‘Green’ text more relevant today than ever

bookAlthough this book was published over a decade ago, A Fierce Green Fire has grown steadily in popularity and is currently receiving maximum exposure, both as a required text in environmental courses in universities and as a provocative film which is now available on the internet. Essentially, this is a “no holds barred” survey of our tragic history in what most authorities now call a “comprehensive account of how we “befouled our own nest” to the extent that it may be too late to save this planet.

Tarrt delivers once again — a decade later

bookI first encountered a Donna Tartt novel some 20 years ago when a friend reverently placed a copy of The Secret History (1992) in my hands, and said, “You will never forget this one.” 

Vintage King is a frightening prospect

bookIt has been more than 30 years since Stephen King published The Shining, but I still remember that little kid, Danny Torrance peddling his tricycle down the halls of the Overlook Hotel, and although the Overlook is supposed to be empty, Danny sees people in some of the rooms. If you are a Stephen King fan, you remember the sound of Danny’s wheels as they trundle from carpet to bare floor to carpet. He passes rooms where dead people beckon to him. (Remember the woman in the bathtub?)

A ‘writer’s writer’ delves into 1929 explosion

bookI am convinced that author Daniel Woodrell is what is frequently referred to as “a writer’s writer.” In other words, although he may enjoy considerable popularity from the general public, it is other writers who speak with both envy and admiration of Woodrell’s writing skills. I count myself as one of them. Sitting before my computer, slowly creating a sentence only to delete it again and again ... striving for that elusive thing, a beautiful, balanced sentence that causes a reader to stop, smile and saw “Wow.” Daniel Woodrell is such a writer. With what appears to be an effortless ease, he creates sentences that are so unique that the reader forgets the plot of the story, and reads a single sentence again and again.

A warts and all biography of a WNC original

bookI first encountered Robert Henry’s name some 30 years ago in Lyman Draper’s account of the Battle of Kings Mountain (Oct. 7, 1780). Robert (who was either 13 or 14 years old at the time) had been wounded when a British bayonet pinned his hand to his thigh. Later, the young soldier gave a graphic description of the battle, including the manner in which the bayonet was removed from his hand and thigh (a fellow soldier simply grasped the bayonet and stomped on Robert’s hand until bayonet was removed). 

The lost West in all its violent glory

bookI have always had a fondness for great, sprawling epics, especially if they chronicle the downfall of a family/dynasty that acquired great power and wealth only to destroy themselves through ruthless acts involving betrayal, greed and arrogance. Invariably, they build mansions, acquire awesome estates and develop a lifestyle that allowed them to move through a cosmopolitan world of wealth and privilege; yet invariably they come crashing down, destroyed by drugs, alcoholism and/or moral rot.

Carden’s new book depicts Appalachian bestiary

By Newton Smith • Contributor

Gary Carden, local bard, playwright, host of the Liars Bench and reviewer for The Smoky Mountain News, has once again come up with a surprising publication. 

Tragic realism makes for a riveting read

bookLet me begin by saying that this is a remarkable novel, and I suspect that it will be around for a long time as critics debate its literary significance. In fact, there are passionate debates in some of the current major literary magazines about such themes as Friedrich Nietzsche’s “the eternal return” and/or Yeats’ apocalyptic vision. This review will avoid such heavy freight.

A moving ‘Liar’s Bench’ performance

op cardenEditor’s note: Marie Cochran attended the production of the “Liar’s Bench” on June 20 at the Mountain Heritage Center on the WCU campus and wrote this review for The Smoky Mountain News.

I am very familiar with the term “the Liars Bench” in its practice of casual storytelling among Southern men sitting in the courthouse square and at barbershops; yet I was skeptical to hear this lighthearted phrase associated with the account of 19 Black men who drowned on a chain gang only decades after the Civil War.

As a disclaimer, for the last month I’ve been a witness to the assemblage of information and a participant in debates that raged about the proper way to engage a diverse audience. Yet, I waited like every other audience member wondering whether “Tears in the Rain” would be told as a gruesome ghost story, a sorrowful tale of faceless men who perished in an unfortunate accident, or an insightful portrayal of a human tragedy.

King’s Joyland set in eastern North Carolina

bookThere is something about carnivals, amusement parks and shoddy summer circus operations that inspire a special kind of supernatural tale. Certainly, a reader who has read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) or Charles G. Finney’s classic work, The Circus of Doctor Lao (1935), is familiar with the carney sensation that blends expectancy and unease.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.