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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Isaac Coleman, 2011

A 2011 interview with the late activist, Isaac Coleman by Rob NeufeldCivil rights activist and local civic leader Isaac Coleman, born Nov. 6, 1943 in Lexington, Ky., lived his last 44 years in Asheville, and died on May 10, 2016,.We talked in 2011 about his career, starting with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. Q:  Was the SNCC your first involvement in civil rights? A:   I was a student at Knoxville College, an African-American College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and…See More
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Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Stories by the River Benefit for Girls Rock Asheville at Ole Shakeys 790 Riverside Drive in AVL

May 21, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Sip a drink by the river and enjoy stories and songs on a warm spring day!All donations benefit Girls Rock Asheville!Stories read by:Lori Horvitz  Melanie McGee Bianchi  Kim Winter Mako  Ky Delaney  and Lockie Huntermusical guests Leo+VirgoSee More
May 18
Sue Diehl posted an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 4, 2016 from 12pm to 2pm
Author Susan S. Kelly will the speaker at Montreat College Friends of the Library annual luncheon at noon on Saturday, June 4, 2016.  She is the author of five novels and a major contributing author to Our State Magazine.Call 828-669-8012 Ext. 3502 for Reservations.  $16.00See More
May 17
Sheilah Jastrzebski replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion The history of Oakley
"This is an interesting article.  It gives a few clues to the neighborhood I imagine from the old days. The woman from who my husband and I bought our Oakley home, Melody,  always talks about "Mr. Wilson" who entrusted her with…"
May 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The history of Oakley

Oakley is a place with an unforgettable historyby Rob NeufeldAn earlier time PHOTO CAPTION: The Taylor family of Oakley: Jean, Virgil, Sadie Louise, and Dan, c. 1936.  Photo courtesy Dan Taylor.            “We had hobos come to our house, and my mother would never turn them away,” Dan Taylor says of his experience…See More
May 13
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
May 13
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends quarterly poetry and prose reading at Downtown Books and News

May 6, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Join your fellow literature-craving citizens at the next upcoming Juniper Bends reading on Friday May 6th at 7PM. We will be luxuriating in sound, soaking up nutritious poetry & prose after the dark winter. Our series aims to bring together both established and emerging writers, and we are honored to bring together Gary Hawkins, Catherine Campbell, Stephanie Johnson and Michael Pittard's collective word-magic for this lovely spring evening. As usual, our generous host site is Downtown Books…See More
May 3
Jack Underwood shared a profile on Facebook
May 3
Rob Neufeld commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Edwin, some are touched by the Holy Spirit, and find voice to our amazement.  Yet there are many who are not heard, no matter how much we'd like to hear.  How will you amaze? "
May 2
Edwin Ammons commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Do none consider that a greater power has designed all this and that all these recent discoveries are a tiny part of it? von Humboldt will not rise from the dust until I do and I am still upright so he must wait. Upon that eventful day it will be…"
May 2
Joe Epley posted a blog post

Military Writers Society of America

Joe Epley recently was elected to Board of Directors of the Military Writers Society of America.  The MWSA has around 700 members around the country. Details on the website: http://www.mwsadispatches.com.  ; The organization's purpose is to help military service members, veterans, their families, supporters of the military,and historians record history and the complexities of military life--and encourage writing as therapy. The…See More
May 1
susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
Apr 30
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 5 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

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
Apr 25
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Apr 25

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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