Affiliated Networks



Latest Activity

Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Land Still Speaks film and Culture Vulture fest, Oct 30

Culture festival features film about mountain eldertsfrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation presents a film festival that highlights mountain heritage, Jewish heritage and African-American heritage on October 30th at the Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College.   The festival will feature three films, including the world premiere of a new film, The Land Still Speaks to Us which includes the voices of mountain elders throughout WNC.  There will also be music by local…See More
3 hours ago
Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Oct 1
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8

David Madden's new novel, London Bridge in Plague and Fire

Knoxville literary magician pens his “Moby Dick”

by Rob Neufeld

See review.


            Novelist David Madden grew up in a two-room shack in Knoxville and—after years soaking in the magic of that town; serving in the army; and studying at the University of Tennessee, San Francisco State, and Yale—has become one of the most accomplished literary writers in America. 

            For 25 years, he was Writer-in Residence at Louisiana State University; and for three years after that, the director of the creative writing program there.

            He now lives in Black Mountain with his wife Robbie, near their son’s family.  His tenth novel (and 39th book), “London Bridge in Plague and Fire,” has just been published, to great early acclaim.

            Madden launches his book locally at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 7 p.m., Nov. 10.  He speaks at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Nov. 12.

            Madden’s writing career is marked by a distinctive devotion to the powers of dramatic and compassionate imagination.  Each of his novels is different from the others, taking the form of its material.  The following interview expands on that appreciation.  A review of the novel appears in this column next week.  Also visit to see future author events.


Q:  How was “London Bridge in Plague and Fire” born?


A:  When I was 16, I saw Henry V with Laurence Olivier.  The opening credits show ancient London Bridge, with all the houses and shops on it.  About 50 years ago, I saw the movie again, and I was intrigued.  I made a note, “ancient London Bridge would be a great setting for a musical.” …One day, I just decided to do it.  Every night, just before leaving my study to go to bed, I devoted 10 to 20 minutes to listening to voices from the bridge, speaking about the bridge in very bizarre terms.  


Q:  What did that produce?


A:  I ended up with 200 pages of unusable surrealistic feelings, thoughts, and voices derived from reading a single book—the best book, “Old London Bridge” by Gordon Home…I went to London and found that nobody that I talked to, including members of Parliament, knew who Peter de Colechurch, the architect of the bridge, was…When he built his bridge (completed in 1205), it was the first stone bridge in Europe since the Romans went back to Italy.  The number of shops and houses made it unique...My inspiration was this feeling: what a marvelous, small community, and all those lives and merchants, and people working in shops that were at the most 12 feet wide, and houses at the most six stories high, but incredibly narrow, with views to the east and west.


Q:  In addition to the architect’s voice, there’s also the poet, Daryl Braintree.


A: I created his voice and found that it was unclear when he was speaking in the narrative, and when I was speaking.  So, I let it stand as ambiguous since I think the two of us merged in the various drafts…There are, by the way, ten huge drafts…I built the bridge with Peter de Colechurch in one version, and I called that, “London Bridge Rising.”  Then there was “London Bridge Falling,” about plague and fire.  Then, what I’ve done is collapse the two into the published novel, which is “London Bridge in Plague and Fire.”  A fourth one was going to be a book of the poems only.  They were called “London Bridge Nocturnes.”


Q:  You’re like Herman Melville.


A:  Yeah, it’s my “Moby Dick.”  I have combined the essential elements of all the versions into one novel.


Q:  There are lurid plots in your novel, based on history—such as the sacrifice of 13-year-old virgins to protect the bridge.  How do you turn sensationalist material into Southern Gothic in literary ways?


A:  I would say the influence on me is “Absalom, Absalom.”  It’s interesting you should say Southern Gothic because it could be that only a Southerner could have written this seemingly un-Southern story.  I’m a Southern writer who keeps writing outside the South.  


Q:  Your upcoming trip to Knoxville makes me think of how you mythologize your hometown in such books as your novel, “Bijou.”  What is so rich about the place?


A:  The look of Knoxville—its seven hills, like Rome—during the Civil War, there were batteries on all those hills.  The bridges.  By the way, about the origin of “London Bridge”—it was Gay Street Bridge in Knoxville.  I used to go down there in a trembling sense of excitement (as a youth), and walk across it, skipping over the broken parts, which is right there in “London Bridge in Plague and Fire.”  I could see the river below, where the pavement had been punched through, and look down on the life below, which was ancient Knoxville slums, and houseboats.  Anything—cemeteries, old houses, Knoxville High School—I was the last graduating class—my own home, which was a shack.  I was born in a two-room shack…I wrote a few passages of “London Bridge” on two or three visits to Gay Street Bridge when I couldn’t do it at home…(Then there’s) the geography (of Knoxville)—the mountains in the distance—that’s why I love Black Mountain and the Asheville area— because it’s like Knoxville.  I’d be in Knoxville if it weren’t for my son being here.


David Madden launches his novel, “London Bridge in Plague and Fire,”

at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville.  Call 254-6734.

See more of the interview on “The Read on WNC” at

Views: 185

Reply to This

© 2015   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service