BOOK NOOK: This massive historical novel is the most timely book of 2024

I don’t read eBooks, but while I was reading “Southern Man,” the seventh book in the Penn Cage series by Greg Iles, I sometimes found myself wishing I did. The book is massive, at nearly 1,000 pages in length it weighs almost 3 pounds. Each evening while reading it my biceps felt like I was pumping iron at the gym.

This novel picks up after his “Natchez Burning” trilogy. It is 15 years later and the time is now, the year is 2024 and we are heading towards a presidential election. Donald Trump is one of the candidates. Trump isn’t mentioned much and his major party opponent, Joe Biden, isn’t mentioned at all.

But it is the story of a presidential candidate. His name is Robert E. Lee White. He’s a war hero from Mississippi. White is famous for killing a fictional terrorist along the lines of Osama Bin Laden. Today White is parlaying his military heroics, his popular conservative radio talk show, and his huge presence on the Tik-Tok social media platform into an increasingly viable potential third party run for the White House.

White is also a gifted athlete. He was so good at baseball that he might have made it to the major leagues. The only thing that stopped him was the arm he lost in combat. Despite all that he’s still a superb golfer, with just one arm. As the story opens he’s poised to announce he’s running for president.

White will do anything to get elected. Anything. Penn Cage is an attorney, the former mayor of Natchez, and his daughter has become a successful attorney, too. Cage has known White since he was a boy and he’s baffled by White’s ambitions. He’s wondering what White’s true motivations really are.

There’s a big outdoor rap concert at the beginning of the book and things rapidly go awry when local sheriff’s deputies start firing guns into the crowd. One young Black rapper manages to calm things down before things escalate even further. This rapper’s Tik Tok followers surge immediately and Robert E. Lee White becomes quite jealous.

This is a weighty book in many regards. It is the story of a looming race war and Bobby White is willing to do anything to fan the flames of racial division in pursuit of his own agenda. A book this lengthy needs to have lots of action and it does. Penn Cage is in the thick of it, and so is his daughter.

Early on in the story we discover Bobby White has a big secret, he is gay. He’s also incredibly clever and devious. When he comes out in favor of a woman’s right to choose he places himself squarely between the two major presidential candidates and that confusing position, an arch-conservative who is pro-choice gets him lots of attention.

Iles wrote this massive, timely book and put it out right in the middle of the year in which it is set. Astonishing.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

About the Author