One Night in Mississippi – Mississippi, USA – Craig Shreve

one night in misssippi

Why a booktrail?

A dark period of American history. A family torn apart by the events in Mississippi and a brother’s desperate search for the truth

Story in a nutshell

One Night in Mississippi is the story of Graden Williams and his brother Warren. When Graden is murdered one night in Mississippi, the brutality of the crime is shocking and so Warren dedicates his life to getting justice.

Warren suffers heavily with guilt and regret, angry that those responsible got away with the crime. More than forty years after the death, laws are changing and so Warren may have the best chance yet of avenging his brother’s death.

He’s angry and wants answers so his search for the one man still at large takes him to a small town in Northern Ontario, Canada but what he finds there is not what he expects and he is forced to question what he has always held to be the truth.

Place and setting

 MISSISSIPPI - Jackson - Mississippi State Capitol MISSISSIPPI - Jackson - Jackson Municipal Court ILLINOIS- Chicago Jackson park Where Warren sits in his dream and thinks of freedom ILLINOIS - CHICAGO - Loyola University where Warren studies PHILADELPHIA - The home of the Liberty Bell and where Etta lives

MISSISSIPPI – Jackson –
Mississippi State Capitol
MISSISSIPPI – Jackson – Jackson Municipal Court
ILLINOIS- Chicago Jackson park
Where Warren sits in his dream and thinks of freedom
ILLINOIS – CHICAGO – Loyola University
where Warren studies
PHILADELPHIA – The home of the Liberty Bell and where Etta lives

1960s Mississippi – A shocking and brutal time in American history

In Mississippi , I learned that I was poor

Graden Williams is kidnapped one evening, tortured and cruelly dumped in a swamp. Warren never forgets this and spends all his life avenging his brother. why were the riots started in the first place and why were the 1960s such a time of hatred and racism?

Mississippi in the 1960s was a time of racial inequality and it was a time when  people from the northern states would come to the South in order to get people behind their cause – fighting for racial equality and standing up for their cause. However well intentioned this groups were, the result was chaos, dangerous confrontations between white and black people in the street and the wrath of the white ruling elite.

The summer before Graden died, I sat beside him on a crowded school bus on its way to Jackson, There had been two meetings since the one that I had attended…

Such a world is hard to imagine yet it is evoked with such clarity here that you feel the pain and anger at every turn. Warren wants justice for his brother, questions why more white people don’t help – were they afraid and also threatened? – and vows to hunt the men responsible down.

In present day Ontario, in  a small (fictional)  town called Amblan, one of the gang responsible  – Earl still lives. His guilt at having been involved in that shameful episode comes back to haunt him and when the two men finally meet, Warren’s journey is far from over.

Two sobering viewpoints of a shameful time in history and of two men who come together and face up to their guilt and their part in it. for more information on this period and the Freedom summer efforts of 1964 which inspired this novel – http://mdah.state.ms.us or www.freedom50.org

Bookish musings

A short but sobering book and a unique viewpoint of two men who are on two different sides  and who were both affected by the events which unfolded. Short sparse prose really gets the events to stand out and shock even more. Hard at times due to the violence and even that which you didn’t see. I learned from this book and found the humanity and the hope within it a humbling read.

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Jackson Brodie’s tour of Edinburgh – part two

Following on from Jackson Brodie’s tour of Edinburgh last week, now that the festival has started – here is part two:

The first day of the festival - the excitement is building
The first day of the festival – the excitement is building

Jackson goes to the book festival! 

In the book ‘One Good Turn’, Kate Atkinson of course features a lot of the action in and around the book festival and the fringe festival on the Royal Mile.  This enables her to write some acute observations on the atmosphere and the people who attend the writer events.  Read Kate’s words and imagine yourself right there. Linger on Jackson Brodie lingering at the back of the tent. Or Jason Isaacs – whatever takes your fancy.

‘CRIME WRITERS FOR LUNCH’ – As if they were going to be eaten  by their audience. “Lunch’ was coffee and filled white rolls, which were free and served from a bar at the back of the Spiegeltent. And the writers were the entertainment. Dancing bears. – 319

The rest of the description of the book festival is as witty and amusing as it is an honest and very apt observation of the festival atmosphere. Having been in that tent with writers answering questions and hosts directing anything the audience throws at them, it was as if I was right back there, watching  the great Kate Atkinson in admiration and recalling the words of the novel in my head as she spoke.

Was this life imitating art or the other way around? Kate did talk about Jackson Brodie and I did think that, like in the book, if I turned my head, he might be standing there at the back of the tent, watching as Martin described:

 He looked for Jackson and saw him standing near the bar, straight-backed with his hands in front as if he was going to stop a penalty shot. All he was missing was the black suit and the earpiece to make him look like a presidential Secret Service agent. – 321

The audience was predominantly middle-aged and female, as usual at these events… – page 322

When it came to question time, hands shot up everywhere. Young people, student types, ran around with microphones and Martin braced himself with questions  – page 322

Kate Atkinson in the signing tent
Kate Atkinson in the signing tent

In the signing tent, they sat at three identical tables. Every time an eager reader approached him Martin felt a little knock of panic to his heart, imagining each newcomer reading across the table as he signed his name and stabbing him with a knife, shooting him with a gun.- 323

I really hope Kate didn’t feel any of this ‘panic’. Everyone seemed nice and chatty in the queue and Kate herself was pleasure to meet -chatting and joking all the time. I laughed as I did overhear two women discussing the fact that Kate had mentioned that she was born just after the war – when her novel was set – and they were working this out in the queue.  ‘I can’t believe it. She looks a lot younger! I hope they told Kate this! Someone else I got chatting to, was happier to talk about her book rather than her appearance thankfully and she was keen to tell me what she would like to change in her life if she got the chance ‘to do it all again until she got it right’.

I asked her what she would do differently. She smiled at me and said ‘Ooh I don’t know really but it just sounds a bit tiring that’s all. I mean doing things over and over? I think I’d need to write a list to remember what I’d done the first few times.’  Ooh I did laugh with her. She was clearly a Kate fan – had read every single one of her books she told me – and was going to tell Kate that. I do hope she did and that Kate had a nicer and less eventful time than the Martin character in her book!

The Royal Mile – home to the festival

St Giles cathedral
St Giles

The Royal Mile was beginning to feel almost familiar to Jackson now. He felt like turning to the nearest person and pointing out to them St Giles Church and the new parliament building (ten times over budget – how could anything be ten times over budget?) – 28

Jackson goes on a little walk, taking just a morning and sees some interesting parts of Edinburgh at the castle end of the Royal Mile: The Camera Obscura for one is a popular tourist attraction with stunning views over Edinburgh  and a MAgic Gallery and Electric room for example. Wonder what Brodie made of it all?

http://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/ 

Greyfriars Bobby

I took a walk,’ Jackson said, ‘went to a museum and the Camera Obscura. Had a look at Greyfriars Bobby’s grave –

The statue in memory to the lovely Greyfriars Bobby
The statue in memory to the lovely Greyfriars Bobby

‘Oh.’ Julia made a  tragic face. The mention of a dog, any dog, always provoked an emotional reflex in Julia but the idea of a dead dog upped the ante on the emotion considerably. The idea of a dead, faithful dog was almost more than she could handle.

“Yeah, I paid him your respects,’ Jackson said. – page 41

The grave
The grave

The mound

The mound from where Jackson takes the 41 bus to Cramond
The mound from where Jackson takes the 41 bus to Cramond

Jackson  climbed on board the 41 bus on the mound and thought, OK, if she wanted him to take a bus he would take a bus. The 41 covered a long route that ended up at Cramond. He knew Cramond as a hymn tune, not a place. Or was it ‘Crimond’? So many things he didn’t know. ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. Was he? It seemed unlikely somehow.

An old woman waiting at the bus stop with him said, ‘Oh, it’s very nice out in Cramond, you can go to Cramond Island from there. You’ll like it.’ He believed it; years of experience had taught Jackson that old women tended to tell the truth. – page 96

The alley way  – 

There are many small alley ways  along the Royal Mile – one was even featured on the cover of the Kate Atkinson novel itself: so I took my own advice and revisited the cover so to speak:

The book version of the close
The book version of Milne’s Court
The real thing
The real thing

Jackson fought his way up the royal mile , thourgh the crowds and the tartan tat, until he finally gained the castle, soaring almost Cahtar-like on top of the volcanic rock.

 A city en fete
A city en fete

Crowds flowed down the Royal Mile like the lava that had once moulded landscape out of fire, moving around obstacles in  the way -the statue of David Hume , a mime artist, a piper, several student theatre groups, people handling our flyers (lots of them) , another piper, a man eating fire, a man dressed as Sherlock Holmes. Another piper. It certainly was a city en fête. – page 75

Just before I left the Royal Mile to head back to the book festival, I noticed something that made me smile. Something that would have made Jackson smile I think – I hope even that it might have been named in his honour. Yes that’s going to be the version I tell myself as it’s the one he and Kate deserve:

Jackson Brodie remembered
Jackson Brodie remembered

I left Jackson here but thanked him for taking me on this interesting tour of his city. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

Edinburgh Book Festival – Jackson Brodie’s tour of the city

book cover

Many of you will have read at least one book by Kate Atkinson – especially her Jackson Brodie series which has been a very successful television series too.

Well, having read ‘One Good Turn’ recently as preparation for attending the Edinburgh book festival where I will be attending one of Kate’s events, I smiled as I revisited a lot of the sights of Edinburgh featured in the book.

Then it got me thinking.What would it be like if Jackson Brodie were a tour guide? I mean if I could wander through the streets of Edinburgh accompanied by the great man himself. What would I see and do?

So that’s exactly what I did and it turns out that Mr Brodie is a very interesting guide indeed.

The setting during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland is a great back drop, and the details of Scottish life made me smile at the memories of living in Edinburgh and attending the Fringe on many an occasion:

(All snippets below are taken directly from the book and are accompanied by page numbers for ease of reference)

Welcome to Jackson Brodie’s Edinburgh

Waverley station – his first time to Edinburgh

Waverley station  - and the view across to the old town
Waverley station – and the view across to the old town

‘When he stepped off the train in Waverley station yesterday, he had been expecting the 50 per cent of his genes that were Scottish to recognise their heritage.’

‘As he pushed his way thorough the crowd he tried to orientate himself towards the castle’ – page 45

‘The rain had in no way deterred the crowds – it had never occurred to him that Edinburgh was in the middle of ‘the festival’ and that there would be carnival hordes of people milling around as if the end of a war had just been declared.’ – page 13

The Castle

Looking up from Princess Street gardens
Looking up from Princess Street gardens
Have a coffee in Jenners and see the castle in the distance
Have a coffee in Jenners and see the castle in the distance

‘The castle was a brute of a building,  all fairy-tale Scottish from below but once you were within its glowering walls it was dank and doom- laden’ – page 68

‘A rustle of excitement preceded the One O’Clock Gun. The story went that the citizens of edinburgh had been too mean to pay for twelve cannon shots for midday and so had settled for a gun at one o’clock.’ – page 70

‘He had a look in the building at the heart of the castle that housed the Scottish national war memorial. He was surprised at how beautiful it was inside..{} …The names of the dead, so many dead, were written in big red books’ – page 73

Go visit the same Valvona and  Crolla cafe I did just next to the foodhall in Jenners    http://www.houseoffraser.co.uk/edinburgh-jenners-department-store/store_page_0450,default,pg.html and for the yummy website http://www.valvonacrolla.co.uk/

As for the story of the one oclock gun – this would be funny if true but the one thing I remember at uni and long after was the game I enjoyed playing of ‘Spot the tourist’ where at just before one o’clock if on Princes Street or the Royal Mile you and your friends pick someone who looks like a tourist and then wait to see if they jump out of their skins when the gun goes off. Sad but true.

For those of you who haven’t visited the magnificent castle: http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/ 

Holyrood Palace

Aaah nothing quite beats the taste of a poke of chips smothered in salt and sauce
Aaah nothing quite beats the taste of a poke of chips smothered in salt and sauce

‘He walked down to Holyrood palace, bought a poke of chips and walked back up the Royal mile.’

http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/palaceofholyroodhouse

The old town

The roof tops of the old town
The roof tops of the old town

Back outdoors in what passed for daylight, he was greeted by ancient, tall tenements staring blankly at each other from either side of the street, making it feel more like a tunnel, making it feel as if night had fallen. If there had been no people around, you might have mistaken it for the film set of a Dickens novel. You might have mistaken it for the past itself. – page 45

Well I’m going to sit in the old town and enjoy these chips. Maybe even have a can of Iron Bru to celebrate being in this fine city. I shall leave you there but please be sure to join me and Jackson once again for part two.