Paperback eBook


PAGES: 368

TRIM SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25

ISBN: 978-1-56512-413-4

LIST PRICE: $14.95


ISBN: 978-1-56512-758-6

LIST PRICE: $12.95

Joe Ransom, nearing fifty, lives hard and likes danger. A drinker, a gambler, a fighter, he’s using up what little luck he has left. He drives his pickup too fast, draws his gun too quick. By day he’s foreman of a crew of men who work in the north Mississippi woods poisoning trees for a lumber company. By night, he visits the brothels and gambling dens hidden in the woods back up off the road.

Gary Jones estimates his own age to be about fifteen. Born luckless, he lives off discards and garbage. His father, an itinerant farmworker, is as evil as men come. His mother is insane from ancient grief. Their children have known only an endless road, daily hunger, and their parents’ bestiality. It’s up to the boy to provide, so he’s looking for work that pays—and a truck to get it.

When their paths cross, Joe Ransom offers Gary Jones a chance just as his own chances have dwindled to almost nothing.

Larry Brown’s territory is north Mississippi’s back roads connecting Oxford, Tupelo, and Bruce; its dark woods sheltering rabbit, possum, squirrel, and deer; its old dwellings crumbling on the low rolling hills. Dumpsters decorate the crossroads. Small groceries offer one gas pump, beer, ice, cigarettes, sardines, Vienna sausages, Dixie cups.

He has earned critical acclaim for his brilliant antiwar novel, Dirty Work, and for his short stories about men who ride the back roads in pickup trucks, their Igloo coolers close at hand, their hunting dogs in back. The failed and forgotten, the boozers, brawlers, wife-beaters, the no-counts. That he understands and dramatizes their redemption is the basis of his power as a writer. Now, in Joe, Brown unleashes the full power of his talent and creates this story of the bond between one such man riding those roads and a boy who walks them.

The themes in Joe are big ones—good, evil, temptation, sacrifice, and redemption—the themes of great literature. This is a novel that will be counted in that company.


"With this powerful novel of poverty-mired Mississippi... Brown comes into his own, illuminating the painful lives of his characters with compassion and eloquence." - Publishers Weekly

"Bright with pain and liquor, this raw and gritty novel ranks with the best hard-knocks, down-and-out work of Jim Thompson and Harry Crews. It's lean, mean, and original." - Kirkus Reviews

"Larry Brown is establishing himself as one of the most authentic literary voices of our generation. It's a voice framed, as many great voices have been, in the inflections of the South. It's a voice as true as a gun rack, unpretentious and uncorrupted, full of wit and sorrow." - Baltimore Evening Sun

Meet the author

Photo Credit: Tom Rankin

Larry Brown was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he lived all his life. At the age of thirty, a captain in the Oxford Fire Department, he decided to become a writer and worked toward that goal for seven years before publishing his first book, Facing the Music, a collection of stories, in 1988. With the publication of his first novel, Dirty Work, he quit the fire station in order to write fulltime. Between then and his untimely death in 2004, he published seven more books. His three grown children and his widow, Mary Annie Brown, live near Oxford.