To bee or not to be
 

To bee or not to be

With its title Colony Collapse Disorder taken from a recent mysterious collapse of honeybee populations in North America, Keith Flynn’s…
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The unforgettable life of Nancy Silver
 

The unforgettable life of Nancy Silver

Recently, when I was surfing through a depressing collection of nighttime TV programs — religious rants, psychics, cooking shows and…
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An insightful look at guerilla warfare
 

An insightful look at guerilla warfare

Since the Second World War, Americans have lived by the old dictum that only the dead have seen the end…
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Rash’s Appalachia is both rich and flawed
 

Rash’s Appalachia is both rich and flawed

Ron Rash’s latest collection of short stories echos a theme that runs through all of his works: an awareness that Appalachia…
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Final volume of Churchill biography a long-awaited gem
 

Final volume of Churchill biography a long-awaited gem

William Manchester, author of a number of best-selling books, including The Death of A President, American Caesar, and Goodbye, Darkness,…
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1967 novel sheds light on obscure mass drowning
 

1967 novel sheds light on obscure mass drowning

In recent years, I have become interested in an obscure incident that occurred in Jackson County in 1882 — the…
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To be (born) or not to be
 

To be (born) or not to be

Since reading Ben Wattenberg’s The Birth Dearth 25 years ago, the subject of demography has fascinated me. This past week…
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Zombie lore, one bite at a time
 

Zombie lore, one bite at a time

If you are literate and moderately aware of what passes for entertainment in film, popular novels and comics, then you…
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Kerouac still matters, though the perspective has shifted
 

Kerouac still matters, though the perspective has shifted

Of all the Beat writers of the 1940s and 1950s — Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, Gary Snyder,…
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Historian presents a factual story of Cleopatra
 

Historian presents a factual story of Cleopatra

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” — Cicero, 106 B.C. Stacy…
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An America divided by class
 

An America divided by class

For the past 80 years more and more Americans have linked themselves economically to the machinations of the federal government.…
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Uncompromising, dark and a worthwhile read
 

Uncompromising, dark and a worthwhile read

A couple of years ago, I blundered into something called “The Bottom Dog Appalachian Writers Series.” Published in Ohio, this…
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Novel explores the woes of rich white trash
 

Novel explores the woes of rich white trash

Let me take a deep breath and see if I can get this out in one long ugly sentence:  A…
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Racism and adultery drive Spencer’s novel
 

Racism and adultery drive Spencer’s novel

Daniel Emerson is afraid of black people. After a chance encounter with a group of violent African American teenagers left…
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Re-discovering a child’s outlook and a sense of humor
 

Re-discovering a child’s outlook and a sense of humor

Although its publisher marketed Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever as a children’s book, this touching story of a mother’s love…
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Bringing out the horror of teen angst
 

Bringing out the horror of teen angst

In recent years, there has been a kind of Swedish literary invasion in America, especially in the horror genre. Perhaps…
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The stuff of dreams: Important 20th century poet discovered in new book
 

The stuff of dreams: Important 20th century poet discovered in new book

As the poet Yvan Goll lay in a hospital in Paris dying of leukemia, a continuous line of some of…
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Books for holiday gifts can be a risky business
 

Books for holiday gifts can be a risky business

Think of the times someone has said to you: “You’ll love this book!” This well-intentioned person then shoves a book…
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Novel is both shocking and admirable
 

Novel is both shocking and admirable

Anyone who remembers Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and the Roman Polanski film that came out about a year later,…
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Diversity within unity — a book for the ages
 

Diversity within unity — a book for the ages

From the foothills of the Southern Appalachians, and in the tradition of such spiritual classics as Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable…
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For the love of local bookstores
 

For the love of local bookstores

When I was a child living in Boonville, N.C., a town of 600 people, my mother would load us into…
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Lahane scores with steamy suspense novel
 

Lahane scores with steamy suspense novel

I have been a Dennis Lehane fan for about two decades now, and after reading classics like Mystic River, Shutter…
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A flawed story that is still worthwhile
 

A flawed story that is still worthwhile

Mark Helprin drives me crazy. Helprin’s novels — he is the author of A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy…
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MacDonald may be innocent after all
 

MacDonald may be innocent after all

I always thought he was guilty. Any doubts that I might have felt vanished after I read Joe McGinniss’ Fatal…
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Burke again captures the essence of the Bayou
 

Burke again captures the essence of the Bayou

In Creole Belle (ISBN 978-1-4516-4813-3, $27.99), novelist James Lee Burke returns to a territory he now owns in the literary…
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Winter has come and Martin turns up the heat
 

Winter has come and Martin turns up the heat

Kind hearts, winter has come. That dire prediction that began over 4,000 pages ago with A Game of Thrones has…
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A thoughtful examination of love and parenting
 

A thoughtful examination of love and parenting

A distracted mother off to the store forgets to shut the door from the kitchen to the garage, puts her…
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Real stories and lessons on how to tell them
 

Real stories and lessons on how to tell them

Here is a book about storytelling that strikes a responsive chord in my own heart. Not only is Mary Hamilton a gifted…
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As fall nears, let’s clear the clutter
 

As fall nears, let’s clear the clutter

By early September in these mountains the markers of autumn are very much with us. The cool nights diminish the…
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An environmental saga and a mountain story
 

An environmental saga and a mountain story

By Brent Martin It is a rare event these days to come across a work of non-fiction dealing with any…
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Finding kindred souls in the Wyoming backcountry
 

Finding kindred souls in the Wyoming backcountry

Let me begin by telling you that the book title above is misleading. Gerry Spence has more then a dozen published…
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A book a day keeps the bad grades away
 

A book a day keeps the bad grades away

It’s that time of year when yellow buses roll down country roads, when children disappear from the stores and streets…
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Rare book harkens back to a different time
 

Rare book harkens back to a different time

Ramblin’ in Rabun is a reprint of a delightful book that was written down in Clayton, Ga., some 40 years…
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Crisp prose and humor keep novel moving
 

Crisp prose and humor keep novel moving

In her latest novel, Starting From Happy (ISBN 978-1-4391-02185, $24), Patricia Marx, author of Him Her Him Again The End…
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New religions and powerful women aplenty
 

New religions and powerful women aplenty

Well, kind hearts, here we are in the fourth of a five-book series.  At the risk of being accused of…
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An erudite look into the cultural wars
 

An erudite look into the cultural wars

Some years ago, a local artist mounted a painting in a local art show in which he painted Christ with…
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Martin earns mention alongside Tolkien
 

Martin earns mention alongside Tolkien

I apologize. About a month ago, when I concluded my review of Clash of Kings, I noted that I would…
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Frank’s characters confront moral uncertainties
 

Frank’s characters confront moral uncertainties

What would you do if your teenaged daughter was assaulted, beaten and shot almost to the point of death, and…
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Dig deep and ‘The Father’s Tale’ will reward
 

Dig deep and ‘The Father’s Tale’ will reward

Michael O’Brien’s The Father’s Tale (Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-0-89870-815-8) has more strikes against it than Babe Ruth on a bad…
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Snake handlers riveting but cliché
 

Snake handlers riveting but cliché

“... and these signs shall follow those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons, they will speak…
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Rivers in WNC bear native names
 

Rivers in WNC bear native names

Long before the first Europeans arrived, the Cherokees developed ceremonials that focused on the spiritual power of running water. When…
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A page turner with a WNC connection
 

A page turner with a WNC connection

In Frank B. Robinson’s Thirty Days Hath September (ISBN 978-1-4701-6725-7), a man with a murky past, Alex Madrid, finds temporary…
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Watch out! Bigfoot sighted in WNC
 

Watch out! Bigfoot sighted in WNC

I’d never read a horror-fiction genre book in my life. That is, until I found myself at an author’s event…
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Sequel picks up enticing tale
 

Sequel picks up enticing tale

Although A Clash of Kings, the second in George R. R. Martin’s epic series, has a multitude of unforgettable characters,…
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Finding the right word
 

Finding the right word

In his Foreword to Robert Hartwell Fiske’s The Best Words (ISBN 978-193333882-8, $14.94), Richard Lederer reminds us of Mark Twain’s…
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Adding the stories of James Still to the Appalachian canon
 

Adding the stories of James Still to the Appalachian canon

For those who don’t know, James Still (1906-2001) is one of the most beloved and influential of all Appalachian writers.…
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George R.R. Martin’s world captures readers
 

George R.R. Martin’s world captures readers

Readers, be forewarned. If you willingly enter the fanciful world of George R. R. Martin’s Songs of Ice and Fire:…
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Dusting off a few worthwhile volumes
 

Dusting off a few worthwhile volumes

Spring-cleaning remains a ritual in many households. We throw open windows, rid closets, shelves, and drawers of unwanted items —…
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‘Raylan’ is business as usual for Leonard
 

‘Raylan’ is business as usual for Leonard

Like a growing number of FX addicts, I have become a devoted fan of “Justified” (Timothy Olyphant and Sylva’s own…
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The tales of two Joyces
 

The tales of two Joyces

In The Guys in the Gang and Other Stories (ISBN 978-1-4697-7768-9, $20.95), James T. Joyce and James T. Joyce —…
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