PRESS RELEASE: For August 3, 2011 Release
TO: Marion Star & Mullins Enterprise
FROM: Marion County Library
CONTACT: P. Alan Smith, 423-8300
SUBJECT: Library News Column, By P. Alan Smith, Director
"This is a different place. Our way of thinking is different, as are our ways of seeing, laughing, singing, eating, meeting and parting. Our walk is different, as the old song goes, our talk and our names." -Charles Kuralt in Southerners: Portrait of a People
If you are reading this article, you know firsthand that the South is a little different. We identify ourselves, and each other, by the stories we tell. Our writers have a special job: they explain us back to ourselves. This week at the Library we have three new novels by Southern writers. Two of them you may know, and one is brand new, but none of these could have taken place anywhere other than the South.
The Night Train, by Clyde Edgerton
Edgerton, author of The Bible Salesman, is best known for his mixture of humor, small-town settings, and realistic Southern dialogue. His new book is a story of friendship and music.
In 1963, at the age of 17, Dwayne Hallston discovers James Brown and wants to perform just like him. His band, the Amazing Rumblers, studies and rehearses Brown's Live at the Apollo album in the storage room of his father's shop in their small North Carolina town. Meanwhile, Dwayne's forbidden black friend Larry--aspiring to play piano like Thelonious Monk--apprentices to a jazz musician called the Bleeder. His mother hopes music will allow him to escape the South.
A dancing chicken and a mutual passion for music help Dwayne and Larry as they try to achieve their dreams and maintain their friendship, even while their world says both are impossible. In The Night Train, Edgerton's trademark humor reminds us of our divided national history and the way music has helped bring us together.
Burnt Mountain, by Anne Rivers Siddons
Anne Rivers Siddons has written such well-known novels as Sweetwater Creek, Low Country, and Off Season in her thirty-five year career, but both Pat Conroy and Stephen King have said that this tale of memory and secrets is among her best.
Growing up, the only place tomboy Thayer Wentworth felt at home was at her summer camp - Camp Sherwood Forest in the North Carolina Mountains. It was there that she came alive and where she met Nick Abrams, her first love...and first heartbreak.
Years later, Thayer marries Aengus, an Irish professor, and they move into her deceased grandmother's house in Atlanta, only miles from Camp Edgewood on Burnt Mountain where her father died years ago in a car accident. There, Aengus and Thayer lead quiet and happy lives until Aengus is invited up to the camp to tell old Irish tales to the campers. As Aengus spends less time at home and becomes more distant, Thayer must confront dark secrets-about her mother, her first love, and, most devastating of all, her husband.
Finally, we have Mercy Creek, by Matt Matthews. Mercy Creek was selected by the South Carolina Arts Commission for its 2010 First Novel Prize. Matthews is a pastor in Greenville, S.C., with a long literary career ahead of him. If you enjoy reading Sheri Reynolds, Dorothea Benton Frank, or Bret Lott, try Mercy Creek – each of those beloved Southern authors has praised the book.
In the sulky summer days of a Virginia Eastern Shore town, a current of guilt and repression flows beneath the placid surface of respectability. In this year after his mother's death, with girlfriend problems and his father's flirting with a new romance, 16-year-old Isaac faces not only the mysteries of his coming of age but also the mysteries of a twisted communal past.
A summer job at Chum's Hardware introduces Isaac to Crazy Eddie, an acerbic 82-year-old who is outspoken about everything except the string of bizarre vandalisms pulling down big headlines in the weekly paper. Someone is flooding the houses of Rooksville's leading citizens and leaving a signature of painted flames on the walls. a clutch of sell-righteous vigilantes who gather at the hardware store offers a $5,000 reward for the conviction of whoever is responsible--and they have their eyes on Isaac.
Isaac quickly discovers that small towns where everybody knows everybody else's business often hide the most vicious secrets. A lost ledger at Chum's and the unmoored rantings of the town's recluse about the Klan are the first clues to the unexplained puzzles that swirl like dust motes at the hardware store. By laying bare the stains of history and facing the town's hatemonger, Isaac resolves the question of where he belongs in the world.
In this quietly suspenseful story with splashes of manic humor, the eccentrics, the outcasts, the bigots, and the bores join the human parade. Mercy Creek is a memorable novel by a new voice that deserves to be heard.