Originally published in 1941, Cottonmouth is an Alabama novel like no other in its evocation of the sights, sounds, and smells of the city of Mobile, and in its depiction of a young boy growing up in the Deep South during the early 20th century. Highly autobiographical, the book is, in a real sense, two stories in one: the biography of a boy from his earliest memories through high school, and the life of a city in the years between the two world wars. In his introduction to this reprint within The Library of Alabama Classics, Benjamin B. Williams presents the author, Julian Lee Rayford, the literary figure and well-known Mobilian, and places his work not only in the context of the times but also within the life of the city Rayford loved.
Cottonmouth is an animated, vigorous, and intensely nostalgic portrayal of life in Mobile. With fine literary skill, Rayford captures the heartbeat of the city, and through the character Paul, reminds the reader of the joys, sorrows, successes, and failures of childhood and adolescence.