Pascagoula native, Wes Dannreuther released his second novel, South Toward Horn, at the end of September. Although it’s not a sequel to his first book, Horn Island Dream, both books explore the mystique of the Mississippi Gulf Coast barrier islands.
Set in Coastal Mississippi, Dannreuther paints a vivid picture of a young man (Jimmy O’Connor) searching for the truth about his father, a truth that could set him free — or kill him. South Toward Horn explores the political landscape between progress and conservation, from the shipyard to the islands, with mystery, adventure, drama, and romance.
Dannreuther certainly knows his way around the Gulf Barrier Islands. Having grown up in Pascagoula and graduated from Pascagoula High School, he left the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1996 to attend LSU, where he graduated with a degree in English and an M.Ed. He spent the first seven years of his career as a public school teacher and administrator in inner city Baton Rouge.
“I loved teaching but needed a change, so I ventured into business and never looked back,” Dannreuther said.
Dannreuther then moved to Pensacola, Florida with his wife and children to start Intracoastal Outfitters, a retail business that continues to operate today on Pensacola Beach.
“My passion for the outdoors led me to start my business. I’ve always loved being on the water. I grew up water skiing in the Pascagoula and Escatawpa Rivers, became a certified diver, and spent countless days at the islands camping, fishing, and exploring,” Dannreuther said. “During graduate school, after what should have been a fatal car accident, I started sailing and fell in love. Around that same time, I started kayaking and got into sea kayaking, mainly so I could paddle to the islands, even though I was still living in Baton Rouge. I came home every chance I got to sail or paddle to the islands.”
The islands play a significant role in the inspiration for Dannreuther’s writing. Having spent so many days and nights on the islands, the author wanted to capture his experiences in a story.
“I first wrote about Jimmy O’Connor in ‘Horn Island Dream,’ and after its publication, readers wanted to know more about the main character’s father,” Dannreauther said. “Readers’ questions led me to study the islands’ history. I was fascinated, especially with all the controversy surrounding the island’s inclusion in the Gulf Islands National Seashore- a history neither I nor anyone I knew had ever heard about. It had never been talked about in any class I’d ever taken, and it just took off from there. I was captivated by the history of the fight to protect the islands and the politics behind it.”
Inspired by his love of his hometown, Dannreuther continued: “When I graduated PHS, I was ready to leave my small coastal hometown. It didn’t take me long to realize how unique of a place Mississippi is. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the place, and there are parts of Mississippi that people just have no idea exist. I would put their beauty up against places like The Everglades. The truth is, the more I go home, the more I love it.”
The main character in South Toward Horn is a welder at Ingall’s Shipbuilding. Dannreuther worked as a ship fitter at Ingall’s during the summer when he was home from college.
“The summer I was at Ingall’s, my crew and I worked six, twelve-hour shifts. The shift was switched to 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. because it was so hot. Learning to weld and work like that is a grind. If I can do that, I can do just about anything. Those experiences have very much molded me into who I am. Because business is a grind, writing is a grind….my summer at Ingall’s taught me how to work hard and grind.”
Many readers might recognize the art for the cover of his first book, Horn Island Dream, as the author received permission from Walter Anderson’s family to use it as an additional nod to the culture of Coastal Mississippi. The cover art for South Toward Horn is also a tribute to his childhood home.
“I might have left the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but it never left me. My Mississippi ties are strong. The older I get, the more Mississippi I am.”
Wes Dannreuther will be at The Peter Anderson Festival in November for the first book signing of his book, South Toward Horn. For more information about the author or his books, readers can visit his blog for updates.