Uncompromising, dark and a worthwhile read

bookA couple of years ago, I blundered into something called “The Bottom Dog Appalachian Writers Series.” Published in Ohio, this series is dedicated to showcasing “new Appalachian writers.”  When I looked at the list of writers and poets, I didn’t see a single name that I recognized, but since this is supposed to be works of “new blood,” I decided to start reading them. Well, a fellow named Charles Dodd White is at the top of the list with a prize-winning collection of short stories and a new novel, Lambs of Men. I read his impressive reviews and discovered that White had a short story in the prestigious North Carolina Literary Review, so I ordered his short story collection.

Racism and adultery drive Spencer’s novel

bookDaniel Emerson is afraid of black people. After a chance encounter with a group of violent African American teenagers left him with a broken wrist, a chipped tooth and an abiding belief that he is going to be killed by either one of his clients or a crack addict, the young lawyer persuades Kate, his current helpmate, to sacrifice the advantages of the big city for the pastoral peace of his hometown, Leyden.

Bringing out the horror of teen angst

bookIn recent years, there has been a kind of Swedish literary invasion in America, especially in the horror genre. Perhaps the most notable is John Lindqvist, who wrote the cult classic, Let the Right One In, which became an international bestseller two years ago. The film version that followed was enthusiastically endorsed by Stephen King as a landmark in “intelligent and provocative horror film.” Shortly afterwards, Lindqvist released Handling the Undead and The Harbor, which immediately became bestsellers.

Novel is both shocking and admirable

bookAnyone who remembers Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and the Roman Polanski film that came out about a year later, then you have a handle on a spooky plot wherein two New York parents-to-be are faced with the daunting possibility that the wife may be pregnant with (and by) something that is “not of this earth.” I’m still haunted by Mia Farrow’s tortured dilemma as she stands before the crib that contains “the spawn of Satan” ... stands with a knife in her hand. Which is stronger, a mother’s love or her moral obligation to protect mankind from evil?

Carden receives prestigious state award

art cardenSylva native and renowned Southern Appalachian storyteller Gary Carden received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the state’s highest honor, on Oct. 30 at a ceremony in the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.

Lahane scores with steamy suspense novel

bookI have been a Dennis Lehane fan for about two decades now, and after reading classics like Mystic River, Shutter Island and the short story collection, Coronado, I can easily recognize the author’s “signature” talents: cliff-hanger chapters, passages of riveting suspense/terror and, a marvelous gift for writing introductory paragraphs that hook the reader immediately. Here is the opening of Live by Night:

Album perfectly interprets ‘songs’ of Blake

art martharedboneApart from the fact that this is a remarkable recording, in terms of Martha Redbone’s liquid vocals and the harmonious blend of John McEuen’s instruments (banjo, guitar, dubro, fiddle, mandolin, autoharp and dulcimer), the combining of music with William Blake’s “songs” is an amazing achievement.

MacDonald may be innocent after all

bookI always thought he was guilty. Any doubts that I might have felt vanished after I read Joe McGinniss’ Fatal Vision. Jeffery MacDonald had murdered his wife and two daughters, stabbing and bludgeoning them to death in their apartment at Fort Bragg. I did not believe his story about the “hippies” who broke into his house at 3:30 in the morning chanting “Acid is groovy” and “Death to the Pigs.” In essence, I guess I agreed with the military police, the FBI and the Fayetteville Police Department that it sounded like an unconvincing, “copycat” version of the Manson murders some six months before (the word “Pig” written in blood was also at the murder scene).

Winter has come and Martin turns up the heat

bookKind hearts, winter has come. That dire prediction that began over 4,000 pages ago with A Game of Thrones has been fulfilled. In this, the final (?) book in the Songs of Ice and Fire series, all of the bleak predictions that began with “Winter is coming,” are gradually come to pass. However, that does not mean that we will finally see justice done. Unlike the marvelous world of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, where the good king finally comes home and the world becomes orderly and rational once more, the final chapters of A Dance With Dragons finds Westros and the Seven Kingdoms racked by war and famine. The majority of Martin’s characters appear to be lost, trapped or missing in action.

Real stories and lessons on how to tell them

bookHere is a book about storytelling that strikes a responsive chord in my own heart. Not only is Mary Hamilton a gifted storyteller who is in demand throughout Appalachia (and beyond); she has built a career based on identifying and preserving the folklore of our region. She is not content to merely tell the stories — she wants you to know where the tales originated and why they are significant. In addition, she often gives you a half dozen variations of a tale and makes specific recommendations to storytellers (parents, teachers and librarians) about the subtle factors that make an audience (or a child) responsive.

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