- Boy with Loaded Gun: a Memoir (2000)
- Lightning Song (1997)
- Sugar Among the Freaks (a collection of 15 tales from Arrow-Catcher Fair and the All-Girl Football Team) (1996)
- Sharpshooter Blues (1995)
- Wolf Whistle (1993)
- The Music of the Swamp (1991)
- The All-Girl Football Team (1986)
- Welcome to the Arrow-Catcher Fair (1983)
View Lewis “Buddy” Nordan joke about his first choice of a name for his upcoming memoir Boy with Loaded Gun.
By Mary Katherine Burkhart (SHS)
Lewis Nordan was born on August 23, 1939, in Forest, Mississippi, but he grew up in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His father Lemuel was a house painter who died when Nordan was 18 months old. He was raised by his stepfather, a letter carrier, and his mother Sara, a school teacher. Nordan received a B.S. degree from Millsaps College, an M.A. from Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi, and a Ph. D. from Auburn University in Alabama. He also served two years in the U.S. Navy. Nordan (who was nicknamed Buddy) was a teacher in the public schools in Titusville, Florida, from 1963 to 1965. Then he became an instructor in English at Auburn University from 1966 to 1971. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, he was an assistant professor of English for three years. He then taught writing at the University of Pittsburgh for more than twenty years before he retired 2005 and moved to Cleveland.
Nordan’s first marriage to Mary Mitman ended in divorce. His second wife was Alicia Blessing Nordan. Nordan had three sons from his first marriage but only one, Lewis Eric, survived him. One son died in infancy and one committed suicide at age twenty. He also has two stepsons, Josh and Adam Conn from his second marriage.
Lewis Nordan has written seven books. One novel he wrote is Wolf Whistle, which was awarded the Southern Book Award and the Notable Book Award from the American Library Association. It is a fictionalized account of the Emmitt Till murder which happened not far from Nordan’s boyhood home and which had a profound effect on him. Music of the Swamp, his first novel, received the best fiction award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and the prize for Notable Fiction from the American Library Institute of Arts and Letters. Nordan’s other books are The All-Girls Football Team., Arrow-Catcher Fair, Sharpshooter Blues, and Sugar Among the Freaks. His book Lightening Song was published in 1967. His memoir Boy with Loaded Gun was released in January, 2000.
Lewis Nordan died in 2012 from complications of pneumonia.
A Review of Music of the Swamp
by Mary Katherine Burkhart (SHS)
The novel Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan is a book describing a young boy’s life in the Mississippi Delta. Sugar Mecklin came from a strange family;and his mother and father often had arguments. Mr. Mecklin, Sugar’s father, was an alcoholic. From the time he came home from his house painting job to the time he went to bed, he would drink hard liquor, eat peppermint candy. and listen to wrist-cutting music sung by Bessie Smith on the radio.
Sugar and his friend Sweet Austin went fishing in Roebuck Lake. As they were fishing , they came to something that appeared to be legs and feet sticking out of the water, but they were not really sure, so as they crept a little closer. It was true. What they had seen were legs and feet sticking out of the water. They called Big Boy Chisholm, the Sheriff of the Mississippi Delta.. As Big Boy Chisholm drove the two boys to Sugar Mecklin’s house, he said, ” I’m real sorry that you boys had to see that. I’m real sorry.” As Sugar Mecklin and Sweet Austin got out of the car and walked through the gates and up to the house, they were wondering if they should tell Mr. Mecklin. They were also wondering what he would say. They finally found the courage to tell him what they had seen that day and all he said was ” The Mississippi Delta is full of death.” That was never brought up again.
Sweet Austin was going to spend the night with Sugar because his mother worked at the American Legion Hut, and she might not come home that night. It just depended on whether or not Al, the Boogie Woogie Piano Player, asked her to go for a ride in his Oldsmobile with the top rolled down . If Al asked ,she would go with him, and then she would spend the night at Al ‘s apartment. After what Sweet had seen that day, he did not want to stay home by himself.
Summer came, and a girl named Dixie Dawn and her family moved to town. They had no money, but that did not matter to Sugar because he thought that Dixie Dawn was pretty. They lived in a shack, and every time it rained, the basement would flood. In the Delta there was no need for a basement, and they were the only ones in the Delta that had one. That’s one reason that Sugar Mecklin liked their house so much. Dixie Dawn’s mother, Mrs. McNeer, did not want her children to be called white trash so she did everything in her power to change it. On Dixie Dawn’s birthday her mother gave a birthday party like never before. She invited everyone she knew. She cooked every food that she knew and bought everything she could think of. Only one person came, and that was Sugar Mecklin.The only reason he came was because his mother made him. Then she had a camp out and again the only person that came was Sugar Mecklin. This time it was because he wanted to come and not because his mother made him.
Sugar’s parents wanted to put the spark back in their marriage so Mr. Mecklin suggested they go on a second honeymoon. Mrs. Mecklin would only go if Sugar could go along. Mr. Mecklin did not like the idea but went along with Mrs. Mecklin’s decision. They went to the Mississippi beach which had just been hit by a hurricane not too long before. The place was empty. No one was there, but the Mecklin’s rented a little yellow house which had not been damaged by the storm. Mr. and Mrs. Mecklin tried to take romantic walks on the beach, but it was hard to do because dead fish were everywhere. There was also a dead person. Mr. Mecklin even tried reading about sexual fantasies in a magazine called Connections. Connections was a magazine for people who wanted to put the zip back into their marriage. However, this did not seem to work either. Sugar read some of the magazines and had some intriguing questions on his mind.
They started back home, and Mr. Mecklin said, ” Maybe we should move down here. I could find plenty of work painting houses.” Mrs. Mecklin said ” I like it where we are.”
Back home Sugar found a trenching tool or a shovel and started digging. He dug holes all over the yard ,and then he would cover them back up so that his mother would never know. Then he started digging under his house. He dug and dug until one day his hole was three feet wide and four feet deep. In his hole he saw a sheet of glass. He brushed away the dirt and saw a beautiful woman wearing a red velvet dress down to her ankles. She had tiny leather slippers and the boot part was made of silk. Sugar thought that she had a gold ring on her finger. He swore that he would never look at her again or tell anyone –not even his parents– that she was under their house. As quickly as possible he recovered her with the dirt. Then he put the shovel out of away and never touched again.. Later on, Sugar started thinking about the entire event. Then he wondered if he really saw a woman or if it was just his imagination. The reader will never know!
- Algonquin publisher’s page for Nordan Fan Club contains reviews, readings, etc.
- On-line print out of chapter one from Washington Post of The Sharpshooter Blues.
- Get back to where you once belonged. Interview with Lewis Nordan (2000)
- Mourning Lewis Nordan (2012)
- Lewis Nordan, Writer Who Spun Lyrical Tales, Dies at 72. New York Times, 2012
- THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, Memphis Tenn., Sunday, September 1, 1991
- NEWSBANK ELECTRONIC INFORMATION SYSTEM
- An American Dream by Lewis Nordan in HARPER’S, September 1995,
- Contemporary Authors Vol. 291, No. 1744, p. 22-3.
- Mississippi Goddam by Randall Kenan. THE NATION, November 15,1993.
- Vol. 257, No. 16, p. 592-4 (book reviews)
- CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS. Volume 117 p. 322.