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Reviews of The Backside of Nowhere


Alec Clayton has captured an entire sub-culture with carefully fleshed-out characters who gather in a tiny backwater town in Mississippi, not knowing what's about to come. The leisurely pace of the writing belies the fact that I couldn't put this down until I had finished it completely. Terrific writing on a small scale that stays with you long after you've finished reading. Bravo. Steven Schalchlin (New York, NY)

... and from a post on Facebook, also by Steven Schalchlin: It was electrifying how easily he pulled all the characters together to create a perfect portrait of a forgotten sub-culture.
Think Carl Hiaasen crossed with, oh Walker Percy. This novel is funny, acutely observed, full of larger-than-life characters (if you're from the South, you'll probably think you know some of them), and alive with rollicking action. Take a lively bunch of ne'er-do-wells (but don't call them that to their faces), plus a few do-wells, including the local boy who's made it big and mocks his roots, stir in casual racism, wild misunderstanding, floods, storms, and other disasters human and natural, and this pocket of sea-coast Mississippi explodes into hilarious and vivid life. - Jack A. Butler, "hontonoshijin" (Eureka, California), author of Living in Little Rock With Miss Little Rock and Jujitsu for Christ,
If you can laugh at a hurricane then you can laugh at anything and even though I went through Hurricane Katrina, I can still laugh at some of the craziness that went on. It is hard to believe that it was seven years ago but then I have relocated twice so I guess I have lost track of time a bit. The book is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast near New Orleans and by now we are all aware of the catastrophe that took place there. The difference in this book is that the storm was not the only catastrophe and what we read here will keep you laughing. This is not the South of moonlight and magnolias but one of funny characters and gossip.

David Lawrence is an “up-and-coming” movie star who has not been back to his family home in Freedom, Mississippi in twenty ears. Once in a while he calls his family but he is unable to speak to his father who was not just overbearing but very odd. In fact, David uses his hometown as a basis for his off Broadway one-man show.

When his father has a heart attack during his attempt to perform a daredevil action in a casino parking lot, he makes the national news on television and David heads home and finds something there he had forgotten about. Everyone waits for his arrival and his visit is also a visit to a time that was. He meets up with old friends and what was in the past comes up.

Alec Clayton really knows how to tell a story that he fills with wonderful dialogue and characters that are larger than life. We get much more than a story that includes romance, rivalry, politics and a hurricane as well as racism. Being from the area that Clayton writes about I experience several pangs of nostalgia. “From movie stars to the Ku Klux Klan and from lovers to haters, Clayton’s characters leave quite an impression” as does his prose style. This is also a coming of age story and a family saga. - Amos Lassen, Reviews by Amos Lassen
Loved this book! Great characters and an interesting, twisty story of a family over time. This story has a bit of everything-history, romance, bad guys, and good guys. A great read! - Linda R. George "georgygrrl" (Hampton, NH),
Backside of Nowhere is a fascinating book for Alec Clayton, that court jester and storyteller of the deep South, who now hails from my hometown of Olympia, Washington.

It is fascinating, because instead of sticking to the "straight" family dramas that fill many of his other books like Return to Freedom and Reunion at the Wetside, Clayton adds the perspective of David Lawrence, and erstwhile film star who is back in the bayou country for a season. His experience outside of Mississippi is a telling contrast, and also an aspirational world that many strive for there.

David's life and family history in the country is the backdrop for a story of family ties that strain to breaking, small town corruption, racial tensions that are (pretty overtly) expressed, and a variety of clever observations about the culture and families of the Mississippi bayou country. In the end, I felt like I'd spent a season myself in that humid territory.

The story itself reminds me of a classic "This American Life" episode, where another movie star -- a real one -- comes to a small town and interesting things happen. The small town where this actor went in real life is nowhere near as interesting as Clayton's imaginary one, but the stories seem complementary. Here's a link to the This American Life episode #173: Three Kinds of Deception. - Ned D. Hayes (Seattle, WA), author of Couer D'Alene Waters,
The Backside of Nowhere gives a gritty peek into the lives of a Southern Gulf community and a family in need of healing. It's about coming of age, fleeing one's family for a different life, and returning home to confront what drove them apart. The author paints a vivid picture of life in a small fishing village as well as that of a now-famous protagonist, and brings us quickly into the complex lives of these compelling characters. Skillfully weaving us from present to past and back, the story unfolds into the rekindling of lost friendships, the revelation of well-concealed secrets, and the badly needed healing of hearts. I found The Backside of Nowhere to be an interesting read, one that both surprised me and led me toward a satisfying end. The juxtaposed devastating hurricanes aptly round out these characters' stormy lives. - Ruth Tiger (Tacoma, Washington), author of The Away Place,
Alec Clayton is a genius of observation, both of people and all their idiosyncrasies, as well as their locale and surroundings. Having grown up very near the same region of the fictional town of Freedom, I immediately recognized familiar characters, some of whom I could have sworn I knew in my past! While "Backside" is purely fictional, and top-notch entertainment at that, its larger-than-life characters practically jump off the pages. Their antics and quirky personalities stay with the reader long after the final pages of the book have been finished. What a fun ride! - Martha Martin "MsMagnolia" (Prairieville, LA),
Once again, Clayton has interfered with my sleep. That's right, I got so engrossed in the book that I just couldn't put it down and go to sleep. I know something about southern families and I know something about hurricanes. No one could weave the two together like Clayton has done. Once again, he developed his characters so well that I think I know them....maybe I just know people like you do too. - Van B. Cook  "vbc" (Texas),
This is Alec Clayton's best novel yet. If you liked any of his others you should get this one because it's funnier, wittier, and more coloquially alive than the rest. Treat yourself! - L.E. Johnson (Raleigh, NC), author of Veins,
Up-and-coming movie star David Lawrence hasn't been home to Freedom, Mississippi, for two decades--and, on the rare occasion he calls his family, he can't even bring himself to talk to his overbearing father, one of more colorful local patriarchs. His hometown and its denizens have become for him little more than fodder for an off-Broadway one-man show.

But when Pop Lawrence has a heart attack while attempting a drunken daredevil stunt in a casino parking lot and makes national news with a spectacular made-for-TV car crash, David reluctantly heads back to the backwaters of Freedom--only to realize that there's some truth to the old saw that home is where the heart is. His sisters and mother, his high school sweetheart, and all his teenage rivalries lie in wait, threatening to turn his journey back home into a trip back in time. Memories are shared, secrets are revealed, friendships are rekindled, old feuds and old loves are resurrected--and the Lawrence family ultimately emerges from this reunion fewer in number but stronger than ever.

Although filled with distinctive, oversized characters, Clayton's fiction is far more Southern realist than Southern Gothic. His storytelling at times faintly echoes the nostalgia-laced prose of fellow Mississippian Eudora Welty but mixes in snappy dialogue, revelatory flashbacks, and episodic plotting, from the novel's opening car crash sequence to the near-cataclysmic closing scenes. With both drollness and melancholy, Clayton serves up a bravado performance, evoking a time and a place that ends up being somewhere after all. - D. Cloyce Smith (Brooklyn, NY),
Alec Clayton seems to have hit his stride in his most recent novel, "The Backside of Nowhere." The book begins to unfold slowly, mirroring the damp, moss-dripping setting of Freedom, Mississippi. Through flashbacks, we come to know these well-fleshed-out characters and their relationships to one another. The tempo begins to speed up as the story unfolds and brings us, at last, to a stunningly written climax that makes you feel as though you are seeing the action on a big screen and not just reading about it. From movie stars to the Ku Klux Klan and from lovers to haters, Clayton's characters leave quite an impression. Highly recommended read! Linda Delayen (Yorktown, VA),
Set in a Gulf Coast town, this novel does more than just give us a story typical of the region. Yes, it includes high school romances, a competitive football game, corrupt political leaders and a devastating hurricane. And yes, it deals with the endemic racism inherent in such towns. But yet the story is so engrossing that I could not put the book down. I loved the characters, including a Hollywood star who comes home to visit his ailing father. Naturally, he meets up with his old-time girlfriend and they reignite their high school romance. We learn about his parents' background and his adopted sister with a secret. Then there is his sister who loves her hard drinking husband no matter how much he strays. All these characters came across as very real and there is a slight comic nature to the book which made it even more interesting to me and kept the story moving.

Frankly, I loved this book and actually found it better than Pat Conroy's latest, "South of Broad" because the characters seemed more real and not just stereotypes. Alec Clayton hit the mark perfectly, held my interest throughout and even surprised me at the end. Bravo! This is a really good book. - Linda Linguvic (New York City),
This is an entertaining story. I liked the flow and the alternating plots, although occasionally found the back and forth a bit confusing. David carries the reader along with him as he learns the "whole" story of events that took place both before he was born and as he grew up. As with most small towns, the cast of characters is a lively bunch, each with their own demons, motivations, and good and bad points. Clayton's descriptions of each character create a vivid impression for the reader and it was easy to get involved in the story. He does a good job with eliciting the flavor of a small town in the Bayou and we get swept up in the long held grudges and drama that is an expected by-product. - excerpt from review by Grouchiegirl119 on Read complete review at
I've never been to Mississippi, but I felt the heat and the storms and the thrill of
partying through hurricanes in The Backside of Nowhere. I also enjoyed the characters who
populated this book in the town of Freedom and got to know the mindset of the South
through this little town. I really enjoyed the closeness of the siblings. This story of
redemption's message that we must decide whether to take that route or hang onto our
hatred, that is realistically justified in our minds, is a good one. Overall, Alec Clayton
did a good job spinning a tale that takes us far away from where we live to another time
and place.tly, held my interest throughout and even surprised me at the end. Bravo! This is a really good book. - PNW Girl,

What a fun read! Small town intrigue, romance, and humor. Alec makes his characters come alive. This one made me hungry for the sequel. - Elizabeth Reis,

It's been a while since I've read this particular work of Alec Clayton, but it's among my favorites. A transplant to Euro-socialist Olympia, WA from the far different Gulf Coast region, Clayton's work has been influenced by both mindsets. It's a refreshing change from the oppressively racist South we think we know from other novels and novelists. While bigotry often intrudes here as well, Clayton's Freedom County, Mississippi has a refreshingly laissez-faire attitude about personal behavior. Backside's characters feel authentic; and, as the old political saw goes, you'd love to have a beer with them. Often, the generations of family drama give way to social and art commentary in Clayton's charmingly witty voice. This is an unassuming novel that feels like a Gulf Coast getaway. - Christian Carvajal,

I really enjoy all of Alec Clayton's books. They can be counted on to have quirky characters and fun storyline. Alot like spicy Cajun crayfish..very satisfying. The sexiness is not heavy handed--more like a sassy wink. Even ole ' lady panties get a run for their money.
Summer is coming....this is a great vacation read. - Kathy Baros Friedt,
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