A new crop in regional literature
by Rob Neufeld
Southern Appalachia is speaking through the voices of many people who have small and on-demand publishers to get them in the thought-stream, as well as such stalwart contributors to our culture as John F. Blair, Publisher.
“If the sheriff wasn’t a standing in front of you, I’d blow you to kingdom come,” Myrtle Woodard tells Floyd Caldwell at the start of Pipes’ period-smoked, family-feud murder story. “Darby” is the small town in Wilkes County where it takes place.
Pipes’ debut stems from a tale his father had told him—about how, as a boy, he’d came upon a man standing in the middle of Elk Creek, bleeding from a knife wound. “Clen, I’m stobbed and I’m stobbed bad,” the man had said. The feud that developed ten years later is also based on fact.
Many plot lines develop—including the feud’s repercussions, a Romeo and Juliet romance, and the careers of Floyd’s two sons—and the story move briskly.
A New Dawn in Appalachia: Life and Legends of the Southern Mountains by Hunter James (Moonshine Cove Publishing trade paper, May, 2013, 260 pages, $13.95, also on Kindle)
James, retired newspaper correspondent and editorialist, and Winston-Salem native, provides, in his 17th book, a justification for nostalgia: we are living in dark times, “brought on by evil forces far beyond the scope of our understanding.”
“When one wanders about the hills of North Carolina,” he writes in his prologue, “sometimes…skepticism begins to fade.”
James’ list of evils include schoolyard slayings and the mass killing of the unborn, as well as the self-inflicted fall of godly men such as Jerry Falwell; and the public misunderstanding of such conservatives as Sam Ervin.
James refers to and quotes many literary and political sources. He’s well-read; and he has conducted many interviews. Still, more than half of the 36 pieces in this book celebrate local lore, including the Brown Mountain lights, the Linn Cove viaduct, the rescue of the New River, and Tom Dula. There are two entries about the Ponders of Madison County; and one about Thad Eure, the “ramp king.”
Voices of Cherokee Women edited by Carolyn Ross Johnston (John F. Blair trade paper, Sept. 25, 2013, 311 pages, $12.95, also available as e-book)
The historical path of Cherokee women—from community leaders to disempowered Indians to Cherokee chiefs—is chronicled by 52 letters, diaries, oral histories, myths, and accounts.
The book's publication is timed for the commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears, and there are 15 first-person accounts of that tragic event.
For example, in 1932 Rebecca Neugin, born Wa-ki, told WPA interviewer Grant Foreman how her father wanted to resist, but was dissuaded from that by her mother. Eight of her brothers and sisters and a few widows and children rode in her father’s ox-pulled wagon to Oklahoma; her brother Dick and her parents walked.
“A great many little children died of whooping cough,” Neugin reported. There’s much more, not only the other accounts, essential for classroom studies, but also links to the original sources.
Included in the unquoted part of the interview, Johnston notes, is Neugin’s account of her pet duck, which “she would not leave behind. She held it so hard that she squeezed the life out of it. For ninety years afterward, she grieved its death.”
Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis (Beaufort Books hardcover, June 10, 2013, 297 pages, $18.44)
The bonus in this book by the Asheville author, holder of the record for the fastest through-hike of the Appalachian Trail (46½ days), is its charming writing. The travel memoir is not only a story of the journey, but also of heartbreak, healing, and relationships.
Davis presents her book at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 7 p.m., Saturday. Call 254-6734.
Murdering Oscar Wilde: A Nosy Rosy Mystery with the Pitchkettle Players by Nancy Sales Cash (Old Mountain Press trade paper, Nov. 2013, 210 pages)
The Asheville author’s “southern-fried romp” mixes village doings with a murder mystery and theatrical fun to entertain fans. A production of “The “Importance of Being Earnest” is under threat of being killed as had been the leading man’s father.
One of the Wilde lines quoted is “You should leave literary criticism to people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers.” Well, there are very few critics left in papers, degreed or not, but the show must go on, as does the Pitchkettle Players’ show. Let’s support our local writers and playmakers.
Cash signs her novel at Mountain Made Gallery in the Grove Arcade, Asheville, 1 to 3 p.m., Sat., Dec. 14. Call 350-0307.