Thursday, July 26, 2012


Stories by Southern writers have always been popular among fiction fans, and I think a lot of the appeal is in the realistic settings that always seem to be present in this type of book. High school and college literature classes would not be complete without a review of William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, and Eudora Welty, for each of them brings something to the table that would not be complete without them. While these writers are important, a new generation is continuing to introduce readers to the uniqueness and mystery of the Southern experience. Fannie Flagg, John Grisham, and Willie Morris are among the best Southern writers of our era. Each of them presents a different view of Southern life, exploring the temperament and the feel of the times. If you are already familiar with these writers, let me add another name to your list. In the crime novel, The Quick and the Dead, Milton T. Burton has captured the essence of the Southern criminal. You can feel the tension from the first page to the last, and the sweat and fear of the characters becomes frighteningly real as the tension mounts.


MANFRED EUGENE ‘HOG’ WEBERN a retired Dallas County deputy sheriff, is talked into going undercover in Biloxi, Mississippi, in a multistate effort to nail a group of traveling Southern criminals who have been tagged by the press with the lurid name “Dixie Mafia”. After making contact with the gang’s nominal leader, the notorious Jasper Sparks, Webern begins to worm his way into the group’s confidence. He also meets and becomes involved with an old friend of Sparks, the mysterious Neil Bigelow, a former assistant federal prosecutor whose daddy ‘owns half of the Delta.’

Having gained the gang’s trust, Webern soon learns that the score being planned is the massive robbery of a wintering carnival of an entire year’s receipts. Joining in planning the job, he meets such well-known hijackers as Slops Moline, a Charleston, South Carolina, killer and armed robber; Lardass Collins, the country’s premier car thief; Tom-Tom Reed, one of the world’s most skilled safecrackers; and the infamous Raymond “Hardhead” Weiler, and Alabama-born moonshiner who has pulled off more than two dozen high-profile contract killings in his seventy years.

As the story develops, Webern is drawn into a maelstrom of robbery, mayhem, and senseless violence that threatens to engulf his very being. And before the final curtain falls on The Sweet and the Dead, we learn that in the murky world of Southern professional crime, nothing is ever quite what it seems to be.

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