I got my start as a writer in the sixth grade when I asked my teacher, Mrs. Wiltshire, if I could write stories with the spelling words instead of just knocking out single sentences. This was at Whitfield Elementary in Jackson, Mississippi. I was obsessed with The Man from UNCLE, and I wanted to write spy stories. Mrs. Wiltshire agreed but only on the condition that I get up and read the stories in front of the class every week. So I wrote about secret agents in trench coats who carried exploding briefcases and wore two-way radio cufflinks, and I struggled to find places in my narratives for the ironing boards and coffee tables and teacups that populated the spelling lists. In junior high, I switched to poetry and the guitar because, well—girls.
I wrote my first novel in the service while stationed in Germany at the Army Area Confinement Facility at Mannheim. It was a bad detective novel typed on the backs of admission forms. Later, in grad school at the University of Southern Mississippi, I wrote a better novel set in that very stockade, Twilight of the Lesser Gods. I studied with D.C Berry and Frederick Barthelme for my master’s degree and later published the poems from my thesis in little magazines. I did finally publish a book of all those poems (and more) called Music from a Farther Room. After I got my master’s, I moved to Florida and taught at a community college. My wife thought maybe we needed a child, and so we had three while I worked on my doctorate in American Literature at the University of South Florida. Busy times.
Sometime after I got my Ph.D. I found myself missing my brother Jimmy who still lived in Mississippi, so I wrote a novel, Killing Rush, about two brothers on a Florida road trip in which I made one of the characters talk and act like Jimmy. The other brother, based on me I guess, was a college professor who had cracked up and thought he was on a mission from God to assassinate Rush Limbaugh—so maybe not me?
Over the years I’ve published poetry and fiction and literary criticism in a lot of magazines and journals, including Dead Mule, Southern Indiana Review, Autumn Sky Poetry, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, The Timberline Review, The Dictionary of Literary Biography, The American Journal of Poetry, and Mississippi Review. Along the way, I was nominated for a Pushcart and won the Ilse and Hans Juergensen Poetry Contest and the Thomas Burnett Swann Poetry Prize. Most recently I published a chapbook of poetry, Cul-de-sac Agonistes and my latest book is a novel titled The Lost Gospel of Darnell Rabren.
Regal House Publishing is delighted to bring you John’s dark literary thriller, The Boys, in 2023.