Friday, May 27, 2011

A spooky tale of JFK, racism and politics in November, 1963

A review of Pa Weathery’’s Chickens, by Paul Morris

Your name is SimRarg and you are an interstellar traveler with a job to do. You have been set down in a field near an old farmhouse. Looking at yourself, you discover that the new body The Engineers have given you has black skin. This is not good, as you have landed here before, and you know that in this part of the world –
Louisiana, U.S.A. with its racial segregation, having a black skin is not a good thing. It is November, 1963. You have a job to do, and you had best be about doing it. So you set out for the farmhouse, learning how to move your new body as you go. As you near the farmhouse, a young woman appears; she is holding a shotgun, and she is pointing it at you. An old man slowly joins her on the creaking porch. She swivels her hips and dutifully holds out the shotgun to him.

“Pa,” she says, “guess who’s coming to dinner?”

Depending on your point of view, it only gets better (or worse) from there. After spending the night in Pa Weathery’s barn and being shot at by Pa Weathery, you take off running. You stay away from white people as much as possible, so you get around other black people in the town of Beausoleil. The language chip The Engineers have implanted in your head is excellent, so you have no trouble adapting to the local accent. You are accepted, and you make friends. The only problem you have are two white cops, Lon and Chaney (you have to either be an old movie buff or as old as I am to get the joke in those two names). Time drags on. You have to be in Dallas in time for President Kennedy’s arrival. You head out, accompanied by a boy from Beausoleil named Joshua, and you arrive on time.

This book, Paul Morris’s first novel, is packed with adventure, suspense and surprise. Reading it, I was sure the author was an American with a good rooting in America’s southland. I was amazed to learn that he is not. According to his publisher, “Paul Morris was born in Scotland in 1958. During a long and varied career he has been a writer / producer of radio commercials, a playwright, a puppeteer, a poet, a graphic designer, a cartoonist, a pop promo director, a screenwriter, a feature film director, a chef, a painter and an installation artist.”

Paul Morris is one very talented writer. Pick up a copy of “Pa Weathery’s Chickens” and enjoy yourself. A very strong Five Star read.

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