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"I actually had recently returned from Ukraine - about 18 miles from the Russian border - when it was suggested for some reason that I write 'the quintessential Southern novel'. With my keen and penetrating eye, I seem to have missed the mark entirely."
Murff on why Haint Punch
Lucy Burton is sitting on the biggest political story of the year. It’s uncomfortable. Deke Kipling is hunted by militant feminists and impotent men’s rights group. He needs a vacation. Both get what they ask for – and hard.
The media is scrambling for access to a well-armed political three-way as a sex-pot evangelical and an oily congressman scramble for Mississippi’s newly vacant senate seat. And is the “Old Bear of the Senate” planning to take on American’s unstable tycoon-cum-president? Or is he a latter-day Guy Fawkes, planning to blow the whole thing up?
A Southern Veep or House of Cards on laughing gas.
HAINT PUNCH is a cocktail of sleazy kingmakers, victim dealers, hashtag crusaders, dateless nymphomaniacs, and bourbon-soaked aristocrats. Topical and hilarious, touching a deep and widespread feeling that we must cry for the current state of affairs, or have a stiff drink about it.
Richard Murff, Journalist & Comic Novelist
Richard Murff has covered humanitarian issues across Latin America, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya and Clarksdale, MS, to name a few places.
He spent his early career in working in advertising and marketing for a handful of global corporations. His less impressive jobs include writing sermons for a preacher who is very likely certifiably insane. After several years in the financial sector specializing in capital markets for government debt and collateralized securities, the economy blew-up.
At that point, he took up the pen and asked "what's funny about this?"
Murff's books include the upcoming Pothole of the Gods, Yellowcake, One Last Hour and Memphians. He has ghostwritten memoirs, business books and regional histories.
His work has appeared in The Bitter Southerner, Delta Magazine, Front Street, The American Spectator, Sail, and others. The Mint Julep cookie was created in his honor.
Questions I Wished They'd Asked Me
An Interview with the Publisher's Marketing Department
Q: What is the driving force behind Haint Punch?
A: I’d been covering humanitarian stories in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But being from Memphis, it was suggested I write the quintessential Southern novel. When I sat down with that idea I suddenly could see that America – not just the South – had gotten so tribal that institutions were running into the same potholes that I had associated with ‘emerging economies’ and trouble spots around the world. It’s unsettling, flying back from Ukraine thanking your lucky stars you don’t have to deal with all that, you get off the plane to find yourself in the middle of the same ridiculous identity politics argument.
Q: What, or who, were your inspirations?
A: P.G. Wodehouse. Yes, his storylines are completely farcical, but they are brilliantly constructed farce. If you listen much to either side of the current political divide (and I don’t really advise it) the political discourse has already descended into farce. There is no way that it couldn't. Our echo chambers are so air-tight that it’s hard to see that. What I’ve done is stuck both chambers out in a soybean field in the Mississippi delta without cell reception and let ‘em rip. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Q: Haint Punch’s reluctant hero, Deke Kipling, is described by his editor as “aggressively moderate.” Would you say that describes your philosophy?
A: Not really, no. I'm not much of a flag waver, I'm just Murff. It’s just that there are advantages to not to being a True Believer. For one thing, you have a comfortable relationship with reality. That is not to say I’m a nilist, but mobs, no matter how well intentioned, are regrettably excitable.
Q: And you think that’s funny?
A: I think it’s a farce. I heard this story about Mel Brooks serving in the army in World War II. When they’d liberated a concentration camp, he vowed to always portray the NAZIs as clowns, not monsters. You hate monsters, but you also respect them. No one respects a buffoon. That’s always stuck with me – the power of humor to go where screaming and righteous indignation can’t.
Q: Why a political satire in such polarized times?
A: It was either that or cry.