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Spooks Branch, a human history story

Spooks Branch was a singular place in settlers’ loreby Rob NeufeldImportant editorial note:This is a significant historical story that is also, in parts, personal and controversial.  It is about a few families who settled a particular cove and played out their heroic and complex legacies in ways that interacted with place and time.  You don't read this kind of story much because people don't like to expose themselves or stir up trouble, even a little.  This caution makes history classes boring…See More
Dawn Trowell Jones updated their profile
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 21
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Nov 20
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
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Nov 16
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
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Nov 13
Rob Neufeld commented on Mark de Castrique's video
Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
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Nov 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
Lockie Hunter posted an event

Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
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Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

It's All Relative--50 WNC women write about family

Family life as perceived by 50 WNC authorsby Rob Neufeld             If you have biases against small press books or anthologies of local writers’ work, I recommend you lay them aside and take a look at “It’s All Relative” (Stone Ivy Press), 52 stories and poems by 50 WNC women authors writing about family.           …See More
Nov 6

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.



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). 



Visit Charles Price’s website at



Book covers:

Four Sixes to Beat

Call down Heaven's Fire

Vengeance on the Sweetgrass

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