By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Joe Lee, Starkville native and Mississippi State University graduate, is signing copies of his new novel, “The Long Road Home,” at the Book Mart Cafe 3 p.m. Thursday. The first-edition, signed copies will be available for $22.95.
“For folks not familiar with the Oakdale series, the novels are set in a small, fictional town in north Mississippi, not far from real-life Tupelo,” Lee said. “Because I grew up in Starkville, it was inevitable that memories of my hometown found their way into the backdrop.”
“The Long Road Home” is Lee’s third novel in his Oakdale suspense series. The first, “Judgment Day,” was followed by “The Magnolia Triangle.”
“This one picks up 15 months later and is a true sequel to ‘Triangle,’” Lee said. “Nancy Rutledge, who left town just before being arrested for the murder of her mother, returns as a totally different person thanks to identity theft and a profound change of appearance. Saying she has some big scores to settle is putting it mildly.”
Lee said he is looking forward to returning home for this occasion.
“I have lots of old friends in Starkville,” Lee said. “There are always people to catch up with. That’s my favorite aspect of visiting, and it’s fascinating to watch everything new that’s been built around town over the years,” Lee said.
Sid Salter, MSU’s journalist-in-residence, said Lee’s writing talents establish him as “a writer to be reckoned with and a yard-spinner whose offbeat imagination rivals Carl Hiassen.”
Lee received his degree in communication with an emphasis in radio and television from MSU in 1987. He currently lives in Jackson with his wife, Leslie, and son, John.
Lee is not only a writer, but he is also the owner and editor-in-chief of Dogwood Press, a small publishing company headquartered in Brandon. The company has published fellow Mississippi authors John M. Floyd of Brandon, Jim Ritchie of Canton, Mike Windham of Brookhaven and Barbie Bassett of Madison. In spring 2012, Dogwood Press will publish a literary novel from Valerie Winn of Gautier and a medical book by Dr. Chad Rhoden of Madison.
Lee said his frustration over not finding an agent while also receiving encouragement from publishers to get his work out there led to the birth of Dogwood Press.
“A Jackson-area publisher told me I could probably sell a reasonable amount of copies because of my enthusiasm and marketing background,” Lee said. “That’s where Dogwood Press began.”
Lee said he soon decided to not only publish his own work, but the work of other Mississippi authors.
“One of the authors I published, Jim Ritchie, made a tremendous point at a talk of his I attended recently,” Lee said. “He said Mississippi writers stand apart from their brethren in different parts of the country because so many of us are natural storytellers.”
Lee said he considers himself one of those Southern storytellers, and he hopes that’s something his readers will enjoy.
“I hope readers get caught up in my novels and don’t want to put them down,” Lee said. “I hope the characters come alive for them, that the backdrop seems real and that the story keeps them turning the pages in anticipation.”
The author makes it clear that you need not have read the first two books in the series to appreciate “The Long Road Home.”
“The Oakdale series does not have one repeating protagonist, as some other book series do,” Lee said. “However, the Oakdale location is always the same, and some of the same people who populated ‘Judgment Day’ keep popping up in future novels. Readers can pick up any of them, including ‘The Long Road Home’ and get started without missing crucial information.”
Lee said he is just getting started with Oakdale series and readers can expect more to come.
“The next novel will be called ‘Last Chance Texaco,’ and yes, it’s an Oakdale novel,” Lee said. “Look for it about a year from now. I’m very excited about it, and I’m already working on it’s sequel.”
Admission to the book signing is free. The Book Mart is located at 120 East Main St. To reserve signed copies, call (662) 323-2844. For more information about Dogwood Press or for a list of all Dogwood Press titles, visit http://www.dogwoodpress.com .