THE TURNER TRILOGY - No. 3

Salt River

James Sallis

Publisher: No Exit

Few American writers create more memorable landscapes - both natural and interior - than James Sallis. His highly praised Lew Griffin novels evoked classic New Orleans and the convoluted inner space of his black private detective. More recently - in Cypress Grove and Cripple Creek - he has conjured a small town somewhere near Memphis, where John Turner - ex-policeman, ex-con, war veteran and former therapist - has come to escape his past. But the past proved inescapable; thrust into the role of Deputy Sheriff, Turner finds himself at the centre of his new community, one that, like so many others, is drying up, disappearing before his eyes.

As Salt River begins, two years have passed since Turner's amour, Val Bjorn, was shot as they sat together on the porch of his cabin. Sometimes you just have to see how much music you can make with what you have left, Val had told him, a mantra for picking up the pieces around her death, not sure how much he or the town has left. Then the sheriff's long-lost son comes ploughing down Main Street into City Hall in what appears to be a stolen car. And waiting at Turner's cabin is his good friend, Eldon Brown, Val's banjo on the back of his motorcycle so that it looks as though he has two heads. 'They think I killed someone,' he says. Turner asks: 'Did you?' And Eldon responds: 'I don't know.' Haunted by his own ghosts, Turner nonetheless goes in search of a truth he's not sure he can live with.

James Sallis has been called by critics one of the best writers in America. 'It's a crime that a writer this good isn't better known,' wrote David Montgomery in the Chicago Tribune, while Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review called his Turner books 'a superior series... a keeper.' Salt River will take his reputation even higher and reach the wider audience he so richly deserves.

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