- Legacy of Vengeance (1994)
- A Homecoming for Murder (1995)
- Cruel as the Grave (1996)
- The $66 Summer (2000)
- The Return of Gabriel (2002)
- Bramlett’s Return (2006)
- Collection of Histories: First Baptist Church, Meridian, Mississippi (1987)
by Ashley Roland (SHS) 1998
Novelist John Armistead, an occasional religion writer for the Tupelo Daily Journal, retired teacher, accomplished artist, and former pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, has won wide acclaim for his who-done-it novel A Legacy of Vengeance, which was published in 1994. He also has written two other mystery novels, A Homecoming for Murder and, most recently, Cruel As the Grave . Before turning to fiction, Armistead wrote for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. An artistic, scholarly man with a sense of humor and a desire for the unusual and offbeat, Armistead enjoys riding around Tupelo streets on his motorcycle ( Harper ).
John Armistead, son of William L. and Serena Armistead, was born on June 14, 1941, in Mobile, Alabama. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi College in 1963, a Master of Divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in 1966, a Doctorate of Ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1975, and a Master of Arts from the University of Mississippi in 1987.
Armistead was a Baptist minister from 1975 to 1994. During that period he preached at Waimea Baptist Church and Kailua Baptist Church ( both in Hawaii) and the Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo. Currently, he is the religion editor for the Daily Journal in Tupelo. John is a member of many organizations such as the Mystery Writers of America, the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion, and the Harley Owners Group. In July 12, 1968, he married Sandi, a bookstore manager, and they now have two children, William and David.
In addition to writing, Armistead’s hobbies include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, painting, and fly fishing. Everyday he wakes up at 4:45 A.M. and writes for at least two hours on his current novel. Then he rides his motorcycle to the newspaper office where he works on stories, editorials, and columns for the rest of the day (Harper).
At the age of fifty-two Armistead published his first novel, A Legacy of Vengeance. Now he has two other novels published: A Homecoming for Murder and Cruel as the Grave. Grover Bramlett, a sheriff in Sheffield, Mississippi is the main character in his books. Armistead says that his thoughts on writing were influenced by Jack London and William Faulkner. He prefers older writers such as Shakespeare or Milton, but he reads contemporary authors “to keep up.” Since he didn’t publish his first novel until he was fifty-two, Armistead says he would like to encourage aspiring writers to remember this quote: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit” (Contemporary Authors. Vol. 150).
John Armistead published two young adult novels: The $66 Summer in 2000 and The Return of Gabriel in 2002. In February 2006 his novella Bramlett’s Return. was published in Tupelo’s Daily Journal in serial form. His book The Return of Gabriel was chosen by Starkville Reads as its first One Book, One Community choice.
A Review of Cruel as the Grave
by Michael McCarthy (SHS)
Cruel as the Grave by John Armistead is the third book in his Sheriff Grover Bramlett mystery series. This story is a tale of murder and what one woman will do to protect her husband at any cost. Three years earlier a beautiful black woman waited in a barn for her lover. Now, a local man has been killed and as the office of Sheriff Grover Bramlett gets closer to finding the killer of this man, the cases seem to have a connection; and the more pieces of this mystery the police find, the more people start showing up dead.
This is a good book that starts fast and keeps up the pace until the end. Once you start reading, it is hard to put this book down. There is a good bit of character development throughout the book, but it is done in such a way that the action in the book never slows down very much. Admittedly, there are some slow sections in the novel; but if you like a good mysteries and hate writers that take forever to develop characters, then I suggest that you read Cruel as the Grave. Throughout the book, Armistead uses allusion to hint at the ending, but if you are dumbfounded by his allusions, don’t worry; the meanings are revealed through the dialogue between characters usually only a short time after the allusion is made. Even if you know what the allusions mean and you think you have the killer figured out, you probably have the wrong person. In this book there is plenty of excitement, character development, and a surprise ending. You might wonder what else is in this book that makes it such a page turner; to find that out, you will have to read for yourself Cruel as the Grave by John Armistead. If you are like me and enjoy this book, you may also be compelled to read A Legacy of Vengeance or A Homecoming for Murder, the two other novels written by John Armistead.
Although this is only Armistead’s third book, the Baptist minister and journalist seems to have the makings of a great author. Only time and the critics will tell for sure. I hope you decide to read this book and enjoy it as much as I did.
Review of Legacy of Vengeance
by Ashley Roland (SHS)
A Legacy of Vengeance by John Armistead is an emotional and compelling novel. It takes place in the hills of Mississippi where four men are suddenly murdered. The peace between the white and black communities is stretched as old wounds are reopened. In Chakchuima County, four men (a preacher, a lawyer, and auto mechanic, and an insurance salesman) are killed by someone who drives a white Pontiac Grand Prix. It is up to Sheriff Grover Bramlett to find the killer by exploring what happened in one summer thirty years before, a time of civil rights and Klansmen.
As Sheriff Bramlett searches deeper into the past, he finds out that he and his wife are both on the killer’s hit list. The novel takes many drastic turns. In the end, the killer turns out to be someone who is installing a new computer system for the police department and wants revenge for the murder of his father, a former Klansman.
The novel is filled with suspense. In addition, John Armistead shows that racism and hatred still exist in today’s society. A Legacy of Vengeance kept my attention throughout. I would recommend this novel to everyone. I’m looking forward to reading more of John Armistead’s work.
The $66 Summer: A Review
by Marshall Clinton, Jr.
The $66 Summer by John Armistead is a tale of a young Caucasian boy and the summer of adventures he spent at his grandmother’s house. It was there that he tried to earn money to buy a motorcycle but gained much more. The story takes place in a country town called Obediah, Alabama, in 1955.
George Harrington is the oldest of three children. He is asked by his grandmother to come and help her at her store during his summer break. On arrival George meets Elizabeth and her three children, Winston, Esther, and Bennett. They are an African American family who help George’s grandmother, Miss Tilly, tend her land and run her store. Elizabeth grew up with Miss Tilly, working for that family all of her life. Years earlier Elizabeth’s husband, Staple, had vanished, and Esther began working toward saving enough money to go to New York or Detroit to attend a school for coloreds and in the hope of finding her father. Her plans were shattered when she had to use her hard earned money to get her devious older brother out of legal troubles for stealing. Bennett and George are approximately the same age. Winston is at least five years older than both of them, and Esther is a year older than George and Bennett. The two younger children spend the summer together with George, and together the three children spend their summer attempting to figure out what is under Mr. Vorhise’s pine tree and why he doesn’t want anybody around it, not even his own son. Vorhise’s father and uncles were historical bank robbers, and the children think that the money that was never recovered might have be hidden under that pine tree. (Mr. Vorhise is a neighbor of George’s grandmother, and Bennett works for him occasionally). The children also search for clues about Staples’ disappearance.
One night when the children think that Mr. Vorhise has gone to a dogfight, they go to his pond where the pine tree is. While they attempt to look for the hidden treasure, they find bones in a blanket. Mr. Vorhise catches them, and they run. When they get home, Esther realizes that she has her father’s old belt buckle. They run and tell Miss Tilly as well as Elizabeth. Miss Tilly calls the sheriff, and he advises her to wait until the morning to confront Mr. Vorhise. The sheriff calls Mr. Vorhise and tells him to dispose of the bones. When Miss Tilly and the sheriff get to Mr. Vorhsie’s house, Miss Tilly realizes the scandal and goes home angry.
That night three men burn down Elizabeth’s house when the whole town learns what Mr. Vorhise has done. After the burning of the house, the family resides with Miss Tilly, and the church makes preparations for Esther to attend the school after all.
My favorite quote is spoken by Esther when she talks to George about her father’s disappearance and how he didn’t act strangely when he left. She says, “He kissed me good-bye when he left for work that morning. Just like he always did. He was smiling. I remember that. He didn’t even take his Bible. He wouldn’t have gone anywhere without his Bible.” With this quote, the reader learns what kind of man Staple was. The reader knows from this quotation that Staple is a loving father because he kisses her. He is a hardworking man that supports his family because he goes to work every morning. He is a happy man because he smiles at her, and he is a church-going man because he never leaves without his Bible. From these sentences, the reader begins to feel that something has happened to Staple; that he didn’t just run away from is family.
This novel is a great story for anyone in high school to read. My mother even read the book; that shows how the author, John Armistead, writes his books interestingly enough for all ages to read. I would advise anyone to read the book, especially if they like a little suspense.
Armistead, John. The $66 Summer. Mildweed: Milkweed Editions, 2000.
- John Armistead’s home page relates his work as Mississippi author, painter, journalist and minister.
- Ole Miss Writer’s Page for John Armistead provides biography.
- South Breeze Gallery displays Armistead’s paintings.
- Author John Armistead Helped Launch ‘Starkville Reads’ First Community Wide Book Project
- Armistead, John. Cruel as the Grave. New York: Carrol and Graf Publishers, 1996.
- Armistead, John. The $66 Summer. Mildweed: Milkweed Editions, 2000.
- Edgar, Kathleen J. “John Armistead.” Contemporary Authors. 1996. 18-19.
- Harper, Phyllis. “Tupelo Writers.” Daily Journal Online! 125th anniversary ed.