"History," according to Junior Ray Loveblood, "is an amazing thing. Once I got started, it just more or less begun to write itself." Well, not exactly. The Yazoo Blues, the sequel to John Pritchard's critically acclaimed debut, Junior Ray, is as funny as it is foul-mouthed, and as insightful as it is infuriating. When we left Junior Ray, he was a deputy sheriff in the sort of town where you expect to find a mutant playing "Dueling Banjos" out on the front porch, but Junior's law enforcement career went off the rails, and he now finds himself patrolling the parking lot at the Lucky Pair-O-Dice Casino. But our hero's not just any broken-down good ol' boy on the downward slide; he's also a historian. Imagine, if you will, Hunter S. Thompson's taste for the surreal, married to Paris Hilton's academic acumen, all shoveled into Buford Pusser's bod, and you can just bet that hijinks are rarin' to ensue.
The subject that holds Junior Ray in thrall is the Yazoo Pass Expedition of 1863, a failed (some would call it doomed) attempt by the Union Army to skulk into Vicksburg via a network of rivers, lakes and swamps that proved inhospitable to Yankees and impassable by ship. (Didn't they know that "Yazoo" came from the Native American phrase meaning "River of Death"?)
And in true gonzo fashion, Ray's journey of discovery takes him (and his comical sidekick, Mad Owens) up to "Meffis"—you know it as Memphis—and into a gentleman's club, where Mad falls madly in lust with an ex-cop turned stripper bearing the unlikely name of Money Scatters.
Just like a story from Yazoo City's most famous resident, the late comedian Jerry Clower, The Yazoo Blues takes its time getting around to its point, by which time you may not even remember—or care—what its point was. If ever a book proved that the joy is in the travel and not the destination, The Yazoo Blues is it. We can only hope that our potty- mouthed philosopher will come back for a third hilarious helping of hell-raising.
Thane Tierney lives in Los Angeles, although he's traveled through the deep South, frequently at high speed.