I’ve just returned from a whirlwind book tour through the Mississippi Delta to celebrate the launch of BONE APPETIT, the 10th book in the Sarah Booth Delaney Delta mystery series. That triangle of rich, flat land that extends south of Memphis down to Yazoo City and from the Mississippi River east to the hills has become my second home.
I did double duty on this tour, because I also signed copies of DELTA BLUES, a collection of short stories I edited centered around the Mississippi Delta blues and a crime noir element. Short story contributor to the anthology, Alice Jackson, was my traveling companion and co-signer and we were also joined by short story author Suzanne Hudson. Suzanne had more sense than to ride with us—but she joined us for the signings at Greenville, Greenwood, Vicksburg, Cleveland and Jackson (all in Mississippi).
BONE APPETIT has numerous scenes set in the Alluvian Hotel and the Viking Cooking School—and as part of the fun, I assisted the resident chef in a cooking class on Friday. We made three delicious appetizers and I didn’t even blow up a single oven! But I have to say, I might enjoy cooking more if I had some of that state-of-the-art equipment. And the class was a delight. Fun, light-spirited and with a real “can do” feel.
Facebook pictures we posted along the way give an indication of how much we torment each other—and what fun we have doing it.
Driving across the Delta (repeatedly!) I surprised myself with the way I’ve come to know this part of the world and to view it as “mine.” I take an interest in new development in the small towns we drove through, in the state of the highways, in the height of the cotton.
Beverly Moon took us to a new juke joint, Po' Monkey’s, and we learned that just last month Eric Clapton put in an appearance there. The Delta is a strange and magical place where anything can happen.
While we were in Greenwood, the film crew for THE HELP was gearing up. And there was a film crew from Wisconsin filming webisodes in the cooking school. Greenwood has suddenly become (much like the contestants in the book) very filmable.
For any student of Mississippi history, the Delta towns have always been an interesting mirror of the soul of this multi-cultural state. The Delta is only one region, but for many decades it was the seat of power, the place of big money and big land and big cotton. In Greenwood, life is good this summer.
On a personal note, this was one of the best book tours I’ve done. Good company, good food, good bookstores, and great people. I have laughed for a week, and I have also managed to avoid the news. But I am home now, and I look out over my pastures and my horses and I worry. Great changes are taking place in this land that I love. No one is certain of the extent of the environmental damage that this oil gusher will produce. Only one thing is certain: the coast is forever changed. I don’t like this. I don’t want this. And the only thing I can do is write about it.
Carolyn Haines is the 2010 recipient of the Harper Lee Award. Haines is an avid animal activist and cares for 22 animals on her farm: horses, cats, and dogs. Visit her on Facebook and be sure to check out her website to sign up for newsletter.