A veteran journalist's exploration of a church-burning in south Alabama
becomes a richly rewarding evocation of the Deep South--its land, its people,
and its sweat--popping summers.
More than an anatomy of a church arson, The Ballad of Little River is
a poignant but hard-hitting biography of one of the poorest areas in the
United States--where deer outnumber people. A cauldron of unresolved racial
and familial conflict, of heat, boredom, gossip, and grudges, Little River,
Alabama, gained notoriety in 1997 as the site of the U.S. government's
first conviction under a new hate-crimes law intended to stop a rash of
fires set at black churches around the country.
When journalist Paul Hemphill, son of an Alabama
truck driver and veteran writer on the blue-collar South, moved into the
area, he discovered a world that time had virtually forgotten--an obscure,
isolated community in the swampy woodlands far from the mainstream of American
life, a forlorn cluster of poverty and ignorance and dead-end jobs. He
met a stew of heroes and villains right out of fiction--"Peanut" Ferguson,
"Doll" Boone, "Hoss" Mack, Joe Dees, Murray January, a Klansman named "Brother
Phil," and his stripper wife known as "Wild Child"--all swirling in a maelstrom
of history and heat.
Originally published in cloth by Free Press,
The Ballad of Little River is Hemphill's gripping look at the southern
backwoods, a chilling cautionary tale filled with both kindness and cruelty,
told in the steady voice of a master storyteller and one who knows the