Lee Sandlin
Reification - Belles Lettres
Reification - Belles Lettres
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There is no antidote against the opium of Time. — sir thomas browne, urn burial

Wicked River book cover art

Wicked River

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“The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild” — from Pantheon Books.

A riveting narrative look at one of the most colorful, dangerous, and peculiar places in America’s historical landscape: the strange, wonderful, and mysterious Mississippi River of the 19th century.

Beginning in the early 1800s and climaxing with the siege of Vicksburg, Wicked River takes us back to a time before the Mississippi was dredged into a shipping channel, and before Mark Twain romanticized it into myth. Drawing on an array of unique, suspenseful, and bizarre first-hand accounts, Lee Sandlin brings to life a place where river pirates brush elbows with future presidents and religious visionaries share passage with thieves; a world unto itself, where every night, near the levees of the big river towns, hundreds of boats gather to form huge dusk-to-dawn cities dedicated to music, drinking, and gambling. Here is a minute by minute account of Natchez being flattened by a tornado; the harbor in St. Louis crushed by a massive ice floe; hidden, nefarious celebrations of Mardi Gras; the sinking of the Sultana, the worst naval disaster in American history. And here is the Mississippi itself: gorgeous, perilous, unpredictable and unstoppable, lifeblood to the communities that rose and fell along its banks.

An exuberant, vivid work of Americana — at once history, culture, geography-from a writer of rare and illuminating insight and eloquence, Wicked River is a grand epic that shows a forgotten society on the edge of revolutionary change.


Garrison Keillor calls it  “A gripping book that plunges you into a rich dark stretch of visceral history. I read it in two sittings and got up shaken.”

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American History - Mississippi River and Valley

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