Fans of Michael Farris Smith’s 2013 novel “Rivers” will soon have more of the story. On Tuesday, publisher Simon & Schuster’s Simon 451 imprint releases “In the Beginning,” the Columbus author’s 64-page short story prequel to a gripping tale of survival and redemption. Set on a Mississippi Gulf Coast devastated by endless hurricanes and storms, “Rivers” begins two years after the government has abandoned the region and established a geographical boundary 90 miles to the north called “the Line.” Anyone remaining below it does so at their own risk — and for their own distorted or tortured reasons.
The e-book prequel looks back to the period not long before the Line was put in place.
“This was something my editor asked if I’d be interested in doing, and I thought it was a good idea,” Smith said. “I just tried to think of the most interesting way for me to do it.”
At first, Smith felt he would find threads to the prequel in drafts of the original novel. But he soon decided the project required starting “from scratch.”
“So I took Aggie and Cohen and just wanted to see what they were doing in the last months before the Line becomes official. How they came to be what they are,” explained the writer.
Aggie is a snake-handling messianic preacher of questionable past. Cohen, haunted by memories of his late wife and unborn child, doggedly struggles to survive. Their lives, and others, intersect with violent and unexpected results.
“If you’ve read ‘Rivers,’ you will see clues in the prequel as to things to come,” said Smith. “If you haven’t read ‘Rivers,’ it’s pretty easy to read the prequel and go right into the novel and know exactly where you are and what’s going on.”
“In the Beginning” will be available on Kindle, Nook and iTunes for 99 cents.
The acclaimed “Rivers” was named to Best Books of 2013 by Hudson Booksellers, The Capital Times, BookRiot and Daily Candy and was an Indie Next List selection by Indiebound.
In October, Smith was awarded the 2014 Mississippi Library Association’s Mississippi Author Award for Fiction. The Magnolia State native is also a past recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature and the Brick Streets Press Short Story Award.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.