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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson reveals how surreal emotions areby Rob Neufeld             Adam Johnson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” comes to Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, 7 p.m., Fri., Sept. 4 to present his new book of short stories, “Fortune Smiles.”            The stories are remarkable…See More
Monday
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Leanne Brown will Present Her Cookbook at City Lights Bookstore

September 4, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Leanne Brown will visit City Lights Bookstore to present her cookbook on Friday, September 4th at 6:30 p.m. Her book, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day is designed for those on the strictest of budgets, particularly those on the U.S. food stamp budget. This book is great, though, for anyone wanting to eat really well cheaply. Good and Cheap features tips on shopping and kitchen equipment, and more than a hundred easy, flexible recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To reserve a copy,…See More
Aug 22
Spellbound updated an event
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September Teen Book Club at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

September 18, 2015 from 6pm to 7pm
Our new monthly book club for teens meets the third Friday of each month, 6:00-7:00PM. A different book will be discussed at each meeting, and will cover a variety of genres. No purchase is required to attend, but if you do plan to buy the book, we’d appreciate your support of Spellbound as the hosting store! All book club selections are 20% off until the day of the meeting.September's title: SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus Sedgwick.See More
Aug 22
Spellbound posted events
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Betty Smith at Hendersonville culture event September 17

Center Kicks Off New Series With A BangNew “Keeping the Fires Burning Series” Launches With Betty Smith and Songcatcher (from press release) (HENDERSONVILLE, NC, August 18, 2015) – The Center for Cultural Preservation, is pleased to announce the launch of its second season of its popular public program series KEEPING THE FIRES BURNING- Heroes of Mountain Culture.  The series features musicians, authors and heritage preservation leaders who are working to keep mountain culture alive.  The…See More
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Pam Durban, author of Soon, gripping, psychological, Southern stories

Pam Durban: Facing reality with a wide-open eyeby Rob Neufeld             John Updike honored Pam Durban’s story, “Soon,” by selecting it for his anthology, “The Best American Short Stories of the Century.”  Now, it’s one of 11 included in Durban’s new volume, also titled “Soon.”            “Soon,” the short story, is a marvel…See More
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Aug 19
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Mary Joyce Returns with a New Book at City Lights Bookstore

September 12, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Sylva author, Mary Joyce will return to City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, September 12th at 3 p.m. to present her latest book.Underground Military Bases Hidden in North Carolina Mountains compiles information gathered by Joyce over several years about secret military facilities in North Carolina. The information about the secret bases is mostly from those with military, law enforcement and high-security backgrounds plus citizens who have stumbled upon evidence. Joyce is also the author…See More
Aug 18
Bill Ramsey posted an event

North Carolina Writer's Network Fall Conference at Asheville Doubletree Hilton

August 20, 2015 to August 22, 2015
When did you last attended a top quality and affordable writer's conference? The North Carolina Writer's Network is returning to western North Carolina. Membership in the Network is encouraged but not required to attend this event. For more info:http://www.ncwriters.org/2014-01-07-18-05-50/conferencesSee More
Aug 15
katherine soniat posted photos
Aug 12
Rob Neufeld commented on Joe Epley's blog post Speaking about the American Revollution in the Carolinas
"See Joe's website, Epley Writes, including about his novel, A Passel of Hate,"
Aug 12
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

R.T. Smith--Rachel-Rivers Coffey Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at App State

R.T. Smith, poet, story-writer, and founder of Cold Mountain Review, honored with App State roleSee notice of new book at Washington & Lee U.fROM PRESS RELEASEBOONE—Writer R.T. (Rod) Smith has been named the 2015-16 Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at Appalachian State University. Smith will lead an eight-week colloquium during fall semester for students in Appalachian’s creative writing…See More
Aug 12
Pat Meece Davis posted videos
Aug 9
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 8
Spellbound posted events
Aug 8
Joe Epley posted a blog post

Speaking about the American Revollution in the Carolinas

I have a busy September talking about the American Revolutionary War and signing books.8 Sep - Sons of the American Revolution - Kings Mountain, NC13- Sep - Broad River Genealogical Society - Shelby, NC17 Sep -Sons of the American Revolution - Bluffton, SC23-24 Oct - Francis Marion Symposium - Manning, SCSee More
Aug 8

Burnsville novelist explores Old West serial murders

by Rob Neufeld

[See full interview with Charles Price]

 

            Charles Price—originally of Clay County; then of Washington, D.C.; and now of Burnsville—has never been politically correct, as far as I know.

            Nor has he ever been a sensationalist.  His quartet of novels set in fictionalized Clay County from the Civil War up through the early 20th century portray, with penetrating honesty, a wide range of low and high characters involved in historical conflicts. 

In this way, his work is most akin to the novels of John Ehle.

            His fifth published novel, “Nor the Battle to the Strong,” reveals his heroic temperament, as he follows the exploits and thoughts of a Quaker Revolutionary War general and a local private. 

            Lately, he has turned to westerns, which means they’re set in the Old West, a place to which he’d originally formed an attraction as a kid, watching Roy Rogers on TV, he revealed in an interview.

 

Season of Terror

 

            Today, Price settles in the saddle of his office chair with more philosophy and grit than “True Grit.” 

            His new book, “Season of Terror,” the first thorough examination of the Espinosas, serial murderers in Civil War-era Colorado, contains horror and tragedy, but also moments of grace and scene-circling post-mortems.

            Price has as many questions as answers as he tries to avoid the traps of interpretation.  Such traps had led the relatives and neighbors of the Espinosas’ mutilated victims to form a posse and hang and torture innocent suspects.

            It seems that Price, throughout his career, has exerted a minister’s attempt to bring full understanding to communities seized by worst case scenarios.

            I asked him how he got attracted to his latest subject.

            One day in the 1990s, he told me, he was leafing through a book about Old West firearms, when he saw “a photograph of a man dressed in a fancy, fringed buckskin coat, holding a percussion-cap Hawken plains rifle.” 

            The caption said it was of a plainsman named Tom Tobin who had killed and beheaded two of the Espinosas.  (No spoiler alerts in non-fiction!)

            “Despite my familiarity with the history of the frontier,” Price explained, “I had never heard of Tobin or the Espinosas and immediately wanted to know more of the story.”  He came to learn that no reliable book-length account of the episode existed, so he went on a hunt.  

            “The more sources I found,” he related, “the more fascinating the story became.  Because the Espinosas were Hispanic and devout Catholics and had announced that their purpose was to kill all the Anglos in Colorado Territory, the incident raised all sorts of religious, ethnic and political issues, some of which have resonance today.”

 

Posse time

 

            Now, let’s back up—because “Season of Terror” has fiction-like, suspenseful elements.  There’s a progression and there are resonances.

            In his introduction, Price outlines the story: three Mexican-Americans—the Espinosa brothers, Felipe and José, and their nephew, José Vincente—killed and mutilated 32 victims before being exterminated eight months after their spree had started. 

            Many reasons have been proposed for the Espinosas’ barbarity.  One of the compelling factors is that, two months before the first act of terrorism (is it accurate to call it that?), the Espinosas, New Mexico natives, “were assaulted in their homes by troops of the US Army.  Before then, they appear to have been no more dangerous than run-of-the-mill, small-time bandidos.”

            Does the connection to modern day jihads provide “sufficient reasons to pluck the dread Espinosas from the dustbin of history and parade their massacres before the reader?” 

            Price answers yes—“not simply because the Espinosas were verifiably the worst serial killers in frontier history,” but also because “theories and ideologies can never explain everything, that in the final analysis the human heart is always an insoluble mystery.”

 

Vendetta and vengeance

 

            Chapter 1 reveals the first murder.  Henry Harkens, a 55-year-old former gold prospector, who had settled the “wildly beautiful but brooding and lonely” Saw Mill Gulch, was found dead in his cabin, “his head split open with an ax and two ugly gashes in his left breast.”

            By Chapter 3, we are hearing all the chatter—witnesses, lawmen, newspapermen, rumor-mongers—as a cavalryman’s brother becomes the latest victim.  The killers’ identities are still unknown; a lynching sentiment forms.

            You feel like you’re reading a combination of Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” and Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s “The Ox-Bow Incident.”  Except that “Season of Terror” is history and essay, and keeps stepping back to examine not only the evidence but also the historiography.

            In the final chapters, Price lays out a series of multiple endings for his story. 

            First, there’s the plot-driven ending: Tom Tobin kills and decapitates the Espinosas.  Then there’s a focus on Tobin’s character—a surprising tale of tenderness lurking within a hardened man.

            By the way, Price presents a great photo of Tobin, as well as photos of other subjects, including the brooding setting.

            Three chapters follow the Tobin chapters—one featuring a puzzling historian; a second serving as a postscript on Tobin; and the third and last discussing “alternate theories.”

 

Fiction v. non-fiction

 

            I asked Price about the novelistic aspects of his non-fiction.

            “I actually first took up the Espinosa story as a novelist,” Price revealed.  “I wrote a mammoth 600-page manuscript entitled ‘Blood Offerings.’…I still hope, if ‘Season of Terror’ does well, that I might be able to sell the novel eventually.”

            “After completing ‘Blood Offerings,’” Price continued, “I decided that, since I had found no single authoritative historical source on the Espinosas, I would try to write the history source that I had sought but never found during my research for the novel.”

            How does his history book compare to his fictional treatment?

            “The novel has multiple endings too,” Price said.  Also, “the cast of characters in both books is so diverse and representative of the races and social standings of the time and place, it seems like a cross-section of frontier life to me.

            “I was especially drawn to the female characters in the novel—Felipe's crippled but beautiful wife Secundina; Tobin's adoring wife Maria Pascuala; and his mistress, Dominga, with one foot in the Navajo world and one in the Anglo-Hispano world of Tobin. 

            “I used one of the real-life hunters for the Espinosas as a major character in the novel— Fremont County Sheriff Egbert Bradley, who is fascinated and repelled by the possible motives of the killers and ends by being drawn into their world. 

            “The real-life destinies are so much more poignant than anything I could have invented,” he concluded.

 

THE BOOK

Season of Terror: The Espinosa’s in Central Colorado, March-October 1863 by Charles F. Price (University Press of Colorado hardcover, May 2013, 351 pages, $34.95).

 

EVENT

Charles Price presents his book at Malaprop’s Bookstore today at 3 p.m.  Call 254-6734.  He will be a featured author at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, Sept. 6 – 8.

 

LEARN MORE

See the complete interview with Price on “The Read on WNC.”  See Price’s blog, including a report on his recent book tour in Colorado, on his website at www.charlesfprice.com.

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