In his arresting novel, A Seeping Wound, Darryl Wimberley forcefully chronicles life in one of the many slave camps of the rural American South in the early twentieth century—a place of persistent violence and evil, though it also hosts moments of human kindness. Martha Longfoot is the story’s narrator, a half Muskogee Indian raised in the camp. She is also the camp’s medicine woman, a hard-won status that keeps her safe from the sexual violence that pervades the place. Martha comes across as a character with dimension who is worthy of respect. Her robust narrative, enhanced by her powerful vocabulary and occasional biblical references, is compelling, if it sometimes strains credulity. She begins the book angry and distrustful of white people, and ends the tale by saving white folks who are unjustly enslaved. Martha brings some closure to the experience by asking “Why does one wound heal while another festers?”
Other characters in A Seeping Wound are less complex, including the ruthless Captain Riggs, who runs the turpentine camp. This man, and the thugs working for him, are predictably violent, uncaring, cruel, and unchanging. Veteran Prescott Hampton, though, shines, and he is set up in the narrative as a contrast to Martha, as a camp outsider. He comes from New York searching for his sister and brother-in-law, who are enslaved in the turpentine camp. Where Martha is poor, uneducated, and surprisingly literate, Hampton is educated and comes from a financially comfortable family headed by his father, a journalist. But, Hampton and Martha are commonly flawed—each suffers from a seeping wound that must be healed. Wimberley adroitly uses this wound image as both a cause of pain and a source of productivity, whether in a pine tree being tapped for sap or a human gashed by the vicissitudes of life.
Historically accurate, A Seeping Wound is a dark story of human cruelty, and an ode to the preeminence of the human spirit. – JOHN SENGER
I need me a will!
Darryl Wimberley’s narrative is no mere tall tale but a full-fledged novel, with details so vivid, you can smell the wood shavings…
Somewhere in an ancient stand of timber comes a request from an aging lumberjack. “I need me a will,” Paul Bunyan informs his camp’s scribe and bean-counter. “But a will ain’t just a will, Johnny. It’s a testament, too. What a man wants folks to remember ’bout hisself.” And so it begins, the story of Paul’s life resurrecting characters like Sourdough Sam and Shot Gunderson along with members of the Potawatomi and Ojibwe tribes whose dreams predict the legend of Bunyan and his blue-hided ox. The deep woods are redolent with beauty and mystery, but also peril. Paul is forced into a dreadful contest with Swede Sturleson, a timber baron emblematic of The Gilded Age. Paul will not emerge unscathed in the course of that long encounter. But something gets born in the interim, something akin to myth or hope, and in that place Paul Bunyan stands without exaggeration.
“What more is there to know about Paul Bunyan? Plenty, from the logging camps of the late 1800’s to the start of mechanized tree harvesting–and the giant of a man who spanned it all. Darryl Wimberley’s narrative is no mere tall tale but a full-fledged novel, with details so vivid, you can smell the wood shavings. Along the way are a band of colorful characters like Sourdough Sam and Shot Gunderson, and a bitter feud with a lumber magnate who wipes out (almost) anyone who crosses his path. ‘A logger’s life is magnificent and obdurate and stark,’ Wimberley notes, but Paul’s accomplishments are feats of true daring, and this account gets it all down on the page.”—David Galef, author of My Date with Neanderthal Woman
genre/noir, St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2011
Reviews for Devil’s Slew, St.Martin’s/Minotaur
“. . . Wimberley knows his weaponry, swamp terrain and small-town prejudices better than most. If hard-boiled is what you’re after, Raines qualifies as the black hero du jour.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Vivid descriptive prose and a keen ear for local dialect distinguish Wimberley’s explosive fifth mystery featuring African-American special agent Barrett Raines… Bear knows every inch and most of the diverse inhabitants of his seven-county northwestern Florida jurisdiction, including Quentin Hart, an Afghanistan War vet who takes his girlfriend hostage in his trailer in a swamp area known as Devil’s Slew…” Publishers’ Weekly
“. . . Wimberley captures the 3rd District with its slash pines, blacktop roads, abandoned double-wides, vine-tangled bogs and endemic poverty with compelling accuracy. . . Wimberley weaves a tight web of a story, with flashes of fear and churning violence, but he also takes the time to spool out the telling details of his characters. They range from the Harley-riding vet with her Bible and memories of grinding sugarcane, to the middle-aged kayaking game wardens who make a particularly grisly discovery hauling litter out of the Gulf. . .” P.G. Koch
“Darryl Wimberley’s fifth book, Devil’s Slew, is a true hard hitting mystery that kept me reading. FDLE agent, Bear Raines is forced to kill an old friend’s son. Is the death tied to a missing Treasury Department agent, a Mexican drug cartel, a rogue group of Marines, or a major counterfeiting operation? There were several twist to this fast moving plot that I did not expect. Wimberley knows the flora, fauna, and culture of the Panhandle well. He also has done his research with law enforcement operations which makes this a smooth read. This is a very well written and researched true mystery that takes the reader from their home, to the Panhandle of Florida. Probably the biggest mystery is; why haven’t I heard of Bear Raines before now?” M. Hammond, for Amazon.com
genre, The Toby Press, 2008
literary fiction, The Toby Press, 2007
Winner, The Willie Morris Award for Fiction, 2007
Wimberley revisits the rural north Florida featured in A Tinker’s Damn(2000) in this powerful portrayal of a segregated community at the height of the Civil Rights movement. In 1963 Cilla Handsom, a high school junior living in Laureate’s “Colored Town,” learns that her senior year will be spent at an integrated white school on the other end of town, where fear and racist fury permeate the halls. A brash charmer named Joe Billy King blows into town after robbing a church in Tallahassee and becomes Cilla’s first lover. He discovers Cilla’s gift for music and enlists the help of a teacher to secure Cilla access to music lessons and instruments. Cilla focuses on her music and her studies, but she and Joe Billy attract the attention of the Klan and are brutally assaulted. In the aftermath, Joe Billy sacrifices himself to protect Cilla. Though the tension lags after Cilla leaves Colored Town, Wimberley’s take on the prickly themes of racism and poverty is made memorable by a gripping story line, authentic voice and dead-on dialogue.
(Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The Washington Post – Carolyn See
…Yes, this is America, and our responsibility, our obligation, is to succeed here to the very best of our ability. But this fascinating novel illustrates the often horrid results of that process. Joe Billy is the obvious victim here but Cilla, too, sustains dreadful physical and psychological wounds. Perhaps Little Richard said it best in his song about Adam being kicked out of Paradise: “He got what he wanted but he lost what he had.” What Cilla had, to begin with, was her unquestionable humanity as well as her talent. It may be that she has sacrificed the one to nourish the other.
Ann H. Fisher – Library Journal
Wimberley’s (Dead Man’s Bay) surprisingly affecting novel explores school integration in Florida in the 1960s through the eyes of tall, musically gifted Cilla Handsom, the black teenage daughter of an autistic mother who requires a lot of care. The section of Laureate, where she lives, is dubbed “Colored Town” and lacks running water and music, but for one well and radio. Cilla’s old life of toting water and helping her mother perform at church is interrupted by the arrival of charismatic Joe Billy King by train one day and by her teacher’s request that she join the marching band at the county’s formerly all-white school in exchange for music lessons. The drama includes some Southern gothic twists, but Cilla’s life reveals an authentic glimpse of a moment in history. Recommended.
Fate deals two African-American teens different hands in Northern Florida’s mean, segregated backcountry. Wimberley (Strawman’s Hammock, 2001, etc.) paints complex characters against a backdrop of brutally violent racial oppression. In the early 1960s, the black section of Laureate, Fla., doesn’t even have running water. Seventeen-year-old Cilla Handsom spends most of her time there taking care of her “simple” mother, who can nonetheless vividly play any melody she hears on the piano. Cilla has inherited her mother’s gift, along with perfect pitch; she teaches herself to read and play music. No one notices until a cavalier, independent teenager named Joe Billy King moves to town. He and Cilla quickly become an item, and he informs the sole educated, caring teacher at their black school about her unique talents. The town is on the verge of integrating its educational system, and the band director at the white school needs a French-horn player; he agrees to take on Cilla as a student if she will learn to play the instrument. School integration proceeds despite the objections of Laureate’s white residents, largely thanks to Sheriff Collard Jackson, the one man not intimidated by wealthy bully Garner Hewitt and his two nasty sons, Cody and J.T. Cilla tentatively thrives in this new environment, and Joe Billy seizes an opportunity that will change both their lives. While stealing money from the collection tray at a church, he witnesses several men fleeing in Cody Hewitt’s truck just before the church is burned to the ground. Sheriff Jackson gets Joe Billy off the hook in exchange for his testimony, but the incident sparks a racial war that ends in acts of horrendous violence against both JoeBilly and Cilla, who has just won a college scholarship to study music. When one of the pair kills a man in self-defense, they must decide together who will take the fall and who will rise above it. Truly heartfelt storytelling.
genre/noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur, 2007
“Special agent Barrett “Bear” Raines has some slippery fish to fry in Wimberley’s cleverly constructed fourth procedural (after 2001’s Strawman’s Hammock), which hinges on the gruesome murder of Beth Ann Stanton, daughter of Florida senator Baxter Stanton. Raines, “a black cop in a white town”—that of Deacon Beach, just north of the Pepperfish Keys—is still smarting from his recent failure to tie the senator’s wealth to dirty money. Eddy DeLeon, Beth Ann’s boyfriend and a local criminal, becomes a key suspect after his tryst with Beth Ann on the day of the murder comes to light. When Sharon Fowler, an ambitious local TV reporter, offers to help Bear nail DeLeon, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent agrees despite his misgivings. The twisted killer—whose identity is a real shocker—challenges Bear to trust his gut instincts as well as standard investigative procedure. Wimberley is a top-notch writer with command of both his plot and the northwestern Florida coastal setting.” Publishers’ Weekly .
The investigation into Senator Baxter Stanton’s money laundering on behalf of local drug kingpin Eddy DeLeon ends badly for Florida state cop Barrett Raines, who becomes the Judas goat when a judge dismisses the case for lack of credible evidence. Then, when Beth Ann, the senator’s daughter, is murdered, Raines improbably catches the case and finds an unexpected ally in television reporter Sharon Fowler, Raines’ most virulent critic when he investigated the senator. The fourth “Bear” Raines case ranges from Florida to Los Angeles, and its melodious prose brings the same sense of paradise lost to northwest Florida that James Lee Burke evokes in his Louisiana-set Dave Robicheaux novels. Raines is indeed a bear, both in carriage and in ferocious determination. The senator is publicly grieving, but Raines senses an ambivalence about the senator’s desire to see the killer apprehended. It seems the senator’s alleged partner, Eddy DeLeon, is the most likely suspect, but if he’s apprehended, his motive would link him to the senator and would thereby reconstitute the money-laundering charges. If not now, then very soon, Raines should join Robicheaux, John Sanford’s Lucas Davenport, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser at the hard-boiled-hero head table. Lukowsky, Wes Copyright © American Library Association.
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genre/noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur, 2001
literary fiction, novel, MacMurray & Beck, 2000
ForeWord Award, Best Literary Fiction, 2001
genre/noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur, 2000
Barrett (“Bear”) Raines is a singular presence in Florida law enforcement, one of the very few African-American detectives assigned to an elite FBI team that investigates white-collar and violent crime. But when his beautiful wife and twin sons leave him, Barrett flounders at work, alienating partner Cricket Bonet and infuriating Capt. Henry Altmiller, who confiscates Barrett’s gun and banishes him to a desk. It seems that Barrett will languish in cop purgatory forever, until the mutilated body of fisherman Miles Beynon is discovered, and Altmiller needs someone to track down Brandon Ogilvie, Beynon’s former partner in a drug-related armored-car heist. So Barrett and Bonet set off for Dead Man’s Bay, “a Florida that doesn’t have anything to do with Disney World,” ruled by omniscient Irishwoman Esther Buchanan and her sexy mulatto daughter, Megan. Esther and the other rough-hewn island natives profess ignorance of Beynon and Ogilvie, until a disgruntled fisherman reveals that Beynon’s regular visits coincided with the appearance of a suspicious big cruiser in Dead Man’s Bay. Following Barrett’s debut in A Rock and A Hard Place, Wimberley develops his hero into a notable character, by turns self-deluded and shrewd. But much of the stock supporting cast (a Bond-era Slavic assassin, an island girl parading in tank top and cutoffs, a bigoted white sheriff) behave predictably, in a steamy island setting that merely seems reheated. (July)
genre/ noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur,1999
Barrett Raines, the only black detective on an all-white police force in Deacon Beach, Fla., is forced to choose between his duty to society and his loyalty to his family in this unpolished yet promising debut. Barrett’s brother Delton has always been a thorn in his side. Despite Barrett’s stellar record, Delton’s reputation for womanizing and drinking has kept his sibling from getting the respect he’s long deserved in his racist hometown. Yet when Delton is accused of murdering a beautiful, popular white restaurant owner in a fit of passion, the only person between him and a lynching is Barrett. The cop arrests his brother and the evidence against Delton is powerful, if circumstantial and then sets out to unravel the truth, though his digging is complicated by his mistrust of his self-serving sibling. Barrett soon discovers that the killing may be tied to arms dealers based in Deacon Beach. Wimberley’s prose is spare and his dialogue catchy. The novel contains excess exposition that often interrupts momentum, however. In addition, a subplot involving Barrett’s wife and two sons drags on the narrative, and some of the switches in point of view can be confusing. In short, the book reads like a novel in search of a final draft. Wimberley’s launch may not be for readers looking for sophisticated intrigue and complex plotting, but its successful depiction of small-town corruption should appeal to those with a fondness for the pulpy side of the tracks. (July)