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Tishomingo Blues

Tishomingo Blues

4.3 23
by Elmore Leonard, Frank Muller (Read by)

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Girls love Dennis Lenahan. He's cool and he's a daredevil: dives from the top of an 80-foot ladder into a nine-foot tank. Dennis is performing in Tunica, MS, the casino capital of the South, when he witnesses a murder and the local Dixie mafia warns him, "You talk, you're dead."

Along comes Robert Taylor, a black gangsta with style from Detroit. Robert also


Girls love Dennis Lenahan. He's cool and he's a daredevil: dives from the top of an 80-foot ladder into a nine-foot tank. Dennis is performing in Tunica, MS, the casino capital of the South, when he witnesses a murder and the local Dixie mafia warns him, "You talk, you're dead."

Along comes Robert Taylor, a black gangsta with style from Detroit. Robert also has a death-defying act: he's sleeping with his boss's wife. Robert has his own agenda for taking on the Cornbread Cosa Nostra and wants Dennis to come in with him. The story thrives on its characters: Chickasaw Charlie, a hotel "celebrity" host; Vernice, Dennis's landlady, who has the whitest thighs he's ever seen; Arlen Novis and his thugs, as bad as good ole boys can get. There's a big-surprise love angle -- several of the women as possibilities. The big scene is a Civil War battle reenactment: Yankees and Confederates facing each other with Enfield rifles and Colt revolvers. What makes this reenactment different: some of those guns are loaded.

What readers will wonder: is Dennis hooked up with the bad guys or the really bad guys?

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
There's no arguing that Elmore "Dutch" Leonard remains the coolest of the cool in the arena of humorous crime writing. Earlier in his career, Leonard wrote more realistic and much darker cop 'n' killer fiction before he found his hipster streak and mined it like no one else before or since. His crackling dialogue snaps like jazzy blues riffs, and his signature ultra-lean style and droll wit have set the bar by which all such novels are measured.

With Tishomingo Blues Leonard has managed to raise the bar once again. Here's the story of Dennis Lenahan, a world-class high-diving champ now working his act at carnivals and amusement parks. When he approaches Billy Darwin, a Mississippi casino mogul, and proposes to perform his dives from 80 feet above Darwin's hotel, he enters a world of hipster criminals and amiable con men. Dennis's new assistant, who helps set up the rigging, is barely around for a day before two members of the Dixie Mafia come along and put five in the back of his head while Dennis is at the top of the platform. Although he knows enough to keep his mouth shut, Dennis is quickly drawn into a world where the South still battles the North and every grinning face disguises a secret agenda. With a climax that takes place during a Civil War reenactment, the novel is somewhat reminiscent of Peter Abrahams's wonderful Last of the Dixie Heroes.

Although Leonard's breakneck pace and complex plotting are top-notch, everyone knows that it's his bizarre cast of characters and laugh-out-loud dialogue that make his novels such a treat. Weird and lovable criminals (even the hit men are so outrageous you grow fond of them), thugs, miscreants, fallen celebrities, and wealthy deviants all populate the story and bring it to delightfully crazy life. (Tom Piccirilli)

Publishers Weekly
The high quality of this polished, entertaining production comes as no surprise, as Leonard (Out of Sight; Get Shorty; etc.) is one of the most highly esteemed crime writers working today and Muller one of the most seasoned audiobook performers. The story centers on Dennis Lenahan, a high diver who lands a job performing at the Tishomingo Lodge & Casino in Tunica, Miss., but finds himself in hot water in the midst of an organized crime power struggle. As befits a Leonard novel, the proceedings are peppered by an interesting cast of characters making do on the fringes of conventional society. Muller ably portrays their many eccentricities and has the rare knack for performing the parts of the opposite sex in a way that sounds completely natural. He also captures the discerning, jazzman cool of Detroit gangster Robert Taylor; the thick, adenoidal twang of various members of the Dixie Mafia; and the comically ostentatious boastings of the hotel's resident celebrity, a former pitcher named Charlie who claims to have played in the 1984 World Series. The tension between them all builds toward a climactic Civil War reenactment, and listeners will find themselves alternately amused and intrigued by the many turns Leonard is able to muster. Based on the Morrow hardcover. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
No blues here: fans will be delighted to learn that Leonard is back with another raucous tale. Here, when a daredevil diver performing way down South happens to witness a murder by the local Dixie Mafia, he must team with a black gangsta from Detroit to save his skin. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Leonard's 37th backs smooth and easy into Tunica, Mississippi, site of the shaggiest crime tale he's spun since Maximum Bob (1991).
Wall Street Journal
“Elmore Leonard . . . has been imitated by many but remains the original.”
“The hottest thriller writer in the U. S.”
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
“Pure gold.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Pure entertainment.”
Entertainment Weekly
“God bless Elmore Leonard. Grade: A.”
“America’s greatest crime writer.”
Chicago Tribune
“The coolest, hottest thriller writer in America.”
“Pure reading pleasure.”
"Pure entertainment."
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith
“The tentacles of Elmore’s style pull you in like a giant octopus. There’s no escape till the last page.”
Tom Hamilton
"The tentacles of Elmore’s style pull you in like a giant octopus. There’s no escape till the last page."
Time Magazine
"The hottest thriller writer in the U. S."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.46(h) x 2.69(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Dennis Lenahan the high diver would tell people that if you put a fifty-cent piece on the floor and looked down at it, that's what the tank looked like from the top of that eighty-foot steel ladder. The tank itself was twenty-two feet across and the water in it never more than nine feet deep. Dennis said from that high up you want to come out of your dive to enter the water feet first, your hands at the last moment protecting your privates and your butt squeezed tight, or it was like getting a 40,000-gallon enema.

When he told this to girls who hung out at amusement parks they'd put a cute look of pain on their faces and say what he did was awesome. But wasn't it like really dangerous? Dennis would tell them you could break your back if you didn't kill yourself, but the rush you got was worth it. These summertime girls loved daredevils, even ones twice their age. It kept Dennis going off that perch eighty feet in the air and going out for beers after to tell stories. Once in a while he'd fall in love for the summer, or part of it.

The past few years Dennis had been putting on one-man shows during the week. Then for Saturday and Sunday he'd bring in a couple of young divers when he could to join him in a repertoire of comedy dives they called "dillies," the three of them acting nutty as they went off from different levels and hit the water at the same time. It meant dirt-cheap motel rooms during the summer and sleeping in the setup truck between gigs, a way of life Dennis the high diver had to accept if he wanted to perform. What he couldn't take anymore, finally, were theamusement parks, the tiresome pizzazz, the smells, the colored lights, rides going round and round to that calliope sound forever.

What he did as a plan of escape was call resort hotels in South Florida and tell whoever would listen he was Dennis Lenahan, a professional exhibition diver who had performed in major diving shows all over the world, including the cliffs of Acapulco. What he proposed, he'd dive into their swimming pool from the top of the hotel or off his eighty-foot ladder twice a day as a special attraction.

They'd say, "Leave your number," and never call back.

They'd say, "Yeah, right," and hang up.

One of them told him , "The pool's only five feet deep," and Dennis said no problem, he knew a guy in New Orleans went off from twenty-nine feet into twelve inches of water. A pool five feet deep? Dennis was sure they could work something out.

No they couldn't.

He happened to see a brochure that advertised Tunica, Mississippi, as "The Casino Capital of the South" with photos of the hotels located along the Mississippi River. One of them caught his eye, the Tishomingo Lodge & Casino. Dennis recognized the manager's name, Billy Darwin, and made the call.

"Mr. Darwin, this is Dennis Lenahan, world champion high diver. We met one time in Atlantic City."

Billy Darwin said, "We did?"

"I remember I thought at first you were Robert Redford, only you're a lot younger. You were running the sports book at Spade's." Dennis waited. When there was no response he said, "How high is your hotel?"

This Billy Darwin was quick. He said, "You want to dive off the roof?"

"Into your swimming pool," Dennis said, "twice a day as a special attraction."

"We go up seven floors."

"That sounds just right."

"But the pool's about a hundred feet away. You'd have to take a good running start, wouldn't you?"

Right there, Dennis knew he could work something out with this Billy Darwin. "I could set my tank right next to the hotel, dive from the roof into nine feet of water. Do a matinee performance and one at night with spotlights on me, seven days a week."

"How much you want?"

Dennis spoke right up, talking to a man who dealt with high rollers. "Five hundred a day."

"How long a run?"

"The rest of the season. Say eight weeks."

"You're worth twenty-eight grand?"

That quick, off the top of his head.

"I have setup expenses -- hire a rigger and put in a system to filter the water in the tank. It stands more than a few days it gets scummy."

"You don't perform all year?"

"If I can work six months I'm doing good."

"Then what?"

"I've been a ski instructor, a bartender..."

Billy Darwin's quiet voice asked him, "Where are you?"

In a room at the Fiesta Motel, Panama City, Florida, Dennis told him, performing every evening at the Miracle Strip amusement park. "My contract'll keep me here till the end of the month," Dennis said, "but that's it. I've reached the point... Actually I don't think I can do another amusement park all summer."

There was a silence on the line, Billy Darwin maybe wondering why but not curious enough to ask.

"Mr. Darwin?"

He said, "Can you get away before you finish up there?"

"If I can get back the same night, before showtime."

Something the man would like to hear.

He said, "Fly into Memphis. Take 61 due south and in thirty minutes you're in Tunica, Mississippi."

Dennis said, "Is it a nice town?"

But got no answer. The man had hung up.

This trip Dennis never did see Tunica or even the Mighty Mississippi. He came south through farmland until he began to spot hotels in the distance rising out of fields of soybeans. He came to signs at crossroads pointing off to Harrah's, Bally's, Sam's Town, the Isle of Capri. A...

Tishomingo Blues. Copyright © by Elmore Leonard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Tom Hamilton
“The tentacles of Elmore’s style pull you in like a giant octopus. There’s no escape till the last page.”

Meet the Author

Elmore Leonard wrote more than forty books during his long career, including the bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, as well as the acclaimed collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The short story "Fire in the Hole," and three books, including Raylan, were the basis for the FX hit show Justified. Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He died in 2013.

Brief Biography

Bloomfield Village, Michigan
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1925
Place of Birth:
New Orleans, Louisiana
B.Ph., University of Detroit, 1950

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Tishomingo Blues 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tishomingo Blues is a tour de force for Mr. Elmore Leonard. All of the best elements that make his novels so powerful, interesting, and engrossing come together successfully here. Unlike many crime novels where the criminals are all uninteresting, disgusting, or worse, Mr. Leonard has peopled Tishomingo Blues with one of the most original criminals I have ever read about in Robert Taylor. As the primary narrator, you will be fascinated to follow the career of Dennis Lenahan, world champion high diver, who lives to leap faultlessly (or it¿s worth a trip to the hospital) into a tank that¿s only nine feet deep from a head height of 80 feet. Now, does the pool like a half-dollar . . . or like a tea cup from that height? You¿ll have to decide for yourself after reading the novel. Character development is quite extensive in this book, both in terms of the number of characters and how much you learn about them. The plot is unusually well designed so that interactions among the well-developed characters allow you to dive much deeper into understanding all of the characters. As usual, Mr. Leonard¿s dialogue is true to the ear, close to life, and delightfully spare. Even coarse words don¿t seem coarse in the hands of his master. In Mr. Leonard¿s best books, there¿s a comic element that points out the human comedy in ways you haven¿t thought about before. Here that humor is combined with a delightfully complicated plot that unfolds endlessly in front of you so that you don¿t quite know what will happen next. And the surprises are usually quite rewarding in terms of stimulating your funny bone, your sense of irony, and your imagination. As I read this book, I thought a lot about accidental events in my life that had an enormous role in developing my interests and skills. Where have you run into irresistible opportunities? Donald Mitchell, co-author of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elmore Leonard does not disappoint in this crisply written book. Sit back and enjoy.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
Having read Road Dogs before this book, I know how good Leonard can be. This book isn't close. Some interesting characters and dialogue, but the plot is weak, and all the civil war enactment just a boring distraction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I feel like a traitor for giving Elmore Leonard a mere three stars. He has a tremendous reputation, and I was a bit intimidated when I started to read this book. It was my first encounter with Leonard, and I was, alas, quite disappointed. It's not a massive novel, but I had the impression that it was populated by half the cast of a War and Peace. The characters confused me. I was forever leafing backward, trying to find out who was who. I loved the offbeat plot (the 'hero'(?) is a high diver of all things), but that same 'hero,' along with so many other characters, just don't jump off the page as well defined. Robert Taylor, the street-smart Detroiter, plays U.S. Grant in a Civil War reenactment, and that bit of casting is, again, a slice of delicious wackiness. The dialogue was good, but not great (Taylor's 'street' talk often didn't ring 'true' to me). Dennis, the high diver, just didn't seem to be a 'round' character in the E.M. Forster sense. Nor, ln fact, did anyone else. Dennis seems dim and confused most of the time (is that the point?) The conclusion of the story was challenging to say the least. It became a 'who's who' and 'where's who'? I couldn't keep track of things. All in all, too bad, really, because Leonard is most certainly an assured writer. I was simply not engrossed in the book. I read in bed every night, and I'm usually looking forward to continuing a story. Not so with this one. It didn't 'capture' me. Having said all this, I know I'm well in the minority stable. Leonard is celebrated everywhere. In Tishomingo, I could many flashes of the reasons why, but the book as a whole just didn't do it for me. Complicated plotting is one thing, obfuscating plotting is another. I'm now working on Leonard's The Hot Kid, and I find myself much more involved in the story. Who can explain a reader's negative reaction to a book that's loved by the masses? One of life's little mysteries.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elmore Leonard is a witty, literary chef with a flare for cooking up Southern homespun stories about low life criminals. His brutal, often offensive humor is an acquired taste that leaves his fans starving for more. With Tishomingo Blues he satisfies the hunger with yet another wonderful tale about the redneck Dixie Mafia, a black con man and a touring high platform diver. His characters are rich in flavor and the plot is spicy. And if you're lucky enough to listen to Recorded Books' Frank Muller tell the tale...well...the recipe just doesn't get any better!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read two of his books and I'm still looking for the "great Elmore Leonard." Disappointed and done. This book never focuses on a crisp plot line. Too many secondary characters. At times you've got several lines of dialogue switching between characters and no attribuution. You can't tell even with rereading who's talking. Doesn't end clearly either. Denoument is a copout kind of like the Sopranos or Seinfeld. I won't read ten of these things to find one hidden gem. The digital conversion also is lousy.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wild ride! Elmore Leonard introduces some of the quirkiest characters that you'll ever come across. The book would have earned a fifth star from me if he would have delved even more into the backgrounds of these crazy folks. A traveling high dive artist gets hooked up with a yankee con man in the South and lands smack dab in the middle of a Civil War reenactment that pits a northern godfather wannabe against the Dixie Mafia. The sidekick thugs on both sides of this battle will keep you shaking your head in disbelief. Nothing to be taken seriously. You'll have fun with it!---Robert John Estko, author of the suspense thriller EVIL, BE GONE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, but I didn't get as much out of it as someone who enjoys civil war reenactments. It is leonard doing what he does best, crafting an entertaining story with interesting and desperate characters. I personally like 'pagan babies' more, but I am a Yankee and have little interest in american history. He did seem a little predictable in this book, though. He seems to have developed a plotline that he is going to use from now on, actually, most of his books have a similar plotline, character-wise that is. He gives us the 'hero' in this case it is dennis the diver, this character is usually unaware of what is going on at the beginning and finally gets a clue halfway through. You also get the 'hero's' pal, this time it is the lovable gansta Robert from De-troit. Throw in the usual lack-wit, desperate for a dime bad guys, a love interest or two and stir gentle for ten minutes. But you can't forget this is leonard and he has that trademark sense of humor, pacing, and his ear for dialogue. if you like leonard, just go out and buy it, you won't be let down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A grey kitten jumps into the basket with the baby, purring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He walked in with a quiver
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She sighed and closed her eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im bored.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im quitting. Plz dont ask why.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago