$13.97 in softcover
$3.97 in ebook
Also by John T. Biggs
Southwest Gothic Tales by John T. Biggs here!
by John T. Biggs
Richard Harjo, PhD, DD, is an Oklahoma death-row chaplain whose job is to prepare inmates
to meet their maker. That's a challenge for any minister, especially one who has serious
doubts about a supreme being. He thought he'd never get his faith back — until he met a
Choctaw murderer named Holabi Minco, who might be a witch.
In the tradition of his people, Minco keeps a calendar made of sticks — popsicle sticks,
since they come with lunch. He writes people's names on the sticks with his blood, and when
their day comes up, they die. Some of those people are on the execution roster, but some aren't.
Richard learns he may be part of Holabi's ritual. And when Holabi's beautiful daughter Kinta
Minco enters the picture, her other admirers — a corrupt prison guard and a white
supremacist who are stalking her — make things difficult.
With his hands full escorting killers to the execution chamber and making love to Kinta, Harjo
hardly notices he's caught up in a complex plot to break Holabi Minco out of prison.
Will the mystical Minco avoid execution?
Praise for John T. Biggs and Popsicle Styx:
The Popsicle Styx protagonist happens to be an Oklahoma death-row chaplain lost somewhere
between Christianity, Catholicism, psychology, white man's divinity, and Choctaw mysticism.
For the record, a calendar stick is a North American Indian system for keeping track of events
and time and is often based on astronomical observations. In the case of whites and 'mud'
people incarcerated in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, time is written on popsicle sticks.
In blood. Your name appears on a stick, your time is up, even off the 'row.'
"'You look like hell, Rev," prison guard Madeline tells Chaplin Richard Harjo. 'Worn out from
carrying signs from God,' he responds. 'It's heavy work.'"
Remember Elmore Leonard? Man wrote some 50 books, uncounted short stories, and numerous
screenplays. He's known for his gritty dialogue, plot twists, and leaving out 'the part a
reader skips anyway.' John T. Biggs penned 'Styx' as if he had scribble orders straight
from the man.
Combine John T's mysticism, unsavory characters, and heinous crimes sloshed over with a little
sex and you have a late night page turner. Damn fine read that doesn't waste a single word.
~ Nancy Hartney, author of OWL's 2014 Best Book of the Year
Washed in the Water: Tales of the South.
I recently took advantage of a Kindle 99-cent sale and splurged on a novel by John T.
Biggs titled Popsicle Styx. Why would I do such a thing? Because I was curious. Because
I wanted to know what I would be missing if I spent my week hunting rabbits.
Almost immediately, I ran into trouble. Could it be possible that Biggs wrote the entire book in
a "flow of consciousness" style? Too late. I had already ingested the first three pages. Or was
it nine? No, closer to twenty-five. I was hooked by the story and the skill with which Biggs worked
the style, using dialog to trap the reader in regional authenticity and, despite a few rough edges,
successfully weave his tapestry of fiction.
It was fiction, wasn't it?
Reverend Richard Harjo is an Oklahoma Creek Indian with degrees in divinity and psychology. His
unenviable task as prison chaplain is to provide spiritual comfort to condemned prisoners languishing
in the Department of Corrections H-Unit, waiting their turn for a lethal injection.
His job is complicated by a crisis of faith - not the usual kind where the sufferer wonders whether
there is such a thing as a God and an afterlife. Instead, his faith is challenged by Choctaw mysticism,
giving him too much to believe in. He unwittingly finds a spiritual guide of his own in the person of
Holabi Minco, a Choctaw with witching powers who is himself scheduled for execution before the end of the month.
Richard is torn by self-doubt until he meets Holabi's daughter, Kinta, and falls in love. Soon he finds
himself breaking Commandments and Oklahoma law as he follows her through a puzzle of murder and rape and
the dark side of the soul.
The condemned and their caretakers are joined by forces beyond their comprehension. As Biggs explains,
"H-Unit inmates are saturated with the magic of a certain death at a certain time in a certain way.
They don't all believe in God but they all believe in something."
I believe I'll try another one of John T. Biggs' books.
~ Jon M. Etheredge
Biggs has this everyday-Joe-ness about him that sometimes makes it hard to reconcile the
stories that come out of him. It also makes the publisher's task of teasers/plot synopsis
pretty hard. But never make the mistake of passing over his books!
With always just the right mix of noir/magical realism/Okie local color/crime, his prose packs
a Karen Russell meets NDN country style wallop that will leave you wanting more. He really
does deserve a sub-genre all his own. Someone get on a tag for that.
Expect to roll out of bed looking for owl feathers after this one. Popsicle Styx is a twisty mind
f*** (for lack of a better term) with meaty characters and strong women of color—another
of Biggs' many talents. You'll lose some sleep propelling to its end.
Another winner from a diverse and innovative small press that knows how to draw the best from its writers.
Can't wait for more.
~ C.A. Larue, The Review Review
and Bonespark Blog
Popsicle Styx is smart, original, and completely engaging. John Biggs just keeps getting better.
~ William Bernhardt, New York Times Best Selling Author
The first page-turner I have read in a long time.
If you havenít yet read Popsicle Styx by John T. Biggs, do yourself a favor and get a copy. This short
novel is a terrific read. Told primarily from the point of view of protagonist Richard Harjo, a Creek
Indian Oklahoma Death Row minister, Popsicle Styx is a psychological thriller that merges fact,
intuition and vision into such a thorough mixture that it almost becomes magical realism. Besides
Reverend Harjo, a Ph. D., D.D. struggling with his own faith, Biggs gives us an array of memorable
characters including Wolfie Lafleur—inside whose skinhead, white supremacist, Christian Identity,
serial rapist and killer mind we uncomfortably visit briefly Ė and three death row inmates: Tammy
Wynette Biggerstaff, triple-murderer of young, sexually abusive men; Oba Leon Taylor, another even
more crazed white supremacist; and Holabi Minco, Choctaw witch and master trickster. Thereís also
bad guy prison guard Anton Leemaster but Biggs presents the beautiful, enigmatic Kinta Minco,
daughter of Holabi, to settle us and Richard Harjo down just when we all need it the most. Overall,
Popsicle Styx is an outstanding, well-written and entertaining book.
~ J. B. Hogan
What do you get when you mix: a preacher, white supremacists, crack-heads, strippers, and Choctaw witches?
A book called Popsicle Styx, of course. The action centers around death-row inmates and a prison
Chaplain who questions his faith and the existence of magic. This story is odd but so well written! No
doubt about it, John T Biggs can weave a story with the best of them, and his writing is brilliant. I
liked it. I didn't like it. At times I laughed out loud with the dark Christian humor. One thing is for
sure, this one is damn interesting!
~ R.H.Burkett: Author
This book is dark, fascinating, surreal, and completely gripping. I don't use the term "page-turner"
that often, but this is one story that I could not put down. Richard Harjo's character, a morally
uncertain and ambivalent counselor to death row inmates on their way to execution, was completely
convincing, as were his interactions with Kinta Minco, the daughter of one of the inmates whose
execution he is scheduled to attend, and the evil and twisted characters Oba Taylor and Wolfie Lafleur.
I look forward to reading other books by John T. Biggs. His writing is masterful, and his characters
captivating and all too real. No doubt of the five-star rating for Popsicle Styx.
~ Gordon P. Bonnet
Popsicle Styx by John T. Biggs just blew me away. Johnís stream-of-consciousness style meshes
perfectly with the storyís magic realism theme. The story follows Richard Harjo through a maze of
Native America witchery and the modern system of so-called humane capital punishment. Richard
ministers to those about to be executed, but he questions his faith, his education, and the Native
American mysticism his grandmother taught him. Beautiful phrasing puts you in the moment and chilling
personalities are all too real. An excellent read—Iím looking forward to more from John T. Biggs.
~ Kay A. Lawson
A dark, inventive and frightening look into the hearts and minds of the worst society has to offer.
Biggs is one heck of a writer but I'd be afraid to look too deeply into his thoughts. This is a book
you won't put down until you finish it. My kind of book, definitely, and I'll look for his next one
with anticipation. It isn't often an author can scare me more than I scare myself. My only question
is, when does the movie come out?
~ Velda Brotherton
Popsicle Styx has no redeeming characters, and I must admit that's not a bad thing. The pluses:
Magnificent writing but a very dark story that takes the reader deep into perverted minds and
unseemly places. Descriptions of people, places, and emotions opened all my senses to where I
could see, smell, ear, and feel along with the characters in the scene. Most of the time I struggled
to understand if what was happening was real, a dream sequence, or drug induced state. Nothing is as
it seems inside the prison or outside.
Other reviewers have described the action. So I'll deal with the mysticism and inner struggles for
redemption that drives the story. Is God real? Is magic real? Where does the human soul go when
death occurs? Every character has his or her own struggle, except for Kinta and Holabi Minco. They're
sure of their plan. The author, himself, seems torn between God and fate, Good and Evil, and never
clearly defines the two. Can a man have two souls, one that goes to a happy place and one that stays
on the earth, whether to be at peace or not.
If there was a drawback for me, it was that, except for the ending, I knew what would happen next as
it happened. It didn't matter because the journey swept me along. I have to say I have never read a
novel like this in my life, so thoughtful, so dark, and yet so magnificent.
~ Bill Wetterman, author of A Covenant with Death
John Biggs is an award-winning author and it's plain to see why. Larger than life characters
draw the reader in just as his prose brings the story to life. John's unique take on everyday
events will stay in the reader's mind for a very long time.
~ Regina Williams, Editor/Publisher The Storyteller and Mockingbird Lane Press
John Biggs has two dilemmas: he's seen the magic that surrounds everyone and he can't stop writing
about it. We don't know if it has anything to do with the Native American culture that surrounds him,
but we wonder. There was that business with the paint. He swears it was just a smudge on his cheek he
got when doing a little touch-up around the house, but we're not so sure.
His knowledge of the criminal underworld benefitted from a part time job as a night security guard in
Chicago and his later work as a prison dentist in Lexington, Oklahoma. His familiarity with the
mystical realm is a mystery to most who know him as a pretty regular guy.
John moved to Chicago in 1968, in time for the Democratic National Convention riots, which he didn't
attend but remembers in great detail. He's written many research articles — a very bad way to
learn the craft, he says — and started writing fiction in 2001. Since then he's published dozens
of short stories and won numerous awards, including the grand prize of the 80th Annual Writer's Digest
Writing Competition for "Boy Witch."
John and his wife travel at every opportunity. He loves reading and writing to the point of fanaticism,
and spends altogether too much time in cemeteries. He won't tell us who he talks to there, but it's clear
he's got a direct line to someone — or something — that's giving him inspiration.