OPINION: Pass the fried potato salad, books

“Mayor Gage, pass the Fried Potato Salad, please.”
Penn stopped cramming Deep South Cornbread Dressing down his maw to locate the desired dish. There it was, nestled over by that visiting lawyer from New York, Kyle McElvoy. Something suspicious about a guy hogging the salad like that.
McElvoy missed Gage’s reach for the salad. Seated next to the mysterious Annaïg, he eyed her stark features while she eyed the fast disappearing Chilton County peaches brought by Uncle Ned and Aunt Edith.
The frown on Miss Eupal Thornberry’s face caught him red-handed and unprepared. He snapped head and body around, banging the fork off the World’s Last Meat Loaf platter and into Edith’s lap.
The spectacle caused Art and Clare to burst out laughing, more to her distress than his. A swallow of languishing aperitif interrupted, she guffawed Episcopalian Punch indiscriminately. Uncle Ned allowed he hadn’t seen such slapstick since an unmentionable event at Mr. Freid’s store in Glen Allan years ago.
The partial menu is compliments of Robert St. John from his new book “Dispatches from My South.” Mayor Penn Gage is the lead character in Greg Iles’ new bestseller “The Devil’s Punchbowl.” Kyle McElvoy is the conflicted character dominating John Grisham’s hit “The Associate.” Annaïg is one of many incredible characters in Greg Keyes’ “The Infernal City.” Uncle Ned and Aunt Edith helped mold Bishop Duncan Gray in Will Campbell’s “And Also with You.” Miss Thornberry, “the finest English teacher in Mississippi,” appears in Judge Mike Mills’ terrific “Twice Told Tombigbee Tales.” Art and Clare are the fictitious son and daughter of the late James A. Autry in his “Life and Work: A Manager’s Search for Meaning.” Mr. Freid’s store in Glen Allan is the focus of the chapter on “brotherhood” from Clifton Taulbert’s moving “Eight Habits of the Heart.”
You had to look no further for special Christmas presents. William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and Willie Morris grab the headlines, but these authors seize attention, intellect, heartstrings. And, they are legion. Click on “Mississippi Writers” at http://www.mswritersandmusicians.com for a good list.
St. John’s new book is a gas. No, no people, not the gastric perturbations unleashed by his creations. A chef and restauranteur, St. John devotes most of the book to “stories, poems, former columns, never-before published writings.” The style is wonderfully readable and enjoyable. There are, of course, new recipes, and “my most-requested recipes.”
Iles, Grisham, and Keyes need no reviews from me. If you like fiction, read them. Better yet, give them.
Dr. Bill Scaggs and I used to teach leadership classes. Autry and Taulbert provided fodder for great learning. You can go outside Mississippi and find notable leadership authors, but none better. If we were still teaching, we would add Mills’ and Campbell’s books to the mix.
As for me, I want an autographed copy of Allison Crew’s new, first book “Antithesis.” Not sure if I’ll like it since I always pull for the fox, but knowing Allison I’ll bite. Beautiful cover art.
And for those who don’t read so well, there’s Marshall Ramsey, whose cartoons knock socks off. For the read-a-little/eat-a-lot bunch, try the combo Ramsey and St. John published a few years ago, “Nobody’s Poet.”
Variety…brilliance… so Mississippi. Hope you had some for Christmas along with a little Chocolate Decadence.

Bill Crawford runs a non-profit organization in Meridian, Miss. Email: crawfolk@gmail.com.

Bill Crawford