunn

 

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Always for the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War – #bookreview

Always for the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War
By Keagan LeJeune
(University of North Texas Press, $29.95, hardback)

The 1803 Louisiana Purchase doubled America’s size. It also left  one small border area in legal limbo. When the United States and Spain disagreed over who owned it, they pulled back their militias to avoid war and left the area ungoverned. Soon, the tiny Free State of the Sabine was formed in pine forests along the Sabine River that now separates Texas and Louisiana.

Also known as the Louisiana Neutral Strip, the Free State of Sabine became a haven for outlaws, and it remained so for many years after the boundary dispute was settled.

Keagan LeJeune’s informative and entertaining book focuses on one “good” fugitive in the lawless area, Leather Britches Smith.

In 1912, Leather Britches — a man with a murderous reputation and plenty of weapons — sided with union workers against lumber mill operators during a violent, fatal clash that became known  as the Grabow Riot or the Grabow War. It was  part of the bigger Louisiana-Texas Timber War that raged from 1911 to 1912.

The author is a professor of English and folklore at McNeese State University. He lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and has served as president of the Louisiana Folklore Society.

Si Dunn