Great Reads for Rebel Fans
Spanning a range of genres, these stories rooted in the hills of north Mississippi give readers a Southern sense of place.
Written by Calyn Hoerner | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Infused with rich literary history and a fierce love of all things Ole Miss, Oxford is a beautiful blend of small-town life and academic prowess. Several writers with local ties have found inspiration in the area’s charm and blended it with a healthy dose of Hotty Toddy. The following are fresh reads from four distinct genres, all reflecting the beauty of Oxford and an affection for the Rebels.
The Cost of These Dreams
Wright Thompson | Penguin Books
Throughout his career as a sports writer, Wright Thompson has found echoes of his own upbringing in Clarksdale within the stories of many young athletes.
“In each story there was a quest to tear down a myth and make sense of a place,” Thompson said. “I always saw these themes reflected in the Mississippi Delta.”
Thompson’s new book, “The Cost of These Dreams,” is a compilation of previously published articles he wrote during his time at ESPN Magazine. The stories illustrate the true price of greatness. Among the reports of sports legends, Thompson recalls an Oxford of the past in his account of the trials faced by the 1962 Ole Miss football team.
“The story about the 1962 team really shows an Oxford that was, and an Oxford that is,” Thompson said.
Opening at No. 4 on The New York Times Best Sellers list, “The Cost of These Dreams” is a must-read for any sports fan. A compilation of the work Thompson produced for ESPN can be found on espnfrontrow.com.
Michael Henry | Independently Published
Michael Henry, a Louisiana native, found inspiration for his series of crime novels from both his long career as a lawyer and the time he spent living in Oxford. The series follows district attorney Willie Mitchell Banks as he solves cases all across the South. In “5 Star,” the latest in the series, Banks investigates the mysterious death of a prized football recruit who had been on an unauthorized visit to the university.
“In ‘5 Star,’ the football team is investigated by the NCAA because of the murder,” Henry said. “I used what was really happening with the NCAA and Ole Miss to develop this story.”
The Southern Hearts Series
Janet Ferguson | Southern Sun Press LLC
Janet Ferguson, an Ole Miss graduate, had an idea for a book in mind for years. It was the experience of personal tragedy that finally pushed her to pursue it.
“I lost my mother, father and mother-in-law all in the span of 60 days,” Janet Ferguson said. “That made me realize how short life is. I just forced myself to sit down and write after that.”
Ferguson is today the author of seven books, three of which are set in Oxford. “Leaving Oxford” follows a young advertising professional as she returns to the small Mississippi town to heal from a tragic car accident. “Going Up South” details the complicated romance between a charming actor and a heartbroken attorney, who just so happens to be the mediator in his custody battle. In “Tackling the Fields,” the Rebels’ quarterback attempts to hide a serious injury in order to still be able to play the game he loves.
“I think the readers will really feel like they are walking through Oxford alongside the characters,” Ferguson said.
With trips to Sardis Lake and Taylor Grocery, and even a Saturday spent in the Grove, the spirit of Oxford and Ole Miss flow through the pages of these Southern romances. A complete list of Ferguson’s novels can be found at janetfergusonauthor.com.
Will You Be a Rebel, Baby?
Brianna Foster | Mascot Books
An Ole Miss graduate and Oxford resident, Brianna Foster is committed to helping the children she works with reach their full potential. After a long career as an educator in north Mississippi, Foster still felt like she wasn’t doing enough.
“I was driving home one afternoon wondering how I could make a difference,” Foster said. “The idea for the book just came to me. I pulled over and wrote the whole thing in 10 minutes.”
“Will you be a Rebel, Baby?” highlights everything special about being a Rebel. The story walks readers through campus, leading them everywhere from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to the Ford Center, and encourages young Rebels to work toward their dreams by showing what it really means to be a part of the Ole Miss family.
Keep up with Foster on her Facebook page, “Will You Be a Rebel, Baby?,” or email her at WillYouBeARebelBaby@gmail.com.