Fire in the Morning
Publication Year: 2012
Admirers of Elizabeth Spencer's writing will welcome back into print her first novel, and her new readers will discover the sources of her notable talent in this book. Published in 1948 to extraordinary attention from such eminent writers as Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, and Katherine Anne Porter, this father-and-son story revolves around an old southern theme of family grievances and vendettas.
Fire in the Morning recounts the conflict between two families extending over two generations up to the 1930s.The arrival of an innocent stranger flares old arguments and ignites new passions. In Spencer's compelling tale of the half-forgotten violence, the well-deep understanding of father and son, Kinloch Armstrong, the young hero, confronts mysteries of the past. His wife, a newcomer to the area and its legacies, makes friends with a family of traditional rivals. After she is involved in a nighttime wreck and the death of a local man, the past gradually comes to light, and the two families once again become caught up in revelations, hatreds, and conflicts. Spencer faithfully renders the setting--a small, dusty Mississippi town--and the surrounding countryside as it was in the early twentieth century.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
Series: Banner Books Series
Title Page, Copyright Page
Both fishermen had on soiled white shirts and gray trousers of a rough weave flecked in white. The old man wore a black bow tie and gold cuff links. His high-top shoes were caked in loam from walking through the wood and he sat on a cushion. His son fished...
The three houses formed a rough triangle. They were part of a section still known as "the-land-west-of-town," though in former days the phrase had held a greater significance. Then the land was populous and rich; from the valleys its hills sloped strong and high...
Yes, that was where he had found Ruth, he remembered, in Martin's Grocery and Garage on the last hot day of the year. The cotton truck had stalled at the gin and he had driven here for oil. Busses stopped at the filling station. She was sitting just inside the...
"It's what I was telling you about," George said. "There was this man in a blue coupe—Virginia license—Justin raced him all the way down from school. I kept telling her to slow down. When we were in the juke joint he came in too and said he was headed for Tarsus to see a beautiful woman. That's what he...
On a Thursday afternoon in late July, Randall Gibson came walking into the square. He emerged from a street bordered in umbrella chinaberry trees and he made a diagonal path across the square, through the dusty weeds and swaths of gravel and pitted wheel tracks, past the iron fence around the...
When Dan Armstrong woke up in his rocking chair that Thursday afternoon, it was his own snoring that did it. His white head came straight up with a final snort and the old black hat he had put over his face to keep out the glare toppled forward on his knees. He glanced around to chuckle at himself with...
"Beginning is the principal trouble, Kinloch. How shall one begin anything? That is why I suggested we come here, where this piece of land, this rotting house might serve as a touchstone for thirty-five years ago. Now I know that the events date infinitely farther back. Perhaps to explain Tarsus, Mississippi, on...
There she came, running faster down the hill, for what reason he did not know except that she did not run as though she was afraid, but long and smooth, and so as not to stumble looking down at her flat-heel shoes striking the ground. Her blouse, swan-white and moving against the dark wood, seemed almost...
She shrugged and poked out her lower lip in a characteristic gesture of dismissal and, walking into the living room, flopped down into an overstuffed chair and kicked off her shoes. When the ash of her cigarette grew heavy she reached out for the smoking stand, but her fingertips just missed the handle and...
"Son," said Dan Armstrong, "it is no light thing to kill a man and a young man at that. If Si Gerrard had done me great treacherous wrong, I would have killed him for it. If Si had killed Ole Tuck or shot Felix or at least been the one who snatched away my rightful land, I would have called him out. But...
New tears filled her eyes and she closed them. The tears wet her lashes, sealing the tiny hairs together. Consciousness was like a tilted board her mind tried to scale, until slipping, failing, it fell back toward the dream and the dream was the sea. A small pain began beside her heart, like water seeping in...
Kinloch lay flat on his stomach. A flicker of lightning revealed the dark line of his passage down the hillside. The steep hill brooded above him. He did not move from where he stopped rolling, no more than he had tried to stop the progress of his fall. He closed the eye that was not looking into the earth. He was...
And you're nothing if not discriminating, Elinor thought. The bastard is sure laying it on thick, she thought. She saw Justin's inattentive eyes move to where his brown hand with the cigarette lay among the crystal. He's stalling her, she thought. He's making her mad enough to die. She wants him out in that blue coupe...
Whisky and all the drugs that Randall and Dr. Moore could muster afforded no relief, probably because her system was long familiar with them, so that she was more or less already in the state they were supposed to produce. All, that is, except sleep. She did not sleep. Be it to Randall's credit that he did not sleep either...
When he first sensed it, a little way off from him yet, he thought that it had to do with his having the crop in hand so that a day or so away wouldn't hurt. But he had known this about the crop since mid-afternoon, three hours before that moment when he stood on the gallery washing his hands...
All the way through the city, sitting in the cab, holding the address in her hand, she had thought that it would be quite in the order of things for her to find that the person she sought had moved, leaving no word, or at the most, was gone out for the evening. But here she stood, and light came narrowly out from...
He herded them before him through the dim cool concrete aisle of Simon Gerrard's general store, toward the narrow steps in the back. The office hung above the store like a scorekeeper's box; it was close to the ceiling and small, hidden from the eyes of clerks and customers...
He had called after her desperately. "Elinor! Elinor!" and followed, but for all that she had beat him back to the bungalow. She had started out walking and on the edge of town Mrs. Peterson, who was going to the missionary society, picked her up and drove her home. Lance must have waited in town for a ride...
Simon Gerrard sat for a long time in his office above the store, but he no longer tapped the pen staff against the open ledger, nor did he smile. The shadows were lengthening in the square outside when he got to his feet with a grunt. He took out a large handkerchief and swabbed his neck far down...
But that August day they had moved of their own accord; they had come with the rest of the town to crowd the court room upstairs where the inquest was held. There it was Felix McKie they heard principally, his voice rolling and the burr of old Kinloch McKie traced faint across his phrases, as he told how the...