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Wednesday 21 March 2018

The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith BLOG TOUR @michael_f_smith @noexitpress #TheFighter #RandomThingsTours

From the author of Desperation Road, longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award 2017
The acres and acres of fertile soil, the two-hundred year old antebellum house, all gone. And so is the woman who gave it to him. The foster mother who saved Jack Boucher from a childhood of abandonmnet now rests in a hospice. Her mind mind eroded by dementia, the family legacy she entrusted to Jack is now owned by banks and strangers. And Jack's mind has begun to fail, too, as concussion after concussion forces him to carry around a notebook of names that separate friend from foe.
But in a single twisted night Jack is derailed. Losing the money that will clear his debt with the queen of Delta vice, and forcing Jack into the fighting pit one last time the stakes nothing less than life or death.

The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith is published by No Exit Press on 29 March 2018

As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share the prologue from The Fighter, I do hope that it tempts you!

When he was two years old the boy was dropped off at the donation
door at the Salvation Army secondhand store in Tunica wearing nothing
but a sagging diaper. A Planet of the Apes backpack stuffed with more
diapers and some shirts and mismatched socks and little green army
men was dropped on the ground next to him. Then a hungover woman
banged a scabbed fist on the metal door and a hungover man blew
the car horn and she ran around and got in as the child watched with a
docile expression. Out of the car window the man called out some sort
of farewell to the child that was lost in the offbeat chug of the engine
and then the foulrunning Cadillac rattled out of the gravel parking lot,
leaving the child in the dustcloud of abandonment.
The door opened and two women in matching red Salvation Army
t-shirts stared down at the boy. Then they looked into the parking lot
at the still lingering cloud. Out into a gray morning sky. They glanced
at each other. And then one said I guess we’re gonna have to hang a
sign next to the one that says no mattresses that says no younguns.
The other woman lifted the boy and held him up beneath his arms as
if to make certain he was made of actual flesh and bone. When she
was satisfied she hugged the child close and rubbed her hand across
the back of his head and she said I pity those who have to live behind
me in this weary and heartless world.
The police were called and while they waited the women washed
the boy in the bathroom sink with paper towels and hand soap. Filthy
feet and filthy hands and the diaper was two changes past due. After
they had wiped him clean and filled the trash can with dirty paper
towels the boy stood naked and fresh on the smooth concrete floor
of the bathroom and they admired his innocence and beauty. He was
then dressed in a new diaper and a Spider-Man shirt taken from a rack
in the kids section. The boy did not cry and did not talk but instead sat
satisfied between the women on a tweed sofa marked fifteen dollars
as if he had already decided that this was his new home and he was
better off.
He was better off but this was the beginning of a childhood spent
in the company of strangers. The next ten years saw him move from
one Delta town to the next. Four foster homes and two group homes.
Five different schools. A handful of caseworkers. Teachers whose
names he could not remember and then stopped trying to remember
because he knew he would not be in their classrooms for long. The
steady and certain build of restlessness and anxiety in this child who
was certain neither where he had come from nor where he was going.
When he was twelve years old the assistant director of the group
home told him to gather his things. Again. He sat on the bench seat
of a white van with the home logo on the side and he watched the
fields of soybeans and cornstalks with sullen eyes as he was driven
from the sleepy, bricked street town of Greenwood to his fifth foster
home. Moving northwest and closer to the great river, to the fringes
of Clarksdale, the once bustling Delta hub of trade and commerce
that now wore the familiar faded expression of days gone by. His eyes
changed when the van pulled into the dirt driveway that led to a twostory
home. A white antebellum with a porch stretching across the
front on the bottom and top floors. Flaking paint on the sun side and
vines hanging in baskets along the porch with their twisted and green
trails swaying in the wind. A woman sat in a rocker and she rose to
meet them. She wore work gloves and she pulled them off and tossed
them on the ground as she approached the van as if readying herself
for whatever might be climbing out.
She took him to his upstairs room and opened the dresser drawers
to show him where he could put his things and he told her there was
no use.
‘I won’t be here long enough to mess up the covers on the bed.’
‘Sure you will,’ she answered.
‘No I won’t,’ he said. A twelve-year old certain of the workings of
the world.
‘Are you gonna run away?’
‘I don’t know. Are you?’
‘Because unless you run away this is where you live now.’
‘So you think.’
‘So I know,’ she said.
‘You don’t know nothing,’ he said and he walked out of the
bedroom and down the stairs and out into the backyard. She stood at
the window and watched him between the slit in the curtains. He did
not stop in the backyard but crossed it and walked out onto the dirt
road that ran on and on between the rows of cotton. The sun high
and a short shadow followed him. She did not chase. She stood in the
window and watched until he was nearly out of sight and she was one
step toward the door to run after him when he stopped. A tiny figure
in the distance.
He stopped and stayed in the same spot for several more minutes
and she could not know that he was talking to himself. Telling
himself I don’t wanna do this no more. I don’t know why I can’t have
somebody. With the space between them she could not have noticed
that he looked back at the big house and said that place right there
don’t want me neither and that woman can’t catch me. I’m gonna
take off running and she won’t never catch me. Won’t nobody. I
don’t wanna do this shit no more. She could not have heard him or
seen him with any detail but she waited. Only could see that he had
stopped. She whispered a prayer without moving her lips as if even the
slightest flutter would spook the boy and send him fleeing on furious
and reckless feet. He stood still talking to himself and she stood still
whispering a quiet and motionless prayer. And then from the distant
sky a hawk flew toward the boy. It flew low and its wings were spread
wide and when it reached the vicinity of the boy it swooped and
seemed to hold there out in front of him. Begging the boy to admire
its eloquence. Begging the boy to notice something other than himself
and his troubles. Begging the boy to think of something other than
running from that woman. The hawk rose and fell again and the boy
saw it and his eyes followed the hawk as it turned long and graceful
curves in the bluewhite sky. From the window Maryann spied the
hawk and she shifted her eyes from sky to land, waiting to see what
the boy would do. The breath she had been holding was let go when
the hawk turned toward the house. And the boy followed.

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MICHAEL FARRIS SMITH is a native Mississippian who has spent time living abroad in France and Switzerland. He is the recipient of the 2014 Mississippi Author Award and has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, and the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature. 
His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared with The New York Times, Catfish Alley, Deep South Magazine, and more. 
He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters. 

Follow him on Twitter @michael_f_smith

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