Author: John (Page 1 of 19)

Readers Coming Together

by John Evans, Lemuria Books

Mississippi’s literary contributions have enhanced our state and national culture. Our great writers are household names; many of their stories are our stories. But before great writers put pen to paper, they were first great readers.

In my 40 years of bookselling, I have witnessed the power of real books in the hands of readers. In our first statewide book festival, The Mississippi Book Festival, we will celebrate the joys of reading and the authors who bring our culture to the page. Reading real books is where it all starts.

Mississippians are encouraged to read John Grisham’s Sycamore Row together. Reading together, we live together.

The first Mississippi Book Festival, I hope the first of many, will bring awareness to our strong literary history. Perhaps this festival will be the first step toward creating a Literary Book Trail in Mississippi and eventually, a Mississippi Writers Museum.

The first ever Mississippi Book Festival will take place this Saturday, August 22, on the State Capitol grounds.


Originally published here

Let’s Talk Jackson: Remembering Craig Noone


To celebrate the life of my young friend Craig Noone, I recently had supper with a group of around 75 folks at Parlor Market. Parlor Market was founded by Craig in 2010 and the night I dined there was 4 years to the day that the restaurant opened in downtown Jackson.

My perspective of the Parlor Market Journey began around 6 years ago. My son Austin and Craig had played baseball together and now as young adults they rekindled a bonding friendship. Through Austin I met, partied, and traveled with this young guy who was on a quest to open his own restaurant. Austin and Craig shared similar drives to be involved in the restaurant & beverage industry. Eventually, both succeeded with Craig opening Parlor Market Restaurant and Bar and Austin starting Cathead Vodka.

Craig’s light was bright and I had the luck to travel some with these young men, and they didn’t seem to mind as this old guy hung around. We lit out early one morning from Austin’s Fondren apartment (which I think at times was Craig’s home away from home) to go spend a weekend of celebrating food and wine in Charleston, SC. In Clarksdale at Ground Zero we all palled up for music, fun, beverages, and a weekend of endless partying. Craig was always welcome at my home and he crashed there on occasion as he and Austin worked to make their dreams a reality.

Craig’s desire was to open a downtown Jackson restaurant with an abundance of local and state influence. He discussed his ideas concerning food, beverage, and design concepts constantly, and had a creative, entrepreneurial spirit. He pushed himself and others to be their very best and for everyone to contribute in enhancing Jackson’s culture. Too soon for us all, Craig died tragically.

Parlor Market_DSC1067

On the night I dined at Parlor Market, we were assembled to honor the “Rock It Out” Foundation established in Craig’s name. Seven chefs, all whom worked with Craig and now carry on his tradition in their own way, cooked his dishes and shared their stories about our friend:

Ryan Bell–Hal & Mal’s
Gary Hawkins–The Fairview Inn
Jesse Houston–Saltine Oyster Bar
Reynolds Boykin–Caet
Grant Hutchinson–The Pig & Pint
Karl Gorline
Whitney Maxwell

In just a short life, Craig contributed so much to so many. He brought people together and was a leader who instilled in young and old a passion to make our work better. It is only fitting that his legacy endures and his foundation encourages creative cooking in his honor.


Written by John

Stability Once Again

At 7:00 am on the opening morning of this year’s New Orleans Jazz Fest, I was awakened by phone calls from Jeff Good of Broad Street, and Austen of Lemuria informing me that the Lemuria Book Hand had crashed down and was destroyed. They sent pictures as proof, and I worked my mind clear, defrosting my late night take of beverage and great music from Bombino at the House of Blues. My musical high crashed down to earth with this news.

I called Bob Reed, our sign guru, and he told me not to worry, he would take care of it and deal with our insurance company. Replacement was immediately underway, and now Bob has reinstated our sculpture and Lemuria’s brand symbol is back.

In 1980, to celebrate 5 years in business, Lemuria engaged local artist Keith Parker to do a wood engraving. The edition would be 100 copies, signed and numbered. Our Art Deco inspired image was of a Lemuria mermaid rising out of Lemuria’s ruins holding a book high.


In 1981, Lemuria finally got out of debt and made a little money. To celebrate, we issued graphic tshirts, also designed by Keith,  of a hand holding a book exploding out of the water to surface. We had gotten our bookstore above water! All of this was visioned within the eyeball of the Wisdom Eye. This image was influenced by the tail of a whale on the surface as it is diving, and we considered the image as a homage to the great 1930 edition of Moby Dick, illustrated by Rockwell Kent.


In 1998 when Lemuria designed our present storefront, we created our entrance with the Book Hand. Banner Hall was near financial ruin when new ownership took over. Once again, our book hand signaled a re-birthing of Lemuria’s stability.

In the last few years, real books have been challenged by alternative reading devices. Lemuria thus launched a “Read Real Books” campaign, grounded by our Book Hand logo. Coupled with the recession and severe competition, the real book was challenged. Now, real book reading has stabilized in a posture of strength and rebirth once again. Justin Schultz of Flying Chair, also designed a more contemporary book hand with a modern Wisdom Eye to celebrate real book stabilization.

lemuria eye

Our Book Hand sculpture has now been replaced and situated. Stability once again for Lemuria, has been symbolized.

Lemuria has endured the recession’s hard times. We have published our book proudly about our local community, and good ole Bob has brought our Book Hand back to us, and he has promised our new sculpture will last the lifetime of Lemuria.

By the way, our previous Book Hand collapsed because of inferior glue which eroded over the years causing our beloved sculpture to weaken. Fortunately, at 5:00 am this past April when it fell, no one was in Banner Hall or was hurt.

Let’s Talk Jackson: Crechales

My Father passed right after I turned 12, and being an only child, and the youngest of first cousins, my close family contacts became few.  However, my first cousin, Paul, who was 20 years older and I thought looked like James Bond, took me on as a little brother.  He was single and all about town and let me tag along on his excursions.  So I found Crechales in my early teens, 13 I believe.  Paul knew all the waitresses, and was always looking for girlfriends, so I guess his “sidekick” might have been a novelty of some sort for the ladies.


In my early 20’s, our gang, usually consisting of John, Mike, Dalton, and myself would usually brown bag some scotch (no liquor was sold legally at Chrechales during that time) and celebrate special occasions.  We usually ordered broiled flounder to be de-boned by the server at tableside while we always praised and flirted with our waitress.  Paul taught me that.

Crechales still remains my favorite place to eat and be a host.  Over the years, I’ve taken many authors, exposing them to the best of my hometown.  I remember taking Jim Harrison, the first of many trips, as Crechales is always a stop for Jim’s Jackson visits.  This time Jim and artist pal, Russell Chatham came for the opening of Dalva nationally, at the new Lemuria location in Banner Hall.  They ordered the menu, holding court in the back booth as we went through all the courses.  The waitresses kept bringing food to their dismay.

Willie Morris loved Crechales and a trip to dine with him and JoAnne was always a treat.  Willie seemed to shine there.  He felt at home.

Elmore Leonard loved Crechales’s Roadhouse style. I felt he was creating a character watching the Chrechale patrons.  Barry Moser loved the chicken gizzards, for him a rare menu treat.  Barry Gifford, Tom McGuane, Sam Lawrence and many more have shared in the fun and food here while in Jackson.

And I end by suggesting my style, which is as always as soon as you sit down order onion rings, then top them with Comeback sauce and start your evening delights with a cold beer.


Written by John

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at 

Let’s Talk Jackson: WANTED- Who is the Irish girl?

In early 2013, Ken and I had been talking about our Jackson photo book for a few months. Seriousness about our project had been growing and it was time to start if we were going to team up; the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was about to happen.

I told Ken if we were going to do this book, he would have to shoot Mal’s parade. Ken came to Jackson for this event and shot hundreds of photos. He put them on  a disc so I could study his work, and needless to say, this was the beginning of our actual project.

The St. Patrick’s Parade offered so many fine, fun photos that sorting down to just four was difficult. A favorite of mine, a photo of the parade in front of Hal and Mal’s, was last to go as our book filled up.

However, Ken captured a very special parade moment: our Irish girl (plate 10). She immediately became a favorite, and I feel her spirit reflected in this shot captures the goal of our book. She is beautiful. She is having fun. And, she is participating in one of the most celebrated events that happens in our city.


Unfortunately, we don’t know who this special shamrock lady is. She is now #1 on our most wanted list.

For stepping forward, her reward is a free Jackson book (dust jacket of her choice), a #letstalkjackson t-shirt (a green one, no doubt), and a #letstalkjackson coffee mug.

P.S., If Ms. Shamrock would consent, we would like to make her our “Let’s Talk Jackson” poster lady!

Where are you? Who are you? Please step forward and say hi, and help us talk about Jackson!


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at 

Let’s Talk Jackson: The “It” factor


The Rogue w maniquins_DSC2899

Billy Neville opened “The Rogue” when I was in high school at Murrah. From the first day, Billy’s store was the coolest in Jackson.

Billy’s influence on the youth of Jackson at that time was remarkable. He had the “it” and his customers wanted “it” too. Billy’s style was interactive and engaging. The Rogue quickly grew into the 2nd floor space in the Capri building. Upstairs, he had a dartboard where us guys would go after school and toss darts in the retail store! Billy was ahead of his time, a marketer of fun with style. I even think I won the Rogue in a dart toss tournament! The feeling one had when leaving his groundbreaking store was that everyone was a winner, just for having the Rogue experience.

Billy’s Rogue business boomed and grew and grew and grew. The new Rogue overlooking the new interstate was the result, becoming truly a Jackson, MS institution.
A few years later, retailing became my occupation when I opened the bookstore. First Billy Neveille and then Bernie Weis, of Highland Village’s Maison Weis, became my duel mentors. From these two gentlemen, both clothiers, I learned how to market and think about retailing as an occupation. Their influence on me was powerful. This sounds unusual, since they were so interwoven in the culture of style and presentation of the time and Lemuria was a product of the counter-culture of the time. I believe when you get down to it, retailing is just retailing. It’s about being on the front lines, you are who you are and the customer sees this realness, no matter what.

Gosh, we all know retailing is hard and grueling, a pioneering of sorts. However, this type of work offers the ability for you to be creative, productive, helpful and can be rewarding while living on the front lines of life. Anybody anytime can make a request and your ability to prospect and answer with service is your reward. Customer service in actualization determines success or failure. This is a continuous process of daily helping, sharing, and reaping rewards.

Billy Neville’s influence on a generation or two of would-be be clothiers all over Mississippi is unprecedented, and his style has influenced retailers of all sorts. He led us with his spirit of sharing, and is a living example of Paul Hawkins’ “Growing Your Business” concept, which was the ‘80’s-now evolved into the modern terms of conscious business/capitalism. Billy’s spirit helped me formulate my concept of Lemuria. Thank you Billy for all the years of friendship and leadership, you have been invaluable to generations of Jacksonians, while making us look good in the process.
The Rogue is still open and thriving, thanks to Luke Abney, who carries Billy’s torch with his own spirit of small business in our city.

Written by John


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619, visit us online at, or drop by the iconic Rogue to pick up a signed copy! Join us today from 1:00 to 3:00 at The Rogue for a celebration of Jackson.

Let’s Talk Jackson: Why #letstalkjackson is so important!

Let’s Talk Jackson from Frascogna Entertainment Law on Vimeo.

Let’s Talk Jackson: Mississippi Reads

Clarion Ledger

As I read Janna Hoops’ very fine interview with William Ferris about his book and work, located on the “Mississippi Books” page in the Sunday Clarion Ledger, I became moved to write about our Jackson newspaper.

I’m not sure how many cities, especially in the South, have a weekly “Real Book” section in their local newspaper. Few, I suspect. However, our city and statewide newspaper makes such a statement showing care and concern for Mississippi’s literary presence and heritage.

Over the last 1 1⁄2 years, under the guidance of Steve Yates, of the University Press of Mississippi, and Annie Oeth of the Ledger, a legitimate Bookpage has grown. Mississippi Bookstores report weekly sales of our state’s top reads. Book signings happening all over the state are also listed. Jana’s interviews are thoughtful, with a variety of questions that are precise and revealing. Lisa Newman’s short, concise and interesting column features the unusual aspects of Mississippi writing, publishing and book collecting. It’s a rare weekly treat and I suggest her work is unique for any community newspaper in the USA.

How lucky we are to have this well-earned page by the folks mentioned above. For over 30 years, I’ve requested in every way for the Clarion Ledger to support our writers. With this statewide page we have the opportunity to feature not just our locals but all the fine authors that visit our state. Oddly, in my opinion, with the “Mississippi Books” page, Gannett has made our paper more local than it has ever been before.

What’s next for the “Mississippi Reads”? I hope interest and support grows. Mayhap more type and space can be added for our literary happenings. Can we hope for 2 full pages and photography?

My dream paper: Has a Sunday section each week featuring “Books and Blues”. A combined effort to support, encourage and advertise Mississippi’s Culture featuring the realities of reading and music.

Written by John


Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at Please join us in celebrating Jackson on August 5th at 5:00 in Banner Hall!

Five Days at Memorial

New Orleans Memorial Medical Center after Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Memorial Medical Center after Hurricane Katrina

Triage is the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients. Especially in battle or disaster, victims are accorded priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors.

triageIn 1998, I read and chose Scott Anderson’s first novel, Triage as our December First Edition’s Club choice. Scott’s fine novel dealt with war trauma in Kurdistan and the Spanish Civil War. Triage focuses on the way people rationalize wartime horrors and the affirmation of life that comes to those who can deal with the aftermath in an honest way.

jeffIn May 2013, I read Jeffrey Shaara’s novel,  A Chain of Thunder. (also a First Editions Club pick) About the seige of Vicksburg 150 years earlier, one of the most interesting aspects of Jeff’s book was the way he treated the practice of medicine in the Rebel hospitals trapped by Grant’s army.

With her new book, Sheri Fink, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, describes five hard days and the realities of triage during hurricane Katrina’s siege on New Orleans; New Orleans Memorial Medical Center became a hospital fighting for its life in the days after the storm.

Reading this book, I relived the decisions the nurses and doctors had to make. Fink explores the consequences of the life and death decisions on the doctors and nurses who are forced to make them. Dr. Anna Maria Pou, a specialist in cancer surgery, is a primary figure in Five Days. As a reader, I followed Pou through the days after the storm. The difficult situations she found herself in, and the decisions she made are related honestly and in real-life detail. I felt the emotions and stresses of her time. Other major hospital personalities are explored as chaos was breaking out in the disaster. Memorial’s nurses, staff, and doctors were challenged as their strengths and weaknesses came to the surface through their decision making.

Five-Days-at-Memorial-by-Sheri-FinkAfter the five-day ordeal, Fink covers how the journalistic and legal systems interpreted the hospital’s process of providing adequate disaster healthcare. Triage became a major focal point. Five Days then delves into how the doctors and nurses handled the aftermath of their decisions. Fink explores a broad range of perspectives as she takes the trial and press of Pou through the courts. As a legal treatise, for me, a Mississippian, the format reminds me of reading Wilke’s House of Zeus. I suggest this study of a Katrina trial for the same reader.

This fine book on a challenging subject is good reading–a thought provoking study of a miserable time.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink, New York: Crown Publishers (September 2013)

The Storied South by Bill Ferris

mississippi folk voices

In 1973, about the time that I found the como fife and drum corp, I discovered the work of Bill Ferris. Bill’s LP, Mississippi Folk Voices,  features tracks of Napoleon Strickland and his como band, Sam Chatmon, the Prisoners from Parchman, and others. At that time, Bill’s vinyl anthology was a gold mine for young listeners learning about Mississippi’s cultural heritage. A 55-page book came along to help study his research.

William_Ferris_filming @ Bill Ferris

When I think of Bill Ferris “hero” is the first word that comes to my mind. His lifetime of exploring, experiencing, interpreting and then sharing our culture is epic. When I mention great Mississippians of my generation, Bill Ferris’s contributions rank near the top.

Left: Bill Ferris filming by Hester Magnuson, The Storied South @ Copyright 2013.


charles reagan wilson and william ferrisOver the years I have had occasions to work with Bill selling his fine books. Twenty-five years ago opening his Encyclopedia of Southern Culture at Hal and Mal’s was a Southern Nostalgic Blast. However, when I did a book signing for Bill’s Mule Book at the Jim Buck Ross Ag Center “Mule Pull” gathering with Bill riding a mule in the center ring, waving to the crowd is my most talked about Ferris memory.

Lemuria is proud to announce Bill’s new book, The Storied South, as a special First Editions Club selection for August. To have Bill as a new member of our heralded line of First Edition Club authors is a great honor for us. We acknowledge not just his fine book but his lifetime of literary contribution.

storied southBill’s ability to relate the creative legacies of his friends through conversation is unparalleled. With Bill’s relaxing interview skills, these folks come alive, and the reader is brought into the room and is spoken to directly and intimately. In this way The Storied South is a unique and enjoyable book.

Also special with this First Editions Club choice is the inclusion of Bill’s jacket photo and the opening section with our own Eudora Welty. First Editions Club started in 1993 and Miss Welty’s work was never included. Her last Lemuria public book signing was when Morgana came out. Eudora signed with Mildred Nungster Wolfe (illustrator) but in consideration of Miss Welty’s arthritis we chose never to ask for her signature again. Mildred and Eudora pictured below.

mildred nungster wolfe and eudora welty

Now with Bill’s new interview in book form I feel Miss Welty is now also included in our club. Bill’s interpretive genius comes through with Eudora’s chat (or essay). For me, reading her words, I feel this body of work could be included as an epilogue to her beloved One Writer’s Beginnings.

So with all this being said, Lemuria is happy to celebrate jointly with the work of our two Mississippi heroes. Also, thrown in are the marvelous interviews with Robert Penn Warren, Margaret Walker Alexander, Alex Haley, and many more.

For desert, another Lemuria hero, Jackson’s own–and one-of-a-kind–Bobby Rush. And for your after dinner drink, Bill’s Storied South comes with a CD and DVD.

Bill Ferris will be at Lemuria Saturday, August 24 at 4:00 for a signing and talk to follow.

The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists by William Ferris, University of North Carolina Press, 2013. If you’d like us to ship you a copy, click here. Or give us a call and we’ll reserve a copy for you: 601.366.7619

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