On the gorgeous cover of the newest Wild Cards novel, Mississippi Roll, a ghostly man pilots a wide ship’s wheel, his form ebbing away into tendrils like mist. Previously the captain of the steamboat Natzchez, the incorporeal man now haunts the ship’s decks and halls as it plies the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. In an inspired twist, the silent and otherwise unseen Wilbur Leathers can only manifest himself through steam.
The majority of Mississippi Roll takes place on the rivers, and most of the action occurs on the steamer itself. The story begins in New Orleans as the boat makes her way slowly northward, stopping at a variety of ports along the way. In addition to the crew, the Natchez is populated by passengers, entertainers, stowaways, and the odd raven. Bearing all the human drama playing out on her decks, the Natchez makes her way up to St. Louis, cuts back around the confluence into the Ohio River, and heads for Cincinnati and the Tall Stacks steamboat festival.