MISSISSIPPI ROOM

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

—William Faulkner

All the books in this section touch upon Mississippi history, or Mississippians making history. Not all of the books were published by Sartoris Literary Group, but all were written by or contributed to by SLG publisher James L. Dickerson, who has been writing about Mississippians making history since 1967, when he published his first magazine article. It was an interview with Mississippi-born recording artist Bobbie Gentry, whose recording of "Ode to Billie Joe" made history on many levels that year when it became the Number One record in America. She was just the beginning …

 


Mojo Rising

Masters of the Art

James L. Dickerson, Editor | Fiction | Literary

"Mojo Rising: Masters of the Art” is an anthology that contains short stories of some of the South’s most acclaimed writers: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Stark Young, Richard Wright, Shelby Foote, Ellen Douglas, Willie Morris, Tennessee Williams, Ellen Gilchrist, and Elizabeth Spencer. Because it is the first time the work of these authors has been combined in one volume, it has been heralded as the literary event of the decade.

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Mojo Rising (Volume II)

Contemporary Writers

Joseph B. Atkins, Editor | Fiction | Literary

“Mojo Rising (Volume II)” is a companion book for the first volume of “Mojo Rising.” It is an y anthology that contains the short stories of the best writers associated with the Mojo Triangle (defined as most of Mississippi, Memphis, New Orleans, Muscle Shoals, and Nashville). Writers included are Ace Atkins, Sheree Renee Thomas, William Boyle, Julie Smith, Steven Barthelme, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Jere Hoar, Corey Mesler, Margaret Skinner, Joseph B. Atkins, James L. Dickerson, and an In Memoriam to the late “bad boy” of Southern literature Larry Brown."

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Yellow Fever 
A Deadly Disease Poised to Kill Again
James L. Dickerson | Category: History
Prometheus Books | Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook

Yellow fever is unlikely to be found on a list of potential health threats facing Americans today. Most people, if they have heard of the disease at all, would consider it a historical curiosity from a bygone era. In this fascinating study of a once-terrifying pandemic, author James L. Dickerson makes it clear that the disease could reemerge with deadly virulence.

In a vividly told narrative, filled with poignant and graphic scenes culled from historical archives, Dickerson recounts the history of one of the most feared diseases in the United States. From the late 18th to the early 20th century, yellow fever killed Americans by the tens of thousands in the Northeast and throughout the South. In Memphis alone, five thousand people died in 1878. Mississippi also was heavily hit by the disease and thousands died, generating inspirational stories of love and sacrifice.
Dickerson describes how public health officials gradually eliminated the disease from this country, so that by the mid 1950s it had ceased to be of much concern to the public at large. However, to this day no cure has been found. As a mosquito-borne viral infection, yellow fever is impervious to antibiotics, and it continues to wreak havoc in parts of South America and Africa.
Focusing on the present, Dickerson discusses the potential threat of yellow fever as a biological warfare agent in the hands of terrorists. Also of concern to public health researchers is the effect of global warming on mosquito populations. Even a one-to-two degree warming enables disease-bearing mosquitoes to move into areas once protected by colder weather. He concludes with a discussion of current precautionary efforts based on interviews with experts and analysis of available studies.
Both absorbing history and a timely wake-up call for the present, Yellow Fever is fascinating and important reading.

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Devil's Sanctuary
An Eyewitness History of Mississippi Hate Crimes
James L. Dickerson and Alex A. Alston | History
Lawrence Hill Books | Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook

Recalling the state’s shameful racist history of lynching, arson, denial of rights, false imprisonment, and other heinous crimes, this riveting narrative explores how Mississippi became a safe haven for the most violent and virulent racists, who were immune to prosecution for their crimes. This sanctuary of the then status quo emerged from the 1956 Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission’s efforts to preserve segregation and "Mississippi Values" by declaring the state outside the jurisdiction of the federal government. Analysis of the major crimes, the institutional collusion, delayed and never-delivered justice, and the state's attempts at atonement are interspersed with the authors' recollections of what they saw, heard, and experienced as whites—thus "insiders"—during this troubled time. With commentary extending to the present day, this is both a well-researched history and an eyewitness record of living through an era of judicial, media, and economic terrorism directed against African Americans.

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Inside America's Concentration Camps 
Two Centuries of Internment and Torture
James L. Dickerson | History 
Lawrence Hill Books | Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook

Exploring the history and tragedy of concentration camps that were built, staged, and filled with adults and children under the orders of the U.S. government, this vivid narrative brings the stories of victims and flaws of American government to life. Beginning in the 1830s with the imprisonment of Native Americans, this investigation details the camps that reappeared during World War II with the round-up of Japanese Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans, and Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, as well as more recently during the Bush administration with the construction of new concentration camps in Cuba. The moving personal experiences of those imprisoned in the camps, including accounts of how the U.S. government removed children of Japanese ancestry from orphanages only to replace them in camps, are revealed within this eye-opening history. Both heartbreaking and inspirational, this authoritative record of survival suggests a call to action for those who read it. Of special interest to Mississippians are the stories associated with POW camps in the state and the internment camp across the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Also of interest are the accounts of Delta Democrat-Times editor Hodding Carter's Pulitzer Prize win for his editorials on the internment camps. Then there is the romance between a Nazi prisoner in a POW camp near Greenville, Mississippi, and a plantation owner's wife, who helped the prisoner to escape so that he could steal an airplane to fly back to Nazi Germany. They were apprehended in Tennessee by the FBI.

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Just For a Thrill 
Lil Hardin Armstrong, First Lady of Jazz
James L. Dickerson | History
Cooper Square Press | Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook

"Hot Miss Lil" Hardin was the star pianist of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band when, in 1922, a trumpet player named Louis Armstrong joined the band in Chicago. The educated and polished Hardin was decidedly unimpressed with Armstrong's lack of sophistication, yet she recognized a wealth of untapped potential in the shy young trumpeter. Over the course of the next few years, Hardin taught Louis how to read music, urged him to take the spotlight, and eventually became his second wife. Encouraging his own natural talent, Lil Hardin Armstrong helped turn Louis Armstrong from a gifted second coronet into a jazz legend.
In Just for a Thrill, biographer James L. Dickerson tells Lil's remarkable story, from her family's origins in Mississippi as slaves to a childhood in Memphis with a mother who beat her for playing 'the devil's music,' to her death onstage during a memorial jazz concert for Louis in 1971. Her marriage to Louis and the musical innovations that came from their years as jazz's first power couple forms the centerpiece of Lil's story. Their divorce, according to Dickerson, was a blow from which Lil never recovered.
Dickerson guides readers through the underworld of jazz's past, when Memphis's red light district and mob clubs in Chicago were among the only places jazz musicians could perform, and when, despite Lil's warnings, Louis took on gangsters as business partners. His account of Lil's years with Louis recalls the landmark recordings they made together, the career lows that followed the highs, and Lil's commitment to free Louis from the poverty and racism that he never thought he could escape.

When Lil died she left behind a fortune in uncollected royalties. Dickerson attempted to locate family members, but he was unsuccessful.

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The Hero Among Us: Memoirs of an FBI Witness Hunter 
Jim Ingram with James L. Dickerson | History / Memoir
Introduction by former Mississippi Governor William F. Winter
Sartoris Literary Group | Available formats: Paperback and eBook

Jim Ingram is to the FBI what Elliot Ness was to the Treasury Department—a larger-than-life symbol of American justice, a Klan-busting crime fighter who was involved with some of the highest profile FBI cases of the 1960s and 1970s. In his memoir Ingram provides insider information about those cases.

Jim Ingram was the primary source in journalist Jack Nelson’s 1993 bestselling book, “Terror in the Night: The Klan’s Campaign Against the Jews,” which focused on the FBI’s infiltration of the Klan in an effort to protect Mississippi Jews. Ingram worked on a variety of high-profile case, but he is probably best known for his work on the "Mississippi Burning" civil rights cases and the bombing of Beth Israel Temple in Jackson, Mississippi.

Jim Ingram passed away in August 2009 of cancer, but worked on this memoir with co-author James L. Dickerson right up until his death. Following his death, the FBI supplied Dickerson with more than 1,400 pages of previously classified documents to supplement Ingram’s recollections.

After his retirement from the FBI, Ingram served as Public Safety Commissioner for the State of Mississippi, which put him in charge of the Highway Patrol, an agency that had been heavily infiltrated by the KKK while he was head of the FBI civil rights desk in Mississippi. Appointed by Governor Kirk Fordice, a conservative Republican with a penchant for abrasiveness, Ingram became good friends with the man despite their political differences.

Interestingly, after nearly 30 years with the FBI, Ingram was brought out of retirement in the 2000s as a cold-case investigator of Mississippi civil rights-era murders, casting him into his fifth decade of crime fighting. Today Mississippians live in a free society, primarily because of this one heroic figure.

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Conversations with Willie Morris
Edited by Jack Bales
University Press of Mississippi | Biography / American Literature
Available formats: Paperback

This is a collection of interviews with Mississippi author Willie Morris, who once served as editor of Harper's magazine. SLG publisher James L. Dickerson contributed an interview with Morris that he did in 1978. Other contributors include Studs Terkel, Richard Cohen, and Charlie Rose.

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Memphis Going Down
A Century of Blues, Soul and Rock 'n' Roll
James L. Dickerson | Category: History / performing arts
Sartoris Literary Group | Available Formats: Paperback and eBook

 

For over one hundred years, Memphis, Tennessee, has been the center of musical innovation for American popular music. From W. C. Handy to Alberta Hunter and Lil Hardin Armstrong, in the early years, to B. B. King in the late 1940s, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1950s, to Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs, and Al Green in the 1960s and early 1970s, Memphis music sizzled with a level of creativity unrivaled in the history of American music. Despite the Memphis focus, there is a great deal of Mississippi content in this book, including sections on Mississippians Sam Chatmon, B.B. King, Pinetop Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, most of whom were interviewed by the author.

For five decades of the city’s marvelous music history, author James L. Dickerson was at ground zero, first as a high school rock musician and then as a student rhythm and blues musician at the University of Mississippi, where his band made history by becoming the first all-white musical group to perform at a black Memphis nightclub, and finally as a Memphis journalist, magazine publisher, and radio syndication owner, who had unparalleled access to many of the music greats of the latter half of the century.

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The Legend of the Soul Eater
James L. Dickerson | Category: Mississippi history / Fantasy
Sartoris Literary Group | Available formats: Paperback and eBook

A fictional look at the enduring and controversial Native American legend that Jesus and Mary visited the Mississippi River Valley more than 2,000 years ago. The visit is seen through the eyes of the chief’s son, Miko, a warrior-in-training who desperately wants to make sense of life. When two strangers from a faraway land visit Miko’s village in what later became Natchez, Mississippi, he learns that there is an alternative to the evil force known as the Soul Eater. Suitable for young adults.

“The force of evil cannot be deterred so easily. The Legend of the Soul Eater is a novel set two thousand years ago among [the Native Americans who inhabited] the Mississippi Valley. Miko, son of the chief, encounters the force known as the Soul Eater, and he learns about its nature, and finds that he and his father must stand against them and learn the rules of mortality.  The Legend of the Soul Eater is riveting fantasy of pre-colonial America, a strong pick for those looking for something different.”—Midwest Book Review

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Faith Hill:The Long Road Back
James L. Dickerson | Category: biography 
Available formats:Paperback and eBook

A revealing biography of the Mississippi-raised country/pop star that examines her life from birth to superstardom to her failed 2012 comeback attempt as a recording artist. This book was a Top 10 bestseller on Amazon.com when it was released in 2012. The book was updated in 2013.

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