Hermits Rock

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I do not often read debut novels, but I think I will make an exception for John Brandon’s Arkansas. He set the novel in Arkansas because he believed the state a palimpsest. As he says:

Arkansas is a hard place to pin down, so anything seems possible. It’s Southern, to be sure, but much of its history is Western. Oklahoma is right there, and that’s prairie country. If you go north, into Missouri, you’re in the Midwest. Most states, you know what you’re getting into about five minutes after you arrive. To me, Arkansas isn’t that way. Anything could be happening there. I guess I felt a lot of wiggle room, using Arkansas as a setting.

That is pretty much how I have reconciled the state in terms of regional identity, too. Too close to Texas and on the wrong side of the Mississippi to be in the Deep South; too much Delta and mountains to be Midwestern, Arkansas is a bit of an amalgamation, glued together by the shadows of mountains.

I have tried to read novels about Arkansas before, by the way. My adviser in graduate school read mysteries and introduced me to Grif Stockley. She loaned me one of his books, even. I think it involved a murder at a Razorbacks game. I began it, but I never finished it. In fact, the legal mystery/thriller never a genre never intrigued me as a genre. That book hung about my neck for five years until I decided to quit graduate school, whereupon it fell off and slipped into the cornfields, never to be seen by me again.