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Wednesday, 04 October 2006 00:00

When a book becomes an industry

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By Michael Beadle

“Where is Cold Mountain?”

Nearly a decade after Charles Frazier’s debut novel became an international success, folks still come to the area asking about the mountain that has become as much of a tourist icon as Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel.

 

While Frazier’s 1997 best-selling book about a Civil War soldier’s odyssey to his mountain home was fiction, the mountain is a very real destination local businesses and tourist organizations have been more than willing to cash in on as part of the state’s $14 billion tourism industry.

“There are people that still ask about Cold Mountain on a weekly basis here,” said Pat Maier, director of the Visitors’ Center in Haywood County.

And the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce is happy to oblige tourists with directions and bed and breakfast inns nearby the famous mountain. The Chamber also highlights Cold Mountain on its Web page — as does North Carolina’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development Web page, www.visitnc.com. On it, there’s a link called “Peaks, Pens & Pictures” luring visitors to the mountains with names like Thomas Wolfe, Carl Sandburg and Cold Mountain.

In a state that brought in 64.5 million tourists last year — ranking eighth in the nation among all states — North Carolina set an all-time high in tourism dollars in 2005 with $14 billion.

Though it’s hard to say just exactly what part of those billions Cold Mountain may have helped with, the book surely helped, say local tourism officials.

If the book didn’t already draw visitors to the area, the 2003 Oscar Award-winning film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger surely increased the mountain’s mystique. The movie also featured a stirring soundtrack and subsequent albums including Songs from the Mountain (featuring John Herrmann, Dirk Powell and Tim O’Brien) and Return to Cold Mountain: Songs Inspired By the Film (featuring tracks by David Holt, Laura Boosinger, Larry Keel, Bruce Greene and Don Lewis).

In Haywood County, it doesn’t hurt to have an international bestseller in a business name — there are Cold Mountain Cafe, Cold Mountain Hardware, Cold Mountain Antiques, and Cold Mountain Tree Service.

Hikers looking to climb the steep mountain trail up to its summit can check out directions from Web sites and hiking guide books such as Jeff Schmerker’s Western North Carolina’s 25 Best Hikes.

So will the release of Frazier’s latest book, Thirteen Moons, mean more tourists coming to Western North Carolina to seek out the locations found in the novel? Will there be a Thirteen Moons Cafe? Will the movie be filmed in the area?

Scottie Ellis, director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, sees Frazier’s book as yet another opportunity to welcome people to the county.

“It gives us another thing to offer to tourists,” Ellis said. “It’s another thing to be proud of that’s here.”

Thirteen Moons may boost sales for the Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook, co-written by Barbara Duncan, education director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and Brett Riggs, research archeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Frazier lists the Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook as recommended reading at the back of his new novel, a nod of appreciation to his countless hours of research.

“The landscapes and many of the sites that Thirteen Moons is based on are made accessible by the Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook,” said Riggs, a research archaeologist working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I hope the attention his book draws is helpful in terms of awareness and appreciation of the heritage in that region. In my opinion, it’s a new spotlight on the region and the culture.”

As for the Thirteen Moons movie, film rights have already been sold to Scott Rudin, a Hollywood and Broadway producer who has behind-the-scenes credits producing such films as “The Truman Show,” “The Hours,” “Wonder Boys,” and “Closer.”

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