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Salman Rushdie 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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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “ My dad was…See More
Apr 19
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
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Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15
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Fred Chappell to Present His New Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

May 13, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Poet and novelist, Fred Chappell will return to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new fantasy novel. In A Shadow All of Light, a young man sets off on a journey to become the apprentice of a master shadow thief. His mysterious master challenges him with difficult mental and physical tests, setting in motion adventures with con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.Fred Chappell is a former professor of English at the University of…See More
Apr 12
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A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell

Literary master evokes classic fantasy taleby Rob Neufeld             Let’s say you’re going to a book fair, and a guy with a long grey beard and glittering eye stops you at the entrance.  He points to worn and rebound books he’s laid out on a table: Gulliver’s Travels; The Story of Sir Launcelot; The Three…See More
Apr 10
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Courtney Lix Presents Her History of Women in the Smokies at City Lights Bookstore

May 6, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Courtney Lix will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m. She will present her book Women of the Smokies which chronicles the women who contributed to making the Smokies what we know today. She will share some of the stories of these women and sign books. To reserve copies please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499.See More
Apr 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Horizons: Poems by Nancy Dillingham

Horizons: Poems by Nancy Dillingham(Stone Ivy Press trade paper, 2016, 51 pages, $10, www.oldmountainpress.com, distributor.  Cover painting by Fleta Monaghan.)Poet Nancy Dillingham reads from her works at the West Asheville Library, 942 Haywood Rd., Asheville, 2 p.m., Sat., Apr. 2, 2016; AND at Malaprop's Bookstore, Cafe, 3 p.m., Sun., Apr. 3 (254-6734).  Call 250-4750. …See More
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Mar 30

How to look at two of many new local books

by Rob Neufeld

 

            The number of books published by small, independent, and regional presses is increasing; and the number of reviewers, decreasing.

            Readers are forced to trust blogs, tweets, online comments, and flyleafs in order to make reading choices that are not ratified by best-seller lists.

            Hence the need for another book selection method—sampling.

 

Hook, look, and book

 

            Start with the hook.

            Let’s take the thriller “The Moroni Deception,” written by local author Jack Brody, and just published in e-book format. 

            The hook: A reporter discovers that two ritual murders relate to a coveted Mormon relic and the rise of a Mormon presidential candidate.

            Does the hook interest you?   If so, you’ll want to get answers to questions that arise from the teaser.

            Is the novel going to be like “The Da Vinci Code,” and be as much fun? 

            Given the hook and the title (Moroni is the angel who’d directed Joseph Smith to the golden plates), is the book going to delve into Mormon history in satisfying ways?

 

Sit for a spell

 

            Read the first 30 to 50 pages to get a feel for the book’s style.

            This is what I found in “The Moroni Deception”:

            Stock character types, featuring Michael Chenault, a rumpled, handsome journalist, keen on solving puzzles and flip in the face of danger.  If you’re interested in more ambiguity in characters, stop here.  If fun is what you crave, continue.

            Snappy suspense.  Chapters are short; the action jumps around between a few parallel plot lines; and there’s never a dull moment.

            A good amount of smooth writing.  When police detectives want to know why Chenault had been the last person that a relic-seeking man had called before being murdered, Chenault admits to having penned a tongue-in-cheek story for a tabloid newspaper early in his career.

            “A certain segment of his readership,” Brody notes, “had taken his story a bit too literally about a half-man, half-insect, rumored to be living and breeding with several of the local women in rural southeastern Pennsylvania,” and Chenault became the fringe element’s favorite point man.

 

The righteous brothers

 

            One-sixth through “The Moroni Deception,” it’s clear that we’re dealing with an expose of a Mormon plot.  Two sociopathic Mormon brothers (I saw a Mexican cartel version of them in “Breaking Bad” on TV) are admitted by “the Prophet” into the secret Danite society of assassins, and informed of their divine mission.

            “Since the United States, which had been once a great nation, was not only in great moral decline,” the assassins learn, “but on the brink of a massive financial collapse, it first had to be saved…Now, with one of their (the Mormons’) own running for…President, the time had finally arrived for the plan to be set in motion.”

            This is where I stop reading, though I realize that fiction best-seller lists are dominated by books that wed contemporary fears to ticking time bomb plots.  It’s just that, when it comes to political facts, I’m a teetotaler—no stimulants.

            Those of you all who can loosen up for such rides might still have questions.  For instance, does the plot deliver?  Are there some revelations you might want to hold onto and perhaps investigate?  Might you want to make the book a cause célèbre, pro or con?

            To aid the sampling method of book selection, the best thing for me to do, I think, is put this review on the website, “The Read on WNC,” and get reader and author comments.

 

Meet the family

 

            Susan Snowden’s new novel, “Southern Fried Lies” is a thoroughly involving novel about an Atlanta family whose members adjust in off-balance ways to a dominating, mentally ill mother.

            The title’s not exactly right.  “Southern fried” connotes a humorous treatment.  Although there is humor, the main mood is a sense of peril within periods of safety.

            The cover art is excellent—striking and artistic, promising more than genre writing.

            So that leads us to the hook.  Snowden has chosen to place a four-page prologue before the first chapter.  The prologue is a glimpse of the plot four-fifths through the book, and establishes the voice of the narrator, 13-year-old Sarah Claiborne, whom we come to love for her combination of naiveté about the world and courageous engagement with her narrow circle.

            Chapter 1 begins: “My best friend, Wendy, referred to our house on Valley View Road as the Atlanta Museum.”  We learn about Mrs. Claiborne’s mania for manners and neatness, the father’s laissez faire attitude, and the four children’s ways of rebelling—and then receive the first clear note that the Claiborne’s fussiness is underlaid by craziness.

            “It seemed like the dinner hour at the Claibornes’ had two main characters: Mother and Ben,” Sarah relates.  “The rest of us were there just to watch the play.”

            In short order, some disturbing things begin to happen.  An uncle and aunt make a surprise visit on the way to Sarah’s grandma’s beach house, to which Sarah’s family hadn’t been invited.  The visitors catch Sarah’s mom in an unguarded disheveled moment.  Sarah fears being blamed for letting them in the house, and rides off on her bike.

            When she returns, she eavesdrops on Mother slamming things and screaming at Dad.

“I’m sick of all this, Edward,” she shrieks.  “Sick, sick, sick.  Sick of pretending everything’s just fine…when it’s falling apart (thump) like a house of cards.”

            The beauty of Snowden’s novel is the orchestration between the driving plot—how dangerous is Mrs. Claiborne going to get, and what’s going to happen with Ben and Sarah?—and the incidental progress of Sarah’s first year of young womanhood.

            “Southern Fried Lies” delivers because it is not solely tied to the thriller element; and the thriller element is as murky and swampy as a Tennessee Williams play.

THE BOOKS

The Moroni Deception by Jack Brody (Visigoth Press, sold by Amazon Digital Services, July 31, 2012, 242 pages, $8.99).

Southern Fried Lies by Susan Snowden (Archer Hill Publishing, Columbia SC, trade paper, Aug. 2012, 266 pages, $16.95).

 

LEARN MORE

Visit themoronideception,com.

Visit “The Read on WNC: at TheReadonWNC.ning.com for comments.

Susan Snowden is an Asheville area writer.  Visit her publisher at www.archerhillpublishing.com; and her editorial services website at www.snowdeneditorial,com.

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Hey Rob,  Thanks for the kind review, although I would remind you with regards to the latter portion, that in a conspiracy thriller, things (and characters) aren't always the the way and who they seem.  Below I've included a short "inside jacket" synopsis and I would remind any interested readers they can read the first 13 chapters for free on the website at http://www.themoronideception.com/   (There's a link on there for my blog as well.)

Michael Chenault, award-winning investigative journalist with the New York Times, is rousted in the middle of the night by NYPD detectives and accused of the bizarre murder of a complete stranger.  After clearing himself, Chenault finds that Martin Koplanski, the retired history professor he’d been accused of murdering, was likely killed for a mysterious Mormon relic long thought to be just a myth.  Twenty-four hours later, Chenault receives an email with a photo of the recently murdered wife of Presidential candidate, Brockston Ratchford.  She too appears to have been ritually killed in the exact manner as Koplanski, right down to having the same cryptic character scrawled in blood across her forehead.  With way more than just a hunch to now go on, Chenault heads out to Salt Lake City, the site of the Ratchford murder investigation, to find out what, if any, connection there is between the murders.

With the help of a beautiful young reporter he meets along the way, Chenault comes to learn the dark family secrets of a rising political star, along with the rather strange but true history of the Mormon church.  As he pieces the story together of what appears to be an ever-growing conspiracy, Chenault is pursued by The Brothers, two murderous zealots who will stop at nothing to retrieve the Mormon relic Chenault is also trying to find.  What Chenault eventually discovers is that what he’s uncovered may not only affect the outcome of the next Presidential election, but decide the fate of an entire religion–if he can manage to stay alive.

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