“Russell, just released from an 11-year prison sentence, finds anger and revenge waiting for him on the outside. Maben, homeless, broken, and walking along the interstate in the blazing Mississippi heat toward McComb, is forced to make a decision that puts her and her young daughter on the run from the police. In a desperate moment of chance or fate, Russell and Maben's paths cross, their shared past is revealed, and Russell is left to make the ultimate choice. Smith's novel is mesmerizing from its opening pages; you will have to pace yourself while reading it to fully enjoy and appreciate the pitch-perfect language and descriptions that can only come from one who has a masterful command of storytelling.”
— Matt Kelly (W), Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS
“Russell and Maben are at the end of their respective ropes, and when their paths collide one day in the pine barrens of southern Mississippi, only two options remain: endless violence or salvific retribution. Along the way, they bump against a memorable cast of characters equally scarred by past sins and the legacy of cruelty. Forget the labels ‘Southern Gothic,’ ‘antihero drama,’ or ‘literary noir.’ With Desperation Road, Michael Farris Smith arrives triumphantly on the American literary landscape—a landscape striped with dark dirt roads and the redemptive freedom of the interstate.”
— Steve Iwanski, Turnrow Book Company, Greenwood, MS
In the vein of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone and the works of Ron Rash, a novel set in a tough-and-tumble Mississippi town where drugs, whiskey, guns, and the desire for revenge violently intersect.
For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sits in Parchman Penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. His sentence is now up, and he believes his debt has been paid. But when he returns home, he soon discovers that revenge lives and breathes all around him.
On the same day that Russell is released from prison, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate under the punishing summer sun. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a room for the night, a night that ends with Maben running through the darkness holding a pistol, and a dead deputy sprawled in the middle o the road in the glow of his own headlights.
With the dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save-his own or those of the woman and child.
Delivered in powerful and lyrical prose, Desperation Road is a story of troubled souls twisted with regret and bound by secrets that stretch over the years and across the land.