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News
Saturday, 20 January 2018 18:10

New for 2018: Memphis Luck!
Memphis Luck-Small
BrashBooks Brash Books is issuing Gerald Duff's newest offering, Memphis Luck, in 2018. Previously published as Memphis Mojo in 2014 by Lamar University Press, Memphis Luck is a substantially different, so get ready to re-join J.W. Ragsdale and Tyrone Walker as they investigate what they think is a straight-forward murder. As Brash Books further explains, "The clues lead them to an autistic teenager, an aspiring gang member, who talks to the ghosts of Martin Luthor King Jr. and singer Ricky Nelson for guidance. The troubled, homicidal teen has fallen into the thrall of cowboy preacher Jimbo Reynolds, a slick, bible-thumping, Stetson-wearing conman who has based his cash-cow ministry on ideals plundered from John Wayne movies. What Jimbo doesn't know is that he's the target of a gang of misguided ex-cons, led by a psychopathic Native American, who are plotting to take all of his cash...with the help of his greedy publicist and his conniving housekeeper. All of these colorful characters collide in a fateful day of darkly funny, brutal mayhem that's pure Memphis Luck."

Keep updated on Memphis Luck at the Brash Books site by clicking here.
 
News
Saturday, 20 January 2018 18:02

Nashville Burning Reviewed in The Anniston Star

NashvilleBurning  AnnistonStar-2015  Steven Whitton's review of Nashville Burning appeared in the January 14, 2018, edition of The Anniston Star. Read the review below--

Old South, New South — they're both a bit of a farce in Gerald Duff's 'Nashville Burning'

Special to the Star

Steven Whitton

Nashville Burning by Gerald Duff, TCU Press, 2017, 318 pp., $29.95.

In his 2015 novel Playing Custer, Gerald Duff wrote a fictional account of The Battle of Little Bighorn from every imaginable 19th century angle. At the same time, he presented 21st century perspectives of that same event in an attempt to consider what he called "the mythic history of the United States." Once again reminding us that history is fiction, never truth, this year Duff gives us another look at that mythos in a novel that is as ambitious as it is bitingly cautionary.

The three sections of Nashville Burning play out over the last three Nashville Aprils of the 1960's. "Kindling" considers the April of 1967 during which riots in North Nashville were the result of a student–sponsored event at Vanderbilt University—an event that brought together activist Stokely Carmichael, poet Allen Ginsburg, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and senator Strom Thurmond.

"Blaze" comments on the effectiveness of the fire-riddled Nashville riots in the aftermath of the assassination in Memphis of Dr. King in April 1968. "Ashes" examines Music City through the tentative calm of April 1969 after the riots of the two previous years.

Yet there aren't a great many of the novel's pages devoted to the four admittedly fascinating historical figures and points of view at the book's center. The strength of Nashville Burning is in its not attempting to replicate historical figures so much as in its success at recreating—with a satirical gaze backwards—a fictional world for those real characters to inhabit as supporting characters.

The Vanderbilt University Department of English serves as springboard for caustic commentary on indigenous Old South entitlement and aspiration. Ironically, the same might be said for the equally satiric examination of indigenous New South entitlement and aspiration in North Nashville. The Vanderbilt IMPACT Symposium of 1967 and the Music City Magic Fingers Massage Salon, the novel argues, provide their patrons with the same sort of amenities.

The principal guide through this "nighttown" of events is Ronald Alden, Assistant Professor of English. Equally ambitious, he and his wife Lily are more preoccupied with the noisome twittering of the songbirds outside their windows than they are with their three young children. Lily struggles for acceptance in Vanderbilt's social strata. Ronald has lots of papers to grade, lots of senior faculty to impress, and lots of coeds to fain disinterest in. Like Voltaire's Candide, Ronald wants to discover the best of all possible worlds for himself, but he's simply too desperate ever to do so. He lacks Candide's ingenuousness.

In North Nashville there are different guides, yet with the same desperation, even if that desperation is markedly more palpable. There are clients to be serviced at Music City Magic Fingers Massage Salon. There are robberies to instigate and then bungle.

There are also houses that will catch fire in both parts of town as a result of different feelings of entitlement and the same frantic ambition.

Secondary characters lend vivid—and wicked—texture to the Nashville tapestry Gerald Duff has woven. Would-be musicians and desperate housewives cross paths. Professor Robard Flange's atrophic arm only comes to life with the assistance of the ever-resourceful Miss Lurleen at Music City Magic Fingers Massage Salon. Tooter Browning is more than willing to steal from the members of the gang he's planned a robbery with.

Commenting on all of this from their separate vantage points are senior Honors major Greg Donaldson, who seems more comfortable dressed as "The Rat" than as an undergraduate, and Minnie, cook at the Vanderbilt chancellor's house, who simply wants to do her job despite the fundamental foolishness raging around her.

Late in Nashville Burning, Miss Lurleen complains about all the birds "hollering" in downtown Nashville. Her boss tells her: "'Honey, it's birds all over Nashville this time of year. Singing their food heads off. They don't know no better, and they don't care where they are, downtown or out in the trees and bushes. They just pop open their damn beaks and sing.'" But Gerald Duff believes that all that "singing" ought to have a definable purpose. That's the conundrum facing most of the characters that populate his funny, scabrous, and formidable new novel.

Steven Whitton is a recently retired Professor of English.


To read the complete review on The Anniston Star (with a subscription), click here.

 
News
Friday, 19 January 2018 00:00

Lyda Phillips Review of Nashville Burning Appears on Chapter 16
NashvilleBurning
  Lyda Phillips, a veteran journalist and author of two young-adult novels, recently reviewed Nashville Burning on Chapter 16, "A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers, and Passersby." Ms. Phillips writes in her review, entitled Setting Fire to Jim Crow, "In April 1967 Vanderbilt University students invited four unlikely visitors to their annual Impact Symposium—Martin Luther King Jr., activist Stokely Carmichael, conservative Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and poet Allen Ginsberg. This event, although touched on only briefly in the novel, is the nexus of the disparate characters who inhabit Gerald Duff’s latest novel, Nashville Burning."

To read the review online at Chapter 16, click here.
 
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