Saturday, October 31, 2009

Theo's Story

Books about politics and corruption are not my favorites, I must admit. But when I began Ron Rhody's novel, Theo's Story, I could hardly put it down.

It all begins on a snowy night in 1941, when the coatless body of prominent newspaperman Benjamin Dannan is found beside a lonely road in eastern Kentucky one hundred miles from home. No one knows why he was there, how he got there, or whether his death is an accident or a murder.

Thirty years later, Dannan's son, Michael, CEO of a large corporation in San Francisco, moves back to Kentucky to run for governor, drafting his boyhood friend, Theo, to help him make it happen.

And thus begins a fascinating tale that takes you through the hills and hollows of Kentucky, climaxing in a struggle for the governorship between a self-made Appalachian power broker and a rich and gifted young man who has everything going for him.
Rhody weaves such an intricate tapestry of Kentucky's diverse geography, cultures, and rich history that I felt I was riding along with Michael and Theo as they drove from one end of Kentucky to the other, gaining the support of powerful politicians throughout the Commonwealth; I was with them as they entered the mystical world of the Melungeons. (I've always been intrigued by the Melungeons!). It held my attention every step of the way. And that is no small feat!

The mystery, suspense, and clearly drawn characters make this book a real page-turner. There is love and romance, ambition and murder, and it's all bundled into a mystery that doesn't play out until the very end. And what an ending it is!

Ron Rhody is a former newspaperman and broadcast journalist who grew up in Kentucky where he learned his craft. He now lives with his wife in Pinehurst, North Carolina. He is the author of several books, but Theo's Story is his first piece of fiction.

I hope it is not his last.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Silas House: A Man With Soulful Eyes

I had a great weekend, the highlight of which was the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. Pitty Pat and I hopped into Suzanne's little Subaru early Saturday morning, and we sped down I-24 talking a mile a minute about all the books we would buy, the writers we would meet.
I was hoping to meet Rick Bragg, but he had already departed. I was also hoping to meet Elizabeth Berg, however, her presentation coincided with William Gay's movie (which was great!).
But we did meet Silas House.
Silas House is a young writer from Appalachia whom I came upon a couple of years ago when I was surfing the Internet looking for books by Southern writers. He wrote Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tatoo. I have read them all and they are wonderful stories of family, love and loyalty, and very strong female characters.
A kind, gracious young man with soulful eyes, Silas shook our hands and smiled, more interested in talking about us than himself.
"Where y'all from?" he said.
"Paducah," we chimed.
"I've been to Paducah," he said, "And I love it, especially those beautiful murals down by the river."
I was proud to be standing alongside Silas House as Suzanne snapped our picture. He is not only a wonderful writer but a kind and compassionate human being.
I could see it all in his soulful eyes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Froggy Went A-Courtin'

I KNOW it's your lawn chair, lady, but can't a guy get some sun?

Back off with that camera. Who do you think I am, Brad Pitt?

Whew...that was quite a leap!

Kiss my butt. I'm gonna go courtin'!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Snippet List

I love to write. I get up each morning obsessed with what I'm working on, where my characters will take me, the next story I plan to write. And each time I leave the house I come back with new ideas, notes I've scribbled down, and snippets of conversations heard here and there.

Some snippets stay in my head for years before I use them. As was the case with a Don St. Arbor quote.

Don St. Arbor was one of Terry's best friends. He lived across the field from us, so they practiced basketball together, hunted and fished together. He was there much of the time, so during the summertime he could often be found at our dinner table.

One day Mother baked two chocolate pies for dessert. Her pies could win a contest, the chocolate filling smooth and velvety, crust tender and flaky, meringue standing in peaks.

Since guests were always served first, we drooled as Mother turned to Don. "Would you like a piece of pie, Don?" she said.

"No, thanks, Mrs. Wilson," he said, "Seems like all the chocolate pies I been eatin' lately have been awful lumpy."

Now, what writer could resist a comment like that? I used it in a story forty years later.

Another snippet stayed with me over fifty years before I pulled it from memory and put it on paper.

When I was three, I went with Maw Maw Wilson to take dinner to an old riverboat pilot in Laketon. I don't know what his real name was, but everyone called him Pilot. He lived at the bottom of Laketon hill in a tiny tarpaper shack, and he had no family that anyone knew of. He was all alone. And he was very sick.

I felt very sorry for the old man, but I was a little afraid. So that is probably why the following incident left such a deep impression on me.

"Do you need anything, Pilot?" Maw Maw says, placing his dinner on his bedside table.

A bushy grey head appears from deep within the covers, eyes dark and sunken. "No, thank you, Miss Muriel," he says, "I don't need nothin' a-tall. But thank you for being here."

My story, Thank You For Being Here, has been accepted by Kentucky Monthly, and will be the featured nonfiction piece in their literary issue. It will be coming out in November.

The snippet list is getting longer each day. So I'd better get busy. If I wrote all day for the next fifty years, I would never be able to use them all.

But I will try.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Powers That Be

I'm afraid I've been neglecting my blog lately.
My time has been consumed with eating barbecue and chili and all that good stuff, walking it off in this crisp fall weather, reviewing books, working on stories. And worrying about Leo.
We almost lost Leo. When I flipped his switch about a week ago, he was very weak. And unresponsive.
"Billy, oh Billy, please come quick!" I said, "Leo is sick! He's sick, sick, sick!"
"Dear wife, dear wife, it could be his heart," said Bill, "Call the doctor and prepare to depart."
As we rushed through the ER, I was babbling like a nut. One doctor stopped in his tracks and began scratching his butt.
"Oh, Doctor, oh, doctor, do you think Leo will live? Do you think he's done give all he can give?"
"Mrs. Wooley, Mrs. Wooley, I have not a clue. Nurse, nurse, call in the crew!"
"I can't stop worrying; I'm fixin' to cave! Is Leo headed to an early grave?"
"It's hard to say, but we shall see. His fate rests with the powers that be."
Leo is still in the hospital at this writing, but his medical team is positive about his recovery.
It had better be soon. I'm one step away from throwing my new "Vista-ed up" laptop straight to the moon.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley