Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

Exhibit Home » Neo-Noir in Mississippi » Elmore Leonard and “Tishamingo Blues”

Neo-Noir in Mississippi

Elmore Leonard and
“Tishamingo Blues”

Clifton K. Yearly described Elmore Leonard’s characters as “lower middle class or equally marginal denizens of the criminal world… They speak the American idiom and, in a world whose media convinces one of the omnipresence of perverts, delinquents, terrorists, and serial killers, and of the inherent and unpredictable brutality of the streets, they become credible.” This analysis of Leonard’s work captures the essence of Tishomingo Blues. The main character spies a mob hit from the perch of his high diving platform, an act he performs for a Tunica, Mississippi casino. His slide continues downhill as he meets up with the other witness to the murder, hustler Robert Taylor. A Civil War reenactment, adulterous affairs, mob thugs, and fast women occur within the seedy world of a casino-ruled Mississippi where artifice is normal and violence is an acceptable risk.

“Tishamingo Blues”

“I’m going to Tishomingo to have my ham bone boiled
I’m going to Tishomingo to have my ham bone boiled
These Atlanta women done let my ham bone spoil”

In 1926, “Peg Leg” Howell recorded “Tishamingo Blues” on Columbia Records. In 2002, Elmore Leonard used an excerpt from Howell’s vivid lyrics as the epigram of his book Tishomingo Blues. The exhibit features an original 78 from the holdings of the Blues Archive and the Living Blues collection.

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