“Reckoning and Ruin,” by Tina Whittle

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason I have finally caught up with Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph Mystery series, now in its fifth installment. Set in Atlanta and Savannah, this tale of crime, family, retribution, and Old South/New South contrasts and continuities has plenty of energy and strong characters. It’s main center of interest, however, is not […]

“GodPretty in the Tobacco Field,” by Kim Michele Richardson

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason Like its predecessor Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field is a powerful coming-of-age story complicated by lingering racial prejudice. The town of Nameless, Kentucky is a place where everyone suffers under the heel of grinding poverty, poor education, and images of a ruthless, punishing God from whom family elders […]

January Read of the Month: “Casey’s Last Chance,” by Joseph B. Atkins

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason “Last chance for what?” the eager reader might ask. To make it to the majors? To score big at anything? In this debut novel, it’s this sorry fellow’s last chance to get out from under the debts incurred over a decade or two of minor league hustling and losing. Not […]

“Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County,” by Amy Hill Hearth

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason This review originally appeared in Florida Weekly. It is reprinted here with the permission of Florida Weekly. This sequel to Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society (2012) should satisfy those who filled the many book club appearances through which the earlier title was effectively marketed. It inches […]

September Read of the Month: “The Wiregrass,” by Pam Webber

Reviewed by Phil Jason It’s 1969 and helicopters drum above the town of Crystal Springs, Alabama twice a day. At ten each morning they leave Fort Rucker for a training field: Field 10. Twelve hours later, the choppers leave in formation to make the return trip. The scheduled explosions of light and noise define the […]

July Read of the Month: “A Tree Born Crooked,” by Steph Post

Reviewed by Phil Jason I almost missed this one, which is among the most original and striking Florida novels I’ve encountered in my almost nine years of walking this beat. No gorgeously hued Sunshine State here. This is the Florida of grit and grime state: the North Florida that is really Southern, rather than the […]

“Liar’s Bench,” by Kim Michele Richardson

Reviewed by Philip K. Jason This glorious debut novel is one of an unexpectedly fine crop of recent and new Southern fiction. It confronts the tragic persistence of racism and the resilient, transcendent power of the human spirit. It is at once a story of young love, of traditions both poisonous and healing, and of […]

“Heart of Palm,” by Laura Lee Smith

Reviewed by Phil Jason Reprinted, with permission, from Florida Weekly. This is the one I’ve been waiting for. The big surprise. A debut novel set in Florida that has it all: family, community, dreams, secrets, the best kind of local color, tragedy, humor, hatred, compassion, love, change. It’s 2008. Arla Bolton Bravo, of the fashionable […]