Book Review: Finely drawn characters mark debut
Tunica native Bill Riales’ new e-book The Ghost of Henry Cotton is the debut author’s bid to put his hometown as much on the national and international radar as best-seller Greg Iles’ efforts for Natchez.
The crime thriller, released just days ago, opens with the accidental death (or is it?) of its title protagonist, a young Mississippi Delta farmer whose long-buried secrets don’t die with him.
Two other mysterious deaths in the community get resolved in the course of the plot, thanks in large part to Henry Cotton’s intrepid young widow Sue, who takes over the book and becomes one of the strongest females characters in recent reading.
“I guess Sue is drawn partly from a former girlfriend and partly on my wife,” Riales explains.
But he’s quick to note that there’s only one character in the book who was a real person, the first teen victim Ray Woodard.
“This is a story from my imagination,” Riales adds, but the setting is certainly his memory of a very familiar Tunica County in the seventies, where men farmed, women stayed home to supervise the kids, and everyone escaped to Memphis on occasion.
Anchor turned author aims to put hometown on the map
Bill Riales’ near 40 year career in broadcasting has taken him far from his hometown, but with the release of his debut novel last month, Riales (known in Tunica back in the day as “Billy”) is proving that you never truly escape your roots.
The son of local girl Carlene Dew, with deep and wide family ties in Tunica, and career Mississippi Power & Light employee Wayne Riales, Bill has mostly good memories of life in Tunica.
Although his parents have passed away, Riales’ sisters Carla and Jennifer have stayed closer to home. Carla, now Connell, lives in Tunica, and Jennifer is a nurse in Desoto County.
Bill graduated from Tunica Institute of Learning (now Tunica Academy) in 1978 and quickly started a career in radio and then in television that took him first to smaller markets in Clarksdale, Greenville and Yazoo City and then to larger ones in Indiana and South Alabama. For the past 15 years, he’s been the morning anchor for the CBS affiliate in Mobile, WKRG.
As his industry has evolved, Riales kept his skills sharpened and has ridden the tech wave that dominates print and broadcast journalism today. He shoots his own stories, writes and edits, and then gets them on air and on line.
It’s Spring Fling, Festival time!
Although Memphis in May may be more famous nationally, locals know that Tunica in April is the real “place to be.”
And this year, one event’s 20th anniversary and one new offering organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Tunica Main Street are putting a special luster to the month.
Spring Fling on Thursday, April 7, kicks off the activities with live music, libations and light hors d’oeuvres downtown from 4 to 7 p.m. Seven businesses will be open extended hours: Twelve Fifty-One, the Delta Mini Mall, Tunica Florist & Marketplace, Cafe’ Marie, Just Cuttin’ Up, Jeffcoat’s Deli and Mexico Grill. These, plus other participating stores The Levee Shack, Clayton Hardware, Parker Tractor and Mid-South Ag, will have special merchandise, drawings for gift baskets, and gift certificates from various merchants.
From the April 7 kick off through April 11, shoppers can earn entries into drawings for two $250 Shopping Sprees.
“The Spring Fling is a shopping event similar to the Christmas Open House,” Chamber CEO Lyn Arnold explains. “Prizes include two $250 awards given in gift certificates, so get out and shop in that time frame.”
‘Friendliest Resident’ was beloved in Tunica
Cornelius Henry (Neil) Block of Tunica, Mississippi, died Sunday, March 27, 2016, at age 97. Son of Josephine Brigham and Cornelius Henry Block, Mr. Block was a lifetime resident of Tunica County and a graduate of Tunica County High School. He attended the University of Mississippi. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving his country in New Guinea and the Philippines in World War II. In 1946 he married Evelyn Hood and began his farming career in Tunica.
Mr. Block loved the Lord and was an active member of Tunica Presbyterian Church his entire life. He served as Elder, Trustee, Treasurer, Sunday School Superintendent, and Sunday School teacher. He was also well known and beloved by the children of the church for his friendliness and peppermint candy.
He was voted the “Friendliest Person in Town” by the Tunica Times poll for the last nineteen years, and is in fact, the only person to hold that distinction. He was also honored by induction into the Tunica Sons and Daughters, Tunica County’s Hall of Fame.''
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