For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sat in Parchman penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. His time now up, and believing his debt paid, he returns home only to discover that revenge lives and breathes all around.
On the day of his release, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate under the punishing summer sun. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a motel room for the night, a night that ends with Maben running through the darkness holding a pistol, and a dead deputy sprawled across the road in the glow of his own headlights.
With dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save his own or that of the woman and child?
Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith is published by No Exit Press on 23 February 2017
Russell Gaines is going home to McComb, a dry, dusty Mississippi town. He's been away for eleven very long years and hasn't a clue what awaits him. His welcome home party is brutal, and leaves him battered and bruised. His father is more welcoming, although Russell is surprised to meet his Dad's companion Consuela, so very different to his late mother.
Maben and her daughter Annalee are running away, trying to escape hardship and violence and ruthless men, only to find themselves in even deeper trouble.
Michael Farris Smith has created a small-town novel with an impressive cast of characters, but it is McComb, the town itself that is the largest of them all, a place that functions entirely so that Russell and Maben can play out their story. The author takes the reader on a slow and sometimes meandering journey, allowing us to know the characters, and creating a sense of familiarity that teases the reader into a false sense of security, for by the time we realise that these characters are actually quite flawed, we've fallen for them.
It is a clever and articulate author who can create characters who do so much wrong, yet are still heroes. Weaving themes of judgement, forgiveness, revenge and redemption Desperation Road is powerful and tense. Atmospheric and quietly beautiful, it is at times, a difficult read.
The story, the characters and the writing captured me from page one and kept me hostage until the very end.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
Michael Farris Smith is the award-winning author of and .
was named in numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and garnered the 2014 Mississippi Author Award for Fiction.
His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared in , and more.
He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters
Find out more at www.michaelfarrissmith.com
Follow him on Twitter @michael_f_smith
No Exit Press is an imprint of Oldcastle Books. No Exit Press, introduced in 1987, is primarily a crime fiction imprint.