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Salt River

Salt River

3.8 12
by James Sallis

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The poignant and surprising new thriller by one of America's most acclaimed writers.

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


The poignant and surprising new thriller by one of America's most acclaimed writers.

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 center 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 plowing 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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The third in a series of novels (after Cypress Groveand Cripple Creek) focusing on Turner-Vietnam veteran, former cop, ex-con, retired psychiatrist, and interim sheriff of a rural county south of Memphis-Sallis's story meanders through a summer and fall, chronicling Turner's professional and private lives as they merge into one. Turner's tranquillity is shattered when the son of his predecessor drives what might be a stolen car through the front of the city hall, seriously injuring himself and launching a case that escalates into breaking and entering, elder abuse, kidnapping, and murder. Meanwhile, Turner deals with the return of a friend who is wanted by the police in Texas and a less-than-welcome report from his physician. Sallis has created a laid-back, small-town setting in which understanding motives sometimes takes precedence over punishing crimes. Readers familiar with Sallis's earlier works will certainly want to read this one. Recommended.
—Thomas L. Kilpatrick

Kirkus Reviews
Elegy time approaches for Cypress Grove, Tenn., and maybe for its sheriff too. "The town doesn't have much left," thinks sometime Sheriff John Turner as he sits staring out at it. There's not a lot left in himself either, he adds bleakly, too wise for self-indulgence. With the town, it's simple economics. The jobs have gone elsewhere. In Turner's case, the reasons are subtler, more complex, but one thing is certain: he's "seen a few too many people die." Not long after this melancholy thought crosses his mind, Billy Bates, his car clearly out of control, crashes fatally into City Hall. Was the car his? Was the smash-up the accident that it first seems? And what has sweet-natured but harebrained young Billy been up to in the months he was away from Cypress Grove? Turner addresses himself to these questions because an honest man does what's required of him, but clearly his heart isn't in it. He'd rather live inside his memories of his girlfriend Val, whose sudden death has changed him irrevocably. Even so, the thing that made Turner a special cop remains at his core and pushes him to get answers. Sallis (Cripple Creek, 2006, etc.) is never about plot, but always about good writing. This little gem is a case in point.
From the Publisher

“A sweet song of the South from a crime novelist with the ear of a poet.” —Phil Kloer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“...haunting….Sallis writes poetic rings around the subject.” —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

“Sallis is a gifted polymath: poet, biographer, translator, essayist, musician and prolific (if criminally neglected) novelist. His Turner books are little gems, with their sharp descriptions and melancholy reflections.” —Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

“...elegiac meditations on fate, grief, and how we persevere in spite of it all. B+” —Entertainment Weekly

“James Sallis might be the "purest" writer of crime fiction in America today. Which means that, beyond whatever story he's telling, his books are worth reading solely for what rises from the inspired use of language....Sallis is a man of multiple talents: poet, translator, musician, teacher and a crime fiction scholar....All of this is brought to bear, vividly, in "Salt River." He assembles sentences like a virtuoso guitarist working the fret board, gracefully choosing each word (or more accurately, each note) and making it resonate. Scenes often read like prose-poems, but they are assembled with the rigor a mystery demands. The succession of chapters exert a rhythmic, almost tidal pull, leading to a conclusion that defies genre expectation - but satisfies something far deeper.” —Eddie Muller, San Francisco Chronicle

“... the power of simplicity and the musical ring of truth as only Sallis can deliver it -- as he has done bravely, consistently, for the last few decades.” —Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“If you enjoy fine, minimalist prose and thoughtful, intelligent crime stories, you would be well advised to begin with the first in the series and read them all.” —Associated Press

“...will especially resonate with anyone struggling with darkness at this cheery time of year.” —Charlotte Observer

“James Sallis writes wonderfully….That he is a poet somehow must influence his use of language, although he is not flowery, if that's what "poet" brings to mind” —Andi Schecter, I Love A Mystery

“...the powerful and atmospheric short novel Salt River excels as a poignant character study and darkly riveting mystery. Paradoxically though elegantly combining the raw grit of noir fiction and the lyrical intensity of Southern gothic, Salt River further confirms the author's prestigious reputation as exemplary poet, translator, novelist, and recipient of the Boucheron Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.” —Bookloons.com

“Sallis is…always about good writing. This little gem is a case in point.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Sublime....the poetic prose...and the richly described rural Southern backdrop make this slim book such a rewarding read.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Like a tightly structured blues song, the melancholy tale finds resonance in every line and every prolonged chord….Sallis comes as close as humanly possible here to turning a mystery novel into a lyric poem.” —Booklist, Starred Review

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Thorndike Reviewers' Choice Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

James Sallis is the author of more than two dozen volumes of fiction, poetry, biography, translation, essays, and criticism, including the Lew Griffin sextet, Drive, Cypress Grove, and Cripple Creek. His biography of the great crime writer Chester Himes is an acknowledged classic. Sallis lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Salt River 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it odd. Short story, about 100 pages. Very good writing, but I did not like the story or the overly somber musings of the character. Just odd. Some may like it. Kat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Potentially a good story, but as my first encounter withTurner, i was woefully uninformed as to characters, names,relationships, etc. Could have used more pages, or a clear caveat that this was a continuation of a character. I had to continually go back and re read to figure out who and what Sallis was talking about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Two years have passed since John Turner sat with his beloved Bal Bjorn on his porch when she was shot and killed. Psychiatrists say time heals all wounds, but John knows otherwise as he still grieves his loss. The former cop has since become sheriff of the dying rural town that lies between Memphis and Soon No More. -------------------- Turner sits on a bench on economically depressed Main Street discussing with Doc how ugly life is except for the banjo. Suddenly, a speeding car driven by Billy Bates is out of control and crashes into city hall. As Billy is taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, Turner investigates the return of the troubled son of former sheriff Lonnie Bates. What he finds deeply shakes him to his already troubled soul.-------------- The return of that great twenty-first century southern philosopher John Turner (see CYPRESS GROVE and CRIPPLE CREEK) will be fully appreciated by fans of James Sallis. The investigations (the other one involves his musician pal Eldon) is well written, but is used to enhance the deep look at a dying way of life. The writing is fabulous as the depressed area is vividly depicted mostly through Turner¿s musings on living, music, and dying. Readers who appreciate a strong regional tale that focuses on the human condition will relish SALT RIVER in which the police procedural elements are used to provide a powerful spotlight on the last death kicks of a once thriving era that has turned geriatric.-------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in. "what up."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
May i join
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She wandered around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hello." A girl with dark short hair and amber eyes appears.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nu. I'll have to talk to you guys tomorrow. Mah mother ish taking me to Walmart to get peanut butter.