Greg Iles’ latest book hits shelves Tuesday; benefit signing set for Sunday

Published 12:02 am Saturday, March 18, 2017


NATCHEZ — The final book in Natchez native and New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles’ trilogy hits shelves Tuesday.

“Mississippi Blood” follows “The Bone Tree” and “Natchez Burning” and is the final installment of the trilogy and the sixth Iles’ novel centered on character Penn Cage and set in Natchez. The trilogy has taken eight years to complete.

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The book, Iles said, “reveals all the answers people have been waiting for since the first book.”

“The truth behind Dr. Cage’s relationship with his nurse, whether he killed her or not, and if he did, was it out of mercy or to keep her quiet,” he said. “For the first time, people can read the whole epic from start to finish, and a lot of readers are excited about that.”

Iles has said when he wrote the first Penn Cage novel, “The Quiet Game,” published in 1999, he never expected the book to turn into a series.

Iles was one week away from deadline for “Natchez Burning” when he was severely injured in a horrific car crash in March 2011 on U.S. 61 South. After eight days in a medically induced coma, a torn aorta and countless broken bones, Iles woke up in a Jackson hospital missing part of his right leg.

Following the crash, Iles refocused his life and set to work on the trilogy.

“Spending eight years telling one story has wiped me out,” Iles said. “I started with two legs and ended with one.”

Some aspects of Iles’ life are reflected in his novels, including his father, the late Dr. Jerry Iles, as the inspiration for the character Tom Cage, Penn Cage’s father.

Some of the same themes that drive his work are also reflected in his own life. Iles said he has long advocated for racial cooperation in Natchez and Mississippi and recently joined other famous Mississippians in calling to change to state flag, which contains a Confederate battle flag emblem.

Through his books and the work of Concordia Parish journalist Stanley Nelson, whose investigation into Civil Rights cold cases serves as a backdrop for Iles’ work, Iles said he hopes locals “have realized that there’s a lot of our own history that many of us didn’t know.”

“Some people complain that we’re dragging up old murders that should be left alone,” Iles said. “I can assure you that if a forgotten murder victim had been a member of their family, they would feel quite differently.”

While the Penn Cage series is coming to an end, Iles said he is already writing his next book, which is set in Oxford.

“At Ole Miss, actually,” Iles said. “It’s sort of a ‘Double Indemnity’ story. Film noir on the page.”

Iles is also still working on making the “Natchez Burning” television series happen.

“People constantly ask me about the status of the TV series,” he said. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride of, ‘It’s happening, it’s not happening, it’s happening again.’ As a producer, I’ve learned a lot since this journey began. I got the writer I wanted, from ‘Friday Night Lights,’ and the director of ‘The Blind Side.’ They’re both Texas boys and know the South well. But on the acting and the business sides, we’ve had some challenges.”

Iles said his primary goal has been to get the series shot in Natchez and Ferriday.

“That’s an expensive proposition for Hollywood, but I’ve treated it as a non-negotiable point,” Iles said. “The projected budget is $50 million dollars per year, and that money should be spent in Natchez, not Atlanta or, God forbid, Vancouver.

“With book three of the trilogy landing next week and great reviews hitting across the country, excitement will ramp up again, so I look for something good to break on this front.”

Iles will celebrate the release of “Mississippi Blood” with a benefit signing from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Dunleith Historic Inn.

Those attending can meet Iles and purchase a personalized copy of “Mississippi Blood” for $30 before the book is released next week.

The benefit will feature live music by Brint Anderson and a cash bar.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Natchez Children’s Services.

“Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable populations in every community,” Iles said. “For as long as I can remember, Natchez Children’s Services has been filling a critical gap in the health of this city, and they need all the help we can give them. I hope everyone will come out and support them by buying a book. Past years have been a great success, and 100 percent of the profits go to the cause.”