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Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
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Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
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Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1

Charles Price answers the riddle of a killer

by Rob Neufeld

(cover images by Britt Kaufmann)

 

            Charles Price, one of the most significant writers of historical sagas in this region, has taken a turn for the West.

            His quartet of Hiwassee Valley novels, starting with “Hiwassee” and concluding with “Where the Water-Dogs Laughed,” stands alongside John Ehle’s sextet, Fred Chappell’s quartet, and Wilma Dykeman’s threesome.

            Price has his own brand—and I don’t mean market niche.  I mean a design that burns and marks his fiction, and which carries over to his latest venture, westerns of a sort.

            “Four Sixes to Beat,” a craps reference, is the third western he has published exclusively as an e-book.  It concerns the life of John Wesley Hardin, the killer. 

            Hardin, as the book opens, is living, toward the end of his life, in El Paso, writing his memoir.  He questions himself, trying to make himself right by the lights of his late father, a Methodist minister.

            So, there is much internal monologue; and dialogue with other characters.  But there’s also a lot of action, fed partly by flashbacks.

            As with Price’s locally set fiction, hard times and hard people dictate an unfashionable level of realism—violence, racism, and, in the Hardin book, sex.  Throughout all his work, as the following interview also reveals, Price seeks to resolve the disturbing chasm between the gentle religion in which he’d been raised—his father was a Methodist minister—and the soulless horrors that plague us still.

            As an aside, I feel there’s always a market for good literature, if the publishers do their jobs.  One  novel with which Price’s fiction has a kinship, “Deadwood” by Pete Dexter, was turned into a very popular HBO series.

 

Q:  How many westerns have you written?

 

A:  I have written several westerns, but it’s more like writing historical novels set in the Old West.  And I have a non-fiction book that will be coming out (in June) about the Espinosas, serial killers, set in 1863. 

 

Q:  How did you come to write about John Wesley Hardin?

 

A:  I was fascinated in imagining the mind-set of a person who was able to kill 42 human beings and justify it…He was the son of a Methodist minister, as I am.

 

Q:  What is part of the explanation?

 

A:  His environment was Reconstruction Era Texas, in which killing had specific social connotations.  It was justified and even applauded by society.  Most of the murders that Hardin committed had been against officials, blacks, and state police.

 

Q:  Have you seen the new Tarantino movie, “Django Unchained?”  The “New York Times” praised its mix of sensationalism and ethical seriousness.  The only ethic I saw was: “slavery—bad.”

 

A:  Tarantino has done more to trivialize violence than almost anybody.  My book is full of blood.  The characters have conversations about violence.  Hardin has a little bit of a conscience left.  He wonders if he is a vessel of violence to be eradicated.  There’s a serious discussion at the end about the meaning of violence.

 

Q:  Hardin’s first flashback is triggered by a smell of apples.  Is smell an important sense in your stories?

 

A:  There’s more and more sensory detail that comes back to him as he considers his victims.  He becomes obsessed.  His killings are coming back to haunt him.  There’s a legend that people who write about Wes Hardin end up being haunted by him.  Leon Metz wrote the biography, “John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas.”  I called him when I was doing research.  He felt afraid of Hardin at the time of his writing.  When at a book signing, he felt Hardin’s displeasure so strongly, he found himself sitting outside on the curb afterward, weeping in fear.

 

Q:  What about you?

 

A:   After I finished, I began to feel that there was another presence in the house.  It was like he was saying, “You did good,” which is horrifying to me.  I had not endorsed his actions, but to think that what I had done pleased him was disturbing.  In the end, I came to the conclusion that satisfied me regarding the riddle about who he was.

 

Q:  Can you say something about your connection with Hardin in having Methodist minister fathers?

 

A:  Hardin was named after the founder of Methodism.  His narration is loaded with Biblical allusions.  He was drenched in religious doctrine, yet was one of the worst killers in the West.  He linked himself with people in the Bible who spilled a lot of blood.  The parts of the Bible that people like him cling to come from the Old Testament, which should be seen as a precursor to its fulfillment, the New Testament.  My father (Edgar C. Price) stood for kind and gentle things, and I worshipped him.  I’ve recently been writing about a group of heretics—the Albigensians—in 13th century France against whom the Pope declared a crusade.  The crusaders ran up against a practical problem when they came upon the targeted towns.  Whom should they kill?  There were innocent people among the heretics.  The papal legate said, “Kill them all.”

 

Q:  What’s the reason you’re going with e-books?

 

A:  Rejections I have gotten from publishers have said, “We can’t sell it.”  I never wrote a single line with an idea of the market.  I wrote only what I wanted to write.  I had things I wanted to say…I’ve got a lot of unpublished novels—about ten books that I’ve written over the last 17 years (aside from five bound books in print and one upcoming)—that I want to get out.   Four of them are e-books now.  Britt Kaufmann, the poet, playwright, and graphic artist, did the covers.  She’s brilliant.

 

BOOKS

Four Sixes to Beat: John Wesley Hardin in El Paso by Charles F. Price (e-book, Dec. 15, 2012, $9.99).

Other new Price westerns: Above the Caprock (Nov. 30, 2012); and Vengeance on the Sweetgrass: A Literary Western (Oct. 21, 2012).

New e-book, set in 12th century Europe: Call Down Heaven’s Fire (Jan. 4, 2012). 

 

LEARN MORE

Visit Charles Price’s website at www.charlesfprice.com

 

ART

Book covers:

Four Sixes to Beat

Call down Heaven's Fire

Vengeance on the Sweetgrass

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