Matt Forney
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Missouri Green by Lloyd Fonvielle

On the recommendation of Blowhard, Esq., I checked out this novella from Lloyd Fonvielle, best known for being the guy who wrote the screenplay for The Mummy (the original, not the godawful sequels), and I have to say that I liked it. It’s brief, it’s concise, it’s thrilling and believable and doesn’t talk down to the reader.

In other words, it’s everything that fiction should be.

Missouri Green is a Western, revolving around the eponymous protagonist, a New Orleans prostitute who tires of her job and decides to make the perilous journey west to California. To help her survive the journey and mine for gold, she buys herself a slave named Jim, a highly-skilled outdoorsman. I can’t help but see this as a blatant reference to Huckleberry Finn, not only because Missouri constantly calls him “Nigger Jim” (“nigger”-phobic liberals beware), but because a big part of the plot concerns her learning to respect Jim and view him as a smart, loyal human being:

She smiled at him fondly. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere, Jim. You know that.” She reached out for his hand and pulled him down and he sat beside her on the bed. “You love me, don’t you, Jim?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do.”

“And you know I love you?”

“Yes, ma’am. I know.”

“Then we had the best of it, Jim— the best there is in this sorry world.” She ran her finger across his face, leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. Then she lay back on the bed and closed her eyes. “I guess I’ll go to Hell for that. Find out soon enough, won’t I, Jim?”

Fonvielle deftly avoids falling into the “magical negro” trap by depicting Jim with complexity and depth. He begins the novel openly resentful of Missouri and even comes close to murdering her a couple of times. None of this feels forced, though, thanks to Fonvielle’s crisp, unpretentious style and economical use of words (the book can be read in less than an hour):

Missouri took the bill of sale out of a pocket in her dress and said, “What the hell do you think that is? Says I bought him.”

Harpending stood up with righteous indignation shaking his whole frame. He said, “That paper is an affront to God and Christian civilization!”

“England don’t tell us what to do no more. We throwed you off so we could be free.”

“Do you realize the idiocy of the words you’ve just spoken?”

“Do you realize you’re a jackass?”

Harpending picked up a tin plate and a fork and banged them together loudly.

The book starts to come apart in the final chapter, but otherwise, Missouri Green is a damn good read, and worth a look even if you aren’t normally into this kind of genre fiction.

Click here to buy Missouri Green.

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