I find myself in a UK frame of mind these days – suffused with goodwill toward that grand kingdom and wishing I could hop on a plane and walk her streets and shores again. Not only do I have a new British publisher, Severn House, but they are lifting my books out of paperback original obscurity and bringing out the new Dead Detective in hardback. It has been a long time since I had the joy of holding one of my books in my hands and slowly thudding myself over the head with it, enjoying its substance. On top of that, I get to have an editor named James Nightingale, which sounds very posh to me, and the UK includes Ireland, where I left my heart a decade ago and hope to find again, in person, one day.
More than that, as a Southerner, I remain deeply grateful to the UK for recognizing southern culture for its richness and originality. The truth is that they do a far better job of appreciating the American South than the rest of America does. Recently, I had the fun of watching my first Casey Jones book, Legwork, rise in the ranks of Kindle books in the UK, a first for that series as it was never distributed separately on the other side of the pond. I am delighted that people there — who appreciated Elvis and rock-and-roll and Muddy Waters and Muscle Shoals soul long before we in America could — are going to meet Casey. I know they will understand that a sense of place is oh-so-important both to her and to the books.
I don’t know why the rest of America still wants to look down on the South, when the truth is that every great book in American literature came from my side of the Mason-Dixon line. Compared to authors like Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, Nathaniel Hawthorne just can’t compete. He comes off as the dry old coot I am pretty sure he was. No, you have to be from the South, with its deep appreciation for eccentric characters and its love of complicated family dynamics and community ties, to really understand what it’s like to be feeling your way through the intricate social maze that is America. People see that in the UK and I thank them for it.
I dream of one day touring every corner of its realm, perhaps accompanied by my fellow TPAC author, Southern noir master J.D. Rhoades, on a sort of Dukes of Hazard Rolling Thunder literary tour, where we would bring colorful colloquialisms and chopped pork barbecue to the masses in exchange for accolades and kidney pie. Until then, I shall be content with dreaming of visiting soon… and exploring the pink beer recently issued by Coors in hopes of creating more female beer drinkers. After all, one should always try to keep up with the natives. That’s how they built the British Empire in the first place.