Greg Iles, a crime novelist and screenwriter, will read from and speak about his newest novel at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Off Square Books. The Natchez native is stopping in Oxford on tour with “Cemetery Road,” the 18th novel in his repertoire and his first standalone book since the end of the “Natchez Burning” trilogy.
“Cemetery Road,” set in southern Mississippi, describes the story of Marshall McEwan, a political journalist who returns to his small hometown of Bienville when family struggles pull him back to the South — a place he vowed that he would never return to.
After the murder of a prominent community member turns the fictional river town upside-down, Marshall joins forces with his former high school sweetheart to investigate the corruption of the Bienville Poker Club.
Dubbed the “William Faulkner for the Breaking Bad generation,” Iles sets his thrillers in the southwestern corner of the state. In an interview with William Morrow, an imprint of publishing company HarperCollins, he said that the setting of his books has a special place in his heart, but, at times, it can be difficult to face the negative aspects of his home.
“In a way, you’re having to be candid about something you know a lot of negative things about,” Isles said. “When you’re from the South, you’re as conflicted as Faulkner’s characters were because you love it so much, and yet you can simultaneously hate things about it.”
Cody Morrison, the book buyer for Square Books, said the Ole Miss alum-turned-author visits the store with every book that he writes, so it was a no-brainer to invite Iles to come speak at the bookstore again.
“Since he’s from Mississippi, he has a pretty big audience in Oxford and nationally because he’s been on The New York Times Best Sellers list,” Morrison said.
Morrison also said that he hopes that attendees get to discuss “Cemetery Road.”
“We want to give people a chance to talk about his new book, and events like these are a good opportunity for audiences to get to ask questions,” he added.
Kallye Smith, a sophomore English major from Magee, plans to attend the event. As a native of southern Mississippi herself, Smith said that Iles’s books bring her a sense of nostalgia about her hometown.
“I have a love-hate relationship with Magee,” Smith said. “Though there are times where it seems a little suffocating, it’ll always be the place where I have all of my childhood memories. I started reading (the Natchez Burning trilogy) because I find that it’s rare to read something about a place so close to me. It’s easy to relate.”
Smith, who frequents author events at Square Books, added that going to them helps her with her own writing process.
“I’m curious about his writing process,” Smith said. “I want to be a writer myself, too. I feel like Southern writers are their own breed, and getting to hear how he plans his works will be beneficial.”