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Ray Redux

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"At 57 years old, I said to myself: 'Pritchard, you always thought you were going to write a big beautiful book about the South. You might not. So what are you going to do?' Well, I thought, don't write a big beautiful book about the South. Write a small, not so beautiful book."

So that's what Memphian John Pritchard did, and he called it Junior Ray, after its narrator, Junior Ray Loveblood, a foul-mouthed deputy sheriff in the Mississippi Delta.

Writer William Gay called the novel "darkly comic, profound, and original." One reviewer wrote that Pritchard had "taken profanity and made a new language of it." And writer Harry Crews went one better: "Underneath this violent language and narrative, there is a sweet truth."

And there was more: public reaction to Junior Ray's low-base high jinks. The book made the Barnes & Noble Top Ten Sensational Debut Novels list in 2005.

Now Junior Ray's back in The Yazoo Blues (NewSouth Books), and this time he's working the parking lot at a Tunica casino. But he's reaching back into history too: to a failed Union expedition into the Yazoo River pass. But his free time's well spent inside the Magic Pussy Cabaret & Club up in "Meffis."

In Meffis, on Thursday: Pritchard's reading from and signing copies of The Yazoo Blues at Burke's on Thursday, but don't count on cussin'. The author knows the written word's one thing; the spoken word is another. According to Pritchard: "I am not reading those words aloud. Even I don't wanna hear 'em. I'm not being true to my art? Well, then ... okay ... I'm not!"

John Pritchard reading from and signing "The Yazoo Blues," Burke's Book Store, Thursday, November 13th, 5:30-7 p.m. For more information, call Burke's at 278-7484.

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