They Don’t Dance Much

Mysterious Book Report No. 127

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s Mysterious Book Report is a blast from the past: a piece of crime fiction that was first published in 1940, but for some reason was never the big success it was expected to be with the general public, although it received great reviews from the likes of Raymond Chandler, Flannery O’Connor and others.  It is the work of a Greensboro, North Carolina newspaper reporter named James Ross, and it is the only novel he ever published.  It is considered to be the birth of a genre known as “Southern Noir.”   Kept alive by word of mouth through the years, its copyright was renewed in 1968, and has just been put back into print, part of the renaissance of out of print classics that’s now taking place via computer-driven revolution known simply as print on demand, wherein books can be economically produced as few as one at a time.

They Don’t Dance Much, (Mysterious Press/Open Road Integrated Media, $14.99, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4532-9620-2) by James Ross is, in the words of Raymond Chandler: A sleazy, corrupt, but completely believable story of a North Carolina town.  In it a bankrupt small-time farmer named Jack McDonald is down to his last dollar.  Its 1940, and the end of the depression.  Heavily in debt with no prospects and no crop because he’s been wiped out by the boll weevil and he’s a desperate man, McDonald accepts a job in a new roadhouse owned by a seedy, disreputable and thuggish acquaintance of his named Smut Milligan . . . a man who’ll do anything for money, up to and including murder.  Things look promising for the new business.  Between the food, moonshine, gasoline, gambling and the little cabins out back that rent for a dollar several times a night . . . good money is coming in.  But then debts, thugs and the law start coming in too . . . and the husband of the married woman Smut is involved with.  It’s a fast trip down a rough, rocky red dirt road, to perdition and Hell, driven by lust and greed and fueled by blood.  If you’re a fan of Southern Noir, or any of the dark gloomy tales from the wild side of crime fiction, be sure to get a copy of this pioneering, genre influencing work.  Yeah, it’s worth the trouble because, yes, it’s really that damn good!! A CAVEAT:  This was written in 1940.  Attitudes and speech were different for all races.  If you’re concerned about political correctness and offended by the casual and frequent use of racial slurs . . . you probably won’t want to read it, except perhaps as a stark example of what it was like in the rural south back then.

Have you gone by your local library and signed up for a FREE library card yet?  Oh, yeah, I see.  You’re too busy watching all of those reality shows on TV.  Watching stupid people doing stupid things has a certain appeal I guess, but hanging out with really smart women and men—the ones who write books—seems like a lot better way to spend one’s time to me.  Think about it . . .

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Just a reminder . . . books are GREAT HOLIDAY GIFTS!  You can order author signed copies at  Rhyolite Press LLC, P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO  80901, for $15.00 plus $4.00 shipping and handling of The Neversink Chronicles, The Whim-Wham Man, The Boy Who Slept With Bears, and our latest and greatest:  Colorado Noir, is $16.95 plus shipping for a walk on the dark and seamy side of one of the most controversial cities in America via the award-winning pen of John Dwaine McKenna, author of The Neversink Chronicles and The Whim-Wham Man.  In Colorado Noir you’ll ride along with a homeless, autistic woman named Elaine, as she tries to pick her living from the garbage in The Aluminum Mistress . . . Hang out with Yazzie and Darrell Lee as they learn to live rough, surviving by petty theft until one of them commits a capital crime in The Ghosts of Christmas Present . . . Find merry mischief and pathos aplenty in Mosby’s Retreat, where you’ll meet a four-footed usher of death . . . Experience utter terror at 30,000 feet on a B-17 flying abattoir in The Rising, an unforgettable WWII story . . . And treat yourself to the second Jake McKern novella in A Mischief of Rats, as you countdown to a crime spree and shootout that will leave the reader gasping and blood running in the streets of Colorado Springs.  All these, plus six more of the best noir stories in town.  If you love crime fiction and mystery, don’t you DARE miss Colorado Noir!  Available at Amazon, Kindle eBooks, Barnes & Noble and bookstores everywhere, as well as the publisher, Rhyolite Press.


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