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Mississippi Arts: Greg Iles – New...

Mississippi Arts: Greg Iles – New book and new fight

By: Marilyn Tinnin - March 27, 2024

Greg Iles

  • One of the Magnolia State’s most prolific authors is now in the midst of his own page-turning personal story.

Greg Iles, one of Mississippi’s most prolific authors, releases his nineteenth novel, Southern Man, on May 28. The fictional heroic prosecutor, Penn Cage, returns to his Natchez and Bienville roots in a gripping tale set during the 2024 Presidential election season. As always, Greg’s fictional characters are multi-dimensional and complete with backstories, secrets, and page-turning twists readers have come to expect from Iles.

Greg is in the midst of his own page-turning personal story. In a recent post on the front page of his website, he revealed that he has been waging a 28-year battle with multiple myeloma. He calls himself “one of the luckiest patients alive” in being able to continue his successful writing career without a “terminal progression” of the disease. Two years ago, the cancer began to rear its ugly head, and he says although the disease is still “incurable,” there are many more promising treatment options available to him today. 

He was deep into writing Southern Man when his cancer “switched on,” as he says. Greg, the artist he is, wanted to finish the book before he began the stem cell transplant he deemed his best option. For the time being, he is simply focusing on his treatment and recovery. By all means, go to his website,, and devour every morsel of information there. He is incredibly transparent in sharing his thoughts. Who doesn’t respect a guy who prioritizes family, friends, and Mississippi?

Greg, a longtime Natchez resident, was born in Germany in 1960. At the time, his physician father was in charge of the U.S. Embassy clinic. Greg spent his teen years in Natchez, and after graduation from high school, the National Merit finalist headed off to Ole Miss to study pre-med.

Although his grades were good, his heart was not in medicine. A few semesters in, he switched his major to English and found his niche. Inspired by Ole Miss’s Writer in Residence Willie Morris, Greg was one of several authors who absorbed the genius art of storytelling from the best in the business.

Writing songs and traveling with a rock band captured his attention as a 20-something. Such was a great life until he married and realized he needed to make more money to support a family.

That realization of the nuts and bolts of survival was the impetus for his writing career. Such inconvenient and tedious necessities like groceries, electricity, a roof over your head, and basic creature comforts led him to find a paying job beyond the rock band weekend gigs. And aren’t we grateful?

With $8,000 in his bank account and a number of student loans, Greg’s first book, Spandau Phoenix, became a New York Times best-seller right out of the gate. The fact-meets-fiction story about a Nazi World War II criminal was a brilliant premier book. The unique thing about Greg Iles is how he leaps all over the map on his theme material. From World War II intrigue, he jumped to the lingering complexities of the Antebellum South. He is never shy about confronting the most controversial issues few would touch with a ten-foot pole!

That may be why we all love him and identify with him. It might be a Southern thing. A defiance of social norms here and there is in our genes.

Greg’s rise to fame came quickly. As novel after novel rose to the top of the New York Times best seller list, Greg never considered leaving Mississippi. He was checking the construction site of his family’s new forever home on the outskirts of Natchez in 2011 when an 18-wheeler broadsided his Audi SUV. He woke up in a hospital bed a week later, missing his lower right leg and fighting for his life with a ruptured aorta. His survival was nothing short of a miracle. A several-month convalescence at Methodist Rehab changed his entire perspective on life. 

“You don’t have to spend much time at Methodist Rehab to realize you’re lucky…even if you are in the shape I was in.” Losing a limb looked minor compared to the challenges of some compatriots who labored beside him every day in physical therapy.

The long road back to health was compounded by the loss of his publisher, his agent, and debt. He had to repay his publisher the advance he had received for the book he was writing before his accident. In a Mississippi Public Broadcasting interview with Marshall Ramsey in 2017, Greg talked about basically “starting over” with his career. In that interview, he mentioned the often-quoted adage, “Out of great suffering comes great art.”

In the short years after his accident, he produced some of his most outstanding work, including the Penn Cage trilogy, Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, and Mississippi Blood.

Greg comes across in an interview as quite the extrovert. He reveals that writing is a lonely pursuit requiring long days of isolation. The rewards may be worth the sacrifice, but the process can be depressing.

What is an author to do to satisfy his need for social connection? For Greg Iles, what else but to join a rock band? 

The Rock Bottom Remainders,  a group of full-time writers who are amateur musicians, leave their laptops behind for one week on an annual road trip and tour to raise money for charitable causes. They travel in their own tour bus, receive prime billing wherever they go, and still appear before sell-out crowds despite having no albums to sell. Their videos offer a peek into their personalities and the friendships that flourish in their shared space.

In addition to Greg, members of this motley crew include Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, James McBride, and Roy Blount, Jr. Having raised more than two million dollars for charity through the years, the group that began solely for escape and fun, has given back to those fans and readers who have brought them success. 

Read more about them at In the meantime, check out for frequent updates on his health and the roll-out of his about to be released Southern Man.

About the Author(s)
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Marilyn Tinnin

Marilyn Tinnin is a lifelong Mississippian who treasures her Delta roots. She considers herself a forever student of politics, culture, and scripture. She was the founder and publisher of Mississippi Christian Living magazine. She retired in 2018 and spends her time free-lancing, watching Masterpiece series with her husband, and enjoying her grandchildren.