Willie Ray Rivers has locked-in syndrome brought on, as best the doctors can tell, by a stroke. He can’t talk and can’t move any part of his body except the little finger on one hand. “I’m not writing this. I’m screaming it. But only inside my mind. It’s all in my head. YOU are in my head.”
He is cared for by his wife, Ella, and their friends Edgar and Dream. He talks to Ella through an elaborate system of eye blinks. The narration is Willie Ray’s thoughts and memories, which bounce about in time and place from Hub City, Mississippi to San Francisco, California and back. He meets his best friend and spiritual advisor in a jail cell in Mississippi and meets and marries Ella at Amazing Grace Church in San Francisco. Back in Mississippi, he and Ella publish a weekly newspaper and are drawn into on-again off-again conflicts with Bubba Wright, a corrupt city council member with ties to the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council.
As a reluctantly crusading newspaperman and caring human being, Willie Ray gets embroiled in the fight against attempts to destroy the nearby community of Palmers Crossing led by Bubba Wright.
Willie Ray is a kind and loving man who is unsure of himself and able to carry on only because of Ella’s love and patience before and after he becomes locked in. He is also a self-confessed sex addict.
Locked In is a story of love and survival and forgiveness and a look at the turbulent racial tensions in a Southern town decades after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s.
I love Willie Ray Rivers’s voice. Clayton pulls off the same brilliant trick he has manage in all of his novels (the word “trick” is, truth to tell, not really accurate. This is far greater than a knack, or a mere trick. It’s my inability to think of a better word that is to fault here, not Clayton’s writing.)
Instead of railing about the evil, the author speaks from the voice of a normal, but sane and basically decent observer.
− Jack Butler, author of Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock
Read a couple of short excerpts from Locked In (PDF file)
Meet Alec Clayton
Order Locked In from your favorite bookstore (ask them to order it for you) or Amazon.
Publication year: 2023
Trade paper, 264 pages
$15.00 Amazon ISBN-13: 979-8393788681
Also available on Kindle.