- Nick (2021)
- Blackwood (2020)
- The Fighter (March 2018 )
- Desperation Road (2017)
- Rivers (2013)
- In the Beginning (2012) short story prequel to Rivers
- The Hands of Strangers (2008) (a novella)
Michael Farris Smith was born in Mississippi and now lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters. He is the son of a Southern Baptist minister, so his family moved a lot while he was growing up. Smith received his BA from Mississippi State, his MEd from William Carey College, and his PhD from The University of Southern Mississippi. He previously taught Fiction Writing, Modernism, and Southern Literature at the Mississippi University for Women known as the W) in Columbus, Mississippi, where he was Associate Professor of English. Before teaching at the W, Smith lived abroad in France and Switzerland.
His novella, The Hands of Strangers, was published by Main Street Rag Press in 2011. The novella is set in Paris where the daughter of the two main characters, Jon and Estelle, has been kidnapped during a class field trip. His novel Rivers, published by Simon and Schuster in 2013 to rave reviews, is a dark novel set in Mississippi in the near future when devastating storms have hit the South in the years since Hurricane Katrina.
Smith has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature, and the Brick Streets Press Short Story Award. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared with The New York Times, Catfish Alley, University Press of Mississippi, and more.
His novel Desperation Road is the story of Russell Gaines, who is just released from Parchman Penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. On the day that Russell is released , a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate under the hot summer sun. The two are desperate and exhausted. They have spent all their money on a room for the night. Russell’s destiny becomes entertwined with Maben, and Russell ultimately must decide if he will save his own life or those of the woman and child.
Another novel, The Fighter, was published in March, 2018.
In 2020 Smith published Blackwood, a novel that his author page states, “In this timeless, mythical tale of unforgiving justice and elusive grace, rural Mississippi townsfolk shoulder the pain of generations as something dangerous lurks in the enigmatic kudzu of the woods.” Blackwood was one of NPR’S Best Books of 2020.
His latest novel, published in January 2021, entitled Nick, is based on the character Nick Buchanan, who appears in the novel The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald. Smith had written the novel five years ago but discovered that the copyright for The Great Gatsby was not up until 2021. He could not publish Nick then, but he has recently revised it and has now published it in January 2021.
Review of Desperation Road
by Sue Minchew (Former professor and Associate Dean of Education at Mississippi State University)
In Desperation Road, Michael Farris Smith departs from the dystopian world of his previous novel Rivers to pen a book set in current times. Both books, however, depict characters trying to survive against seemingly insurmountable odds. In Desperation Road, the narrative shifts between two protagonists with separate lives, both of whom have just returned to their home town of McComb, Mississippi. Russell Gaines has been released from Parchman after eleven years of incarceration. Maben is a woman down on her luck with a young, five year old daughter. She and her daughter have walked a long way to get to McComb in hopes of entering a shelter for women there. Both Russell and Maben are flawed, but basically good characters who have made mistakes and are trying to turn their lives around. Circumstances and bad characters, however, foil their efforts at every turn. Suspense builds as both Maben and Russell attempt to survive against corrupt cops and vengeful rednecks. The two narratives converge when their paths cross, and Maben and Russell go on the run together with her daughter in tow. Little do they know that the deeds of their pasts, ironically, share a common thread. The reader becomes invested in their fates, hoping that somehow they can extricate themselves from their dire situations.
The book is truly a page turner with believable characters, authentic dialogue, and a suspenseful plot that keeps the reader guessing. Smith’s fluid, Hemingwayesque style keeps events moving at a fast pace. More importantly, the book depicts the far-reaching ramifications of the choices and mistakes we make in life. It also provides hope for redemption and second chances.
- Gatsby’s Great Narrator ‘Nick’ Finally Gets His Own Backstory, January 2021; NPR
- Questions and Answers from the Clarion-Ledger, April, 2017
- Michael Farris Smith’s website
- The World of Michael Farris Smith
- Synopsis of The Hands of Strangers
- Smith Talks at Coalesce in Jackson (Jackson Free Press)
- Smith’s faculty page at MUW
- New Orleans Review
- Smith writes for the bittersoutherner.com/from-the-southern-perspective/politics/the-united-states-of-mississippi-michael-farris-smith