Reading—the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay.William Styron
During these incredibly trying times during quarantine, I find that reading has been my salvation. It is a life preserver I hang onto when I find myself adrift in a raging sea of loneliness. It is calming, transporting me from my current reality, and into another place created by the author. I am devouring all kinds of books while I am hunkered down in Casa Leggio. I recently finished the first novel by John W. Bateman, Who Killed Buster Sparkle? and it is a fabulous read.
The novel has been nominated by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for their 2020 Fiction Award; the honor is very well-deserved. The action takes place in the small, rural town of Clover, Mississippi. The storyline revolves around a drag queen named Peaches who is suddenly visited by the ghost of an African American man who may or may not have been murdered. In addition to the spiritual presence, drag queens, race & LGBT issues, small-town mentality, and murder, the book also includes an ant invasion. I know, right? So cool.
Bateman takes his time building up his main characters and expertly sets the scene of a Southern college town that has many secrets. With snappy dialog and interesting characters, the pace moves quickly with a quite interesting mystery. The novel soon turns into a buddy situation as Peaches and the ghost, who we find out is the title character, try to solve the mystery of his alleged murder. The fact that Peaches is the only person who can see and hear the ghost just adds to the hilarious circumstances.
Bateman has created great chemistry between the two lead characters as they solve the mystery as well as learn more about each other along the way. There are many underlying storylines dealing with race and gender identity throughout the book that I found compelling. Also, there is a death in the book that caught me off guard, which impresses me when an author can do that, especially when this novel seemed formulaic when I began reading it. The author was able to create a fresh and exciting storyline and I hope we have not seen the last of Peaches. For more information about Who Killed Buster Sparkle? and John Bateman, go to www.johnwbateman.com.