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The Politics of Barbecue

Blake Fontenay

John F. Blair, Publisher
$24.95 hardcover
5½ x 8½
356 pages
September 2012 

Barbecue and politics have one thing in common: both can be messy. And nowhere is barbecue more famous or politics more strange than in Memphis, Tennessee.

Pete Pigg is the owner of a popular Beale Street restaurant, the Pigg Pen, where customers ogle the “Pigglette” waitresses and toss gnawed-on pork bones into strategically placed buckets. Thanks to a quirk in the city’s election laws, Pigg has managed to get himself elected mayor by campaigning in quilt-patched overalls and using schmaltzy slogans like “Nobody knows how to cut pork like Mr. Pigg.”

But Mayor Pigg is no rube. He’s now firmly in control of city hall and up to something sleazy. When he announces plans to build the World Barbecue Hall of Fame in Memphis, it sounds good, but something unsavory lies just below the surface.

Even con artists trolling for taxpayer dollars, an adult filmmaker intent on making Memphis the porn capital of the East, a serial arsonist known as the Ghetto Blazer, and a nefarious Kansas City entrepreneur who made his fortune on “Rip-A-Chunk” beef jerky may be no match for Mayor Pigg’s wheeling and dealing.

It’s up to an unlikely crew consisting of a cynical public relations man, a famous actress who’s smarter than the roles she plays, a feisty young lawyer, an Elvis “tribute artist,” and a crossbow-toting hermit to expose the truth.

As the story moves past Memphis landmarks such as Beale Street, Graceland, and Mud Island, the motley group of heroes gets a glimpse into the greed and corruption all too rampant in government.


"The South has long been waiting on 'The Great Barbecue Novel,' and we should be grateful that it has finally arrived. Blake Fontenay, whose prose is silkier than a sow's ear and who clearly knows his way around all things Memphis, gifts us with a raucous story and a cast of characters far motlier than most. If Carl Hiaasen lived in Tennessee, this is the book he'd write." —Bob Morris, author of Bahamarama and the Zack Chasteen series
“In this brilliantly conceived Southern satire, the peculiar religion of what has become known as ‘Memphis barbecue’ is the basis of a wild comedy in which the eccentric forces of light are pitted against the dark dealers of unchecked power. . . . With a delightful coup de maître, Blake Fontenay has written the bible of the Barbecue Belt.” —John Pritchard, author of Junior RayYazoo Blues, and the forthcoming Sailing to Alluvium
“This book has it all—sex, political intrigue, and barbecue. What more do you need, other than a napkin? Blake Fontenay is the Tolstoy of pork products.” —William McKeen, author of Mile Marker ZeroOutlaw Journalist, and Highway 61
“No one knows local government better than Blake Fontenay. This is a great read. Unfortunately, the corruption and conflicts many of these characters show are prevalent in my hometown and all of our hometowns.” —John Vergos, owner of Rendezvous restaurant