By Elmore Leonard
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780060008727, 320pp.)
Publication Date: February 2002
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Dennis Lenahan the high diver would tell people that if you put a fifty-cent piece on the floor and looked down at it, that's what the tank looked like from the top of that eighty-foot steel ladder.
Dennis is a daredevil and the girls love him. Things are going along okay with his gig at the Tishomingo Lodge & Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, "the Casino Capital of the South," until the day he looks down from the high-dive platform and witnesses a mob hit -- Dixie style. The killer looks up and says, "Let's see you dive." Suddenly, being a daredevil has lost its kick.
Turns out there was a second witness, Robert Taylor from Detroit, who carries a picture of his great-granddaddy's lynching along with a gun in a briefcase and listens to Marvin Pontiac while cruising the back roads of Mississippi in his black Jaguar. Robert works for a man from up north who has come to play General Grant in a Civil War battle reenactment, but like Dennis, Robert has a death-defying act of his own: he's sleeping with his boss's wife.
Thirty-seven miles from Tunica is the famous "crossroads" where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for a style of funky blues that had never been heard before. Robert Taylor is about to introduce Dennis to a "crossroads" of his own. He has a secret agenda for taking on the Cornbread Cosa Nostra and wants Dennis in on it.
To complicate matters are the women. Some are dressed in hoop skirts, and all of them have plans of their own. Vernice lures Dennis with the whitest thighs he's ever seen. Diane comes to do a story on him and wants to take him to Memphis. And still another comes along to give Dennis the surprise of his life. But it's the scams Robert Taylor plays, drawing Dennis into his game, that move the action through all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. Before he knows it, Dennis has agreed to join Robert in the battle reenactment, which leads to a showdown between the bad guys and the really bad guys.
Tishomingo Blues rings true with the bestselling author's dead-on dialogue, capturing the flavor and rhythms of the South, and finds him plotting at his unpredictable best.