5 ½ x 8 ½
Published in 2008
This provocative novella takes the reader on a wild ride inside the mind of a Mississippi Delta good-old-boy ex-deputy sheriff who is as vicious and racist as the worst 1950s–’60s stereotypes. Junior Ray Loveblood narrates the story in his own profane, colloquial voice, telling why he wants to shoot Leland Shaw, a shell-shocked World War II hero and poet who is hiding in a silo from what he believes are German patrols. Through a series of sleights of hand, misdirections, and near misses, Junior Ray and his sidekick Voyd give a dark tour of the Delta country as they chase their mysterious prey. Junior Ray’s thoughts are peppered with excerpts from Shaw’s notebooks—sometimes starkly different from Junior Ray’s diatribe, sometimes eerily similar—and by the end of the story, it is up to the reader to sort out whose reality is more fantastic, Shaw’s or Loveblood’s, as the one stalks the other through the pages of this highly original and darkly comedic story.
“Mississippi state tourist officials won't be handing this book out anytime soon, though they might be surprised by its effectiveness if they did. Pritchard's hilariously tasteless debut novel is the profanity-laced story of a racist, violent sheriff's deputy in the Mississippi delta of the 1950s. Junior Ray Loveblood is an ignorant bully who sees no reason to carry a pistol if he can't shoot someone. He doesn't like rich folks or black people, and he especially hates Leland Shaw, an obscure white Mississippi poet and crazy World War II veteran who has just escaped from a mental hospital. The story of Junior Ray's pursuit of Shaw is extracted from the unrepentant deputy 30 years later by an academic researcher with an interest in Shaw's lost (and found) notebooks. Junior Ray, accompanied by his dim, slack-jawed sidekick, Voyd Mudd, searches everywhere for Shaw, but most folks, especially Shaw's equally goofy family and their black neighbors, do everything they can to bamboozle and trick the cops. Junior Ray's peculiar views on marriage, redneck sex, religion and law enforcement are laugh-out-loud funny, as are his descriptions of getting lost in the woods, finding a German submarine and being rescued by a troop of snickering Boy Scouts. As Junior Ray's pompous interviewer points out, ‘this book is not for the squeamish,’ but its irreverent humor will win over most.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This writer knows the country whereof he speaks, its dialect, its mores and folkways. But this is not sociology. It is primitive fiction of the sort one rarely sees. More’s the pity. Underneath this violent language and narrative, there is a sweet truth. It deserves to be read.” —Harry Crews, author of The Mulching of America and Celebration
“Junior Ray runs on a belly laugh per page. When Junior Ray, a deputy sheriff who makes Flem Snopes sound cultured, sets out to track down a ‘maniac’ loose in the Mississippi Delta, he proves to be more demented than his prey. Like his protagonist, John Pritchard’s novella is outrageous and ribald, a revolt against the literary school of manners and a ride that takes Southern Gothic to new extremes.” —Curtis Wilkie, author of Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events That Shaped the Modern South
“Junior Ray is an unforgettable narrator: hilarious, rowdy, and stubbornly his own. In life you’d cross to the other side of the street to avoid him; in John Pritchard’s delightful fictional debut, you’ll turn the pages to see what that rascal does next.” —Louise Redd, author of Hangover Soup
“Junior Ray Loveblood has taken profanity and made a new language of it, which he uses to tell the often hilarious, often scary, story of life as a poor white in the Mississippi Delta, down its lonely roads and through its dark forests. This book is massively profane and massively politically incorrect. Not for the squeamish or pure at heart.” —John Fergus Ryan, author of White River Kid and The Redneck Bride