We had two fun signings over the weekend — one at Barnes & Noble on Mississippi State’s campus, and one at the Barnes & Noble in Ridgeland, Miss. Our Friday signing was visited by Mississippi State fans preparing to attend that evening’s baseball game against LSU — oh, the optimism… Sadly the weekend did not go well for Mississippi State baseball. On Friday we met a descendant of the Spanish rulers of New Orleans. On Saturday we met one of the men who maintains the actual Natchez Trace Parkway today. Fun to get out and meet everyone. Thank you to everyone who came to show their support —
Ryan and I had to cancel a lot of events back in March 2020. But we are happy that our calendars are beginning to fill up again. Much thanks to Copiah-Lincoln Community College for inviting us to speak at the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration last month. We got to eat some delicious fried chicken at the Carriage House in Natchez, and talk about the life of one of the least known but most impressive figures in Mississippi history: John Blommart. We got to meet other writers — Susan Cushman and R.J. Lee — and were honored to share a signing table with Maurice Carlos Ruffin. It was a fun time and a wonderful reintroduction to public events.
Our Lemuria signing will be followed by two signings at Barnes and Noble in Ridgeland, and Barnes and Noble at Mississippi State University. We will sign at Barnes and Noble at Mississippi State on Friday, April 8 at 3 p.m., and the next day, April 9, at Barnes and Noble in Ridgeland at 1 p.m.
We look forward to doing a lot more of these in the coming months — thank you to everyone who has supported us by attending these events in the past.
Ryan and I have been working hard on our next narrative history project for the History Press. We are happy to announce that Death Along the Natchez Trace will be coming sometime next year. Over the summer we published Hidden History of Natchez, and told some forgotten stories from one of the South’s oldest and most important cities. Naturally, the Natchez Trace, that ancient road that begins in Natchez and stretches to Nashville, pulled our attention north.
Death Along the Natchez Trace will tell stories from Natchez, Port Gibson, Clinton, Kosciusko, Mathiston, Tupelo, and Nashville, and from the quiet, secluded sections of the road that connected those early southern towns. And although the title of the book is rather grim-sounding, the characters in the book do plenty of living as well as dying. This is not a dismal book, but rather a book that tells the story of a road that offered immense danger — but also opportunity — to its travelers.
The photo collage on the cover of Death Along the Natchez Trace hints at some of the content the book will contain. In the upper left is Tecumseh, the powerful Indian leader, who visited the Choctaw and Chickasaw and predicted the New Madrid earthquakes. The middle photo shows the American alligator, covered in so much natural armor that it defied predation by Indians. In the upper right is a visitor to the National Museum admiring Andrew Jackson’s personal dueling pistols. And the large dramatic scene in the lower part of the cover is the midnight burial of Hernando de Soto on the Mississippi — to prevent his body falling into the hands of Indians, his ragged men nailed him into a green oak log and sunk him in the river.
We don’t have a release date yet and are still early in the editing process. But we thought you might like to see the cover of our next book (and in my opinion, one of the most fun we have worked on).
Working on the book has taught me that travel on the early Trace was unbelievably dangerous, but also must have been one of the most exhilarating and immersive experiences an early American could have. I’m sorry I will never get to see and experience what those early travelers did — and thankful that I don’t have to.
Ryan and I will be signing our newest book, Hidden History of Natchez, at Lemuria bookstore in Jackson this Saturday, July 24, at 2 p.m. Lemuria has been our constant supporter since 2018, when we released Hidden History of Jackson. We are happy to be returning to the bookstore for our first signing in a year and a half.
Every time we do a signing or event, we always leave with stories of the interesting people we met and talked to. We look forward to reconnecting with the public this Saturday. Thank you for your support!
Ryan and I are happy to announce the publication of Hidden History of Natchez, our fifth book of narrative history with the History Press. The book will be published July 19, 2021. After spending the last few years researching and writing books about Texas and Louisiana history, it’s great to be back writing about our home state: Mississippi.
I grew up thinking of Natchez as a small town in Mississippi, kind of out of the way, with lots of beautiful old buildings and a strong connection to the culture of the “Old South.” In 2008, I took a trip to the city with my two grandmothers and mom. We ate fried catfish on the Mississippi River, toured a mansion full of antebellum furniture, and tasted muscadine wine at the Old South Winery. It was my first time visiting Natchez, and I’ll never forget the Mississippi River vista from Under-the-Hill.
Now, after spending the last couple years reading about the city, I have a whole new appreciation for it. Natchez is not only one of the oldest cities in the country, it was also one of the most important for many decades. Ryan and I have found a whole lot of unbelievable stories from the city’s past, going all the way back to when the inheritors of the Mississippian Culture, the Natchez Indians, gambled that they could best the French settlers in armed conflict. Check out the back cover of our book to get a taste of some of the stories we tell:
We hope you will look for Hidden History of Natchez on Amazon or at some of the great local booksellers who carry our books (shout out to Lemuria in Jackson and Pass Christian Books on the Coast). Thank you for your support!
When Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville arrived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1699, he was happy to discover that an abundant and unusual game animal was everywhere: beoufs sauvages. The giant, woolly cows roamed all over the Gulf Coast, and Iberville and his fellow Frenchmen immediately added them to their diets. A hunting party killed 23 in two days at Lake Pontchartrain in the early 1700s. Iberville recorded seeing them along the Mississippi River, at Biloxi, and near Pascagoula. Indians hunted the animals too, and used their bones and horns for utensils, and fur for blankets. (Read more in Hidden History of the Mississippi Sound).
Iberville had encountered an iconic animal: the American bison. Many Mississippians do not realize that the bison is a native animal. They used to live here in abundance, but were hunted out within a short time of Europeans arriving. Now when you think bison, you think Montana, some 1,300 miles away. But really, bison should be living here too.
Restoring a local population of such an iconic large mammal would have massive benefits for Mississippi. Yellowstone National Park draws more than four million visitors annually, and the park’s 5,000 bison are a big attraction. Of course, Mississippi lacks the kind of vast space (more than two million acres) that Yellowstone possesses to support its thousands of bison.
A better model for Mississippi might be the National Bison Range in western Montana. The National Bison Range is much smaller than Yellowstone, at only 18,000 acres. It supports fewer bison, but is still home to a herd of a few hundred of the animals. The 300-500 that live there now all descend from a group of 40 that were moved there from Texas, New Hampshire, and Montana in 1909.
But where could a herd of a few hundred bison roam freely in Mississippi? It happens we have the perfect spot. It overlays the coastal land that Iberville once traveled 300 years ago: Stennis Space Center. Stennis is known as NASA’s largest rocket testing facility and is a tourist attraction in its own right. But what many people don’t realize is that a massive ring of land around the facility was set aside as a Buffer Zone for rocket testing — 125,442 acres to be exact. The federal government owns thousands of acres within the buffer zone outright, and owns easements over the entire area restricting habitation and construction.
The Stennis Buffer Zone is precisely where Iberville would have hunted Mississippi bison in the 1700s. Arranging for 35 or 40 bison to be transported to the zone and allowing them to roam and multiply is not a far-fetched idea — it’s actually perfectly natural. The bison would be an instant tourist attraction, and an opportunity for Mississippi to do something forward-thinking and bold. We would be the only bison state east of the Mississippi. The magnolia and mockingbird would no longer be our only animal mascots. And maybe down the road, we could even open a regulated bison hunting season.
It wouldn’t be that hard to restore a population of a majestic Mississippi animal, and the benefits would be immense. So ask yourself — how can we get some bison down here?
Ryan and I received word today that our next book, “Dallas Tough: Historic Tales of Grit, Audacity, and Defiance,” will be published Feb. 1, 2021. Ryan and I are happy with the date, because hopefully by the Spring of 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic will have eased, and we will actually get to do some signings and speaking engagements! We have really missed connecting with our readers at great bookstores and events around the South.
This might be our most exciting and readable book. Once we began researching Dallas history, we realized the city was built by some of the toughest and most tenacious people we’d ever heard of. This book is packed with their stories, written in a narrative style.
The History Press was kind enough to share the cover design for “Dallas Tough,” and we both agree it’s our favorite cover yet. See for yourself:
The History Press also shared the awesome description that will appear on the back cover of the book:
Our venture into Texas history was a real pleasure, and we hope you are as excited about our new book as we are!
Though Covid-19 wiped a whole slate of great events off our calendar this spring and summer, more free time has allowed us to work on other projects. I’m delighted to announce our first book, Hidden History of Jackson, is now available for purchase as an audiobook! Ryan and I signed an exclusive contract with ACX earlier this year to distribute the audio version of Hidden History of Jackson. As of this month, we are happy to announce that Hidden History of Jackson is available for sale on Amazon and Audible, and will be soon on iTunes.
When we began producing the audiobook version of Hidden History of Jackson, we were faced with a choice: contract with a professional reader, or read the book ourselves. We decided to try our hand at recording and built a small studio in Starkville, Mississippi. The Hidden History of Jackson audiobook you can find for sale on Audible was recorded by yours truly.
We are working now on recording and editing the audiobook versions of Hidden History of the Mississippi Sound and Hidden History of New Orleans. If you’re interested in listening to Hidden History of Jackson, please click here.
Thank you for the support, and we hope to see you face-to-face again soon!
Ryan and I made the drive south to New Orleans last week for an interview with Malik Mingo of Great Day Louisiana. Malik and his crew at WWL-TV are true professionals. Malik was friendly and warm, and asked great questions. Before our interview I said to Ryan, “What if he asks us why two Mississippians wrote a history book about New Orleans?” When we sat down with Malik, it was the first question he asked! The answer, of course, is simple — two words, as Ryan put it: New Orleans. You can watch our interview with Malik here.
The WWL-TV studios are literally in the French Quarter, so our trip to New Orleans also included a stroll around the neighborhood on Ash Wednesday. The streets were quiet — the party had died a few hours before. We got to walk down Royal Street, which was the rowdiest street in the Quarter before Bourbon claimed that title. Royal is where Cap Murphy and Recorder Ford cultivated their feud, a story which we covered in Hidden History of New Orleans. City employees were busy cleaning up the trash, but by the time we arrived at around 9:30 a.m., most of it had already been cleaned. A few dazed people in costumes were still hanging around on street corners.
Ryan and I got to enjoy a coffee from CC’s Coffee House and lunch at the Napoleon House, one of New Orleans’s oldest and most famous restaurants. It’s said that the restaurant was once planned to be the home for the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon never made it, but the name stuck. We had shrimp poboys and potato salad. You just can’t get French bread like that outside New Orleans.
All-in-all it was a long day of driving but well worth the trip. Thank you again Malik and WWL-TV — it was a pleasure.
The book, our third with the History Press, will be officially released on Feb. 3. You can pick up a copy at the usual places: amazon.com, Lemuria in Jackson, Pass Christian Books on the coast, and many bookstores in New Orleans.
Ryan and I will officially kick off the launch of HHNO at Lemuria in Jackson on Saturday, Feb. 8. It has been our tradition to launch our books there, and we are thrilled to be returning to one of the greatest bookstores in the country.
Just a few things you get to read about if you pick up a copy:
- What exactly drew Pierre Lafitte back to New Orleans time and again, even though the authorities were eager to capture the pirate
- How a New Orleans city official was gunned down by a gang in broad daylight — a gang led by a local judge and political rival
- How the rise of a new music form, jazz, intersected with an axe murderer’s plans one terrifying night
- How Denton W. Crocker, a born-and-bred Yankee, became a New Orleans hero during WWII
- What life was like for gay Americans in New Orleans in the mid-20th century
The great thing about buying copies at Lemuria and the other local bookstores we’ll be visiting in the coming weeks is that you can get a signed copy for no extra cost. I’ll even draw a little sketch in your book with a sharpie if you like — no refunds if my artwork isn’t to your standards. Hope to see you at Lemuria!