Category Archives: 1980-1989


Lights, Camera, Novel: Louise Shivers’s Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail

Here to Get My Baby Out of JailTransitioning a work from page to screen is a complex process full of decisions from small details to large abstractions about what to include, what not to include, and what to add. In some of the past posts, there were instances of authors involved in both sides of the process, novel to screenplay. But in many cases, the author of the original work isn’t overseeing the adaptation. Sometimes, like in the instance of Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail and Summer Heat, the story doesn’t translate well between the mediums.

Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail was Louise Shivers’s first novel. Her bio on her publisher’s site notes that Shivers was born in Stantonsburg, but grew up in Wilson. The towns bear a close resemblance to Tarborough, the fictional East Carolina town featured in Shivers’s novel. After a year at Meredith College in Raleigh, Shivers was married. She and her husband relocated to Augusta, Georgia, where they raised their three children.

Shivers was a literary world late-bloomer. At age 40, at the encouragement of her children, she took a creative writing class that eventually produced her first novel. Following its release in 1983, Shivers’s work was selected by USA Today as the “Best First Novel of the Year.” A review in The New York Times praises Shivers’s work. The story is simple and compact; Shivers wrote poetry before she ventured to writing novels. Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail is the tale of a love triangle spun out of control. Roxy Walston is a Depression-era woman stuck on a tobacco farm with her husband Aaron. She’s a young mother, 20 with a 2-year-old daughter, Baby. When Aaron hires a drifter named Jack Ruffin, it leads to an affair that will change all their lives drastically.

The film adaptation was released in 1987, just four years after the novel’s publication. Mitchie Gleason wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. Lori Singer played Roxy. Singer at the time had already starred opposite Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Anthony Edwards, of Revenge of the Nerds, Top Gun, and later ER fame, played Roxy’s husband, Aaron, and Bruce Abbott played Jack Ruffin. Kathy Bates appears in a supporting role, but doesn’t appear in the trailer, which focuses on the three leads. The movie was filmed in North Carolina around Nashville, Robersonville, Tarboro, and Wilson.Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail 20th

Reviews from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times by Janet Maslin and Shelia Benson recognize good qualities in Summer Heat, the big picture adaptation of the slim novel, Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. Performances by the actors are commended and Mitchie Gleason’s visuals are appreciated. But the critics complain that Gleason’s script is the weak link in the final product. Maslin observes that “the script is a string of one-idea scenes; sometimes a whole episode seems designed to allow a character to deliver a single line,” and notes that the film’s pacing is off.  Benson also notes that despite the fact Gleason’s script adheres closely — even “slavishly,” she suggests – the force behind the story isn’t there. Sticking straight to the story in this case did not benefit Summer Heat. Benson remarks that the adaptation “lollygags” to its final conclusion rather than showing a “fevered rise and fall” of a pair of doomed lovers tangled in a frenzy of passion.

Benson chides Gleason, whom didn’t take enough risks in re-telling Shivers’s story. The most obvious liberty taken during the adaptation process is the title, which was revised from the longer, song-inspired Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail to the more benign and blockbuster-friendly, Summer Heat. The trailer brandishes the steamy side of the story. The title is emphasized, the words are shown individually between scenes of passion and aggression, and then together. Here’s a link to one version of the movie poster. The visuals, particularly the positioning of Roxy and Jack, are sultry and provocative. However, the writing on the poster skims over the top of the purpose behind the story. Plus, it basically gives away the twist. They’re quite different from the novel’s covers from 1993 and its 2003 pictured in this post in their raw sensuality. Then again, film operates, and profits on, on a more visual level.

Read the original blog post on Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. The novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, but the film is not. The film does not appear to be available through the Chapel Hill or Durham County Public Libraries. The film is listed on Amazon for sale.


Filed under 1980-1989, 1983, 1987, Edgecombe, Historical, Shivers, Louise

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Reynolds Price. Kate Vaiden. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Considering how I was soon to behave, I have to wonder if I ever really loved him. I’d shown most other human instincts till then. Why did mothering fail me?

At age 11, Kate Vaiden makes a vow to her mother Frances never to become a mother. In a sense, she never does. Although Kate gives birth at 17 to a son named Lee, she leaves him behind with her extended family. Forty years later, Kate begins to wonder what happened to Lee. If he is still alive and well, Lee is forty, and at Kate’s best estimation, he has made his way in the world without her. She believes it is unlikely that Lee would need or want her in his life at this point. For all intents and purposes, Kate kept good on her promise. By abandoning her son, it’s as if she never bore him at all. Yet there are questions hanging over her her, the first: Who is Lee Vaiden?

The second question traces back to Kate’s roots and a major turning point in her life: Who was Frances Bullock Vaiden? Kate’s parents, Frances Bullock and Dan Vaiden  met in 1925 and married soon after. Their union was tumultuous. Dan’s father was against the marriage. Although Dan was convinced that his father would grow to love Frances, he overestimated his father’s affections. The couple decided to escape to Greensboro for a fresh start. But the fresh start withered under their passions. As a child, Kate observed her father “burn” her mother with a “hot flow of words.”

Frances’ closeness with her family created a source of tension between her and Dan. When Frances’ nephew Traswell dies, she takes Kate home to Macon to attend the funeral, but Dan stays behind. After the funeral, Dan unexpectedly shows up in Macon. He arrives while Frances and another nephew have gone to Traswell’s grave. Dan drives to the cemetery, and without warning, shoots Frances and himself. Up to that point, Kate had believed that she had a happy childhood, irrespective of any strain between Frances and Dan.  Following her parent’s murder-suicide, she is left under the care of Frances’ sister Caroline and her husband in Macon. From there, the novel follows Kate from adolescence to middle-age. Kate struggles to form any sort of lasting commitment or attachment to another person. During her formative years, what Kate loved left her. As a young woman and adult, she becomes a quitter. Whenever things get serious, Kate bolts. Single and fifty-seven years old, she’s an eternal orphan.

Kate Vaiden is the story of Kate’s life, as told by Kate in hindsight. Parents, family, and home are contentious topics for Kate. Her residual questions about her mother and lingering questions about her son influence her life. In regard to Lee, Kate regrets that her “baby-making machinery works” but “when they made me, they left out the mothering part.” Price creates a flawed protagonist in Kate who is good at hurting others and has been hurt in turn. Despite all her imperfections, Kate’s engaging and entertaining voice smooths over her less attractive qualities and makes her situation more sympathetic. The novel earned Price, who was a novelist, poet, and English professor at Duke University, the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Guilford, Piedmont, Price, Reynolds, Wake, Warren

Payne, Peggy. Revelation. Wilmington, N.C. : Banks Channel Books, 1995, c1988.

revelationDr. Swain Hammond is perfectly happy before he steps out into his yard one summer night and hears the voice of God. He has a nice house with his beautiful wife in the heart of Chapel Hill, where he grew up. They don’t have a family, but neither wants children–they’re happy by themselves. Although he works as the minister of Westside Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, Swain would count himself as the last man likely to hear any kind of divine message. His congregation is made up of individuals who aren’t inclined to make literal interpretations of scripture, and neither is Swain. Yet, while his wife is grilling pork shish kebabs only a few yards away, God speaks to him.

The next year of Swain’s life is fraught with anguish. Far from the joy and peace he imagined hearing the voice of God would bring him, instead it seems to bring nothing but trouble. The congregation doesn’t know what to think of their formerly intellectually detached leader claiming to hear directly from God. At first they staunchly stand beside his right to free speech, but as the year wears on and Swain begins to preach about believing in miracles and hearing His voice again, they become uncomfortable and even angry. A few demand he step down, while others think he should seek counseling. Even Swain’s beloved wife, Julie, doesn’t know what to think.

In the midst of all this turmoil are the local children. Swain has never liked children, or felt comfortable around them. But when a boy named Jakey Miles, the son of a local woman he had a crush on in high school, is blinded in a terrible accident, Swain finds himself drawn to the boy. Against his will, he finds himself reflecting on his own childhood, where his intelligent parents played cruel games of emotional chess with one another that inevitably left young Swain traumatized. As the minister questions his faith, his relationships, and himself, one thing becomes startlingly clear–happiness is where you least expect to find it.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


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Filed under 1980-1989, 1988, 1990-1999, 1995, Orange, Payne, Peggy, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Helen Taylor. Cobalt Blue. Virginia Beach, VA: Grunwald and Radcliff Publishers, 1989.

Helen Taylor used her own experiences and stories that she heard in her childhood as the basis for this novel of life in Granville County.  The Tazewell family had been on the land in Granville County since the early nineteenth century.  When the novel opens it is 1895 and Richard Tazewell is living at Longwood with his widowed mother, his wife Alice, and their seven children.  Also on the plantation are two orphans who are treated almost as kin,  and a changing cast of tenants.  The novel will follow these characters over twenty years during which the characters will experience the joys and sorrows of farm life and confront the technological and economic challenges that came to rural North Carolina one hundred years ago. This look at farm life is not sugar-coated, but neither is it critical of the social conventions of the time.  The endpapers of the book contain a charming, hand-drawn map of Longwood and the surrounding lands.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1989, Granville, Taylor, Helen

Nora Roberts. Treasures Lost, Treasures Found. New York: Silhouette Books, 1986.

Kate had always done what her father wanted.  Edwin Hardesty was an educator and he pushed Kate to excel in school.  Excel she did, becoming a professor of English at Yale when she was still in her twenties. Kate’s mother died when she was young so she had only her father’s values to guide her.  They lived together and traveled together, at least until recently.  Four years before this book opens, Kate and her father spent the summer on Ocracoke Island. Mr. Hardesty was searching for the remains of an English merchant ship that wrecked off the island in the eighteenth century.  To help her father in his work, Kate learned to dive.  Her diving instructor was a good-looking  local, Ky Silver.  Ky awakened in Kate feelings she didn’t know that she had, but Kate saw that Ky didn’t meet the standards her father had instilled in her, so she broke off the relationship and vowed never to return to Ocracoke.

As Treasures Lost, Treasures Found opens, Mr. Hardesty has just died.  As Kate sorts through his papers, she sees how much her father wanted to locate that shipwreck.  To complete his work, she makes herself return to Ocracoke.  She know that she will need Ky’s help.  But why would Ky help her now–out of charity, to enact some revenge, or because he still harbors hope that she will see that they were meant to be together?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1986, Coast, Hyde, Roberts, Nora, Romance/Relationship

Doris Buchanan Smith. Moonshadow of Cherry Mountain. New York: Four Winds Press, 1982.

Greg and Moonshadow, his black Labrador Retriever, have lived on Cherry Mountain for six years, ever since they were adopted by the Rileys. They both love roaming the mountain, drinking from its crystal-clear streams and searching for wildlife. The two are inseparable. That is, until Clara is adopted into the family. Greg and Moonshadow are initially delighted to have another family member. However, when Clara’s allergies force Moonshadow from the house, both boy and dog must deal with their feelings of resentment toward the newcomer.

Just as Moonshadow’s familiar territory indoors has been taken away, she finds that parts of “her” mountain are now off-limits as well. New neighbors have moved in, building houses, altering the terrain, and bringing new dogs that threaten her space.

This novel shows both the human and the canine perspective of coping with alterations to a familiar way of life.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1982, Children & Young Adults, Clay, Mountains, Smith, Doris Buchanan

Alex Haley. A Different Kind of Christmas New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Alex Haley was known worldwide for his blockbuster Roots.  Fewer people know this later, brief novel which tells the story of a slaveholding North Carolinian who has a change of heart.

Fletcher Randall is the son a powerful state senator in Ashe County.  Senator Randall’s 3,000 acre plantation is worked by over 100 slaves who bring in crops of cotton and tobacco.  Fletcher’s parents send him to the College of New Jersey (Princeton) where he endures insults and harassment because of his family’s slaveholding.  The harassment does not move Fletcher, but his relationship with three Quaker brothers does.  On a visit to their home in Philadelphia he is taken to a meeting of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, an anti-slavery organization involved with the Underground Railroad.  His outrage at this affront turns to something else as he reads about the Quakers and the Underground Railroad.  After much soul-searching, Randall changes sides and returns to Ashe County to assist enslaved people in a mass escape set for Christmas Eve.

This book was evidently issued for the holiday season in 1988. It is beautifully produced book, with a lovely dust jacket and ornamental designs in the book itself.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1988, Ashe, Haley, Alex, Mountains

Betty R. Headapohl. By Love Renewed. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987.

I’m writing this in late April, the time of the year when North Carolina is its most alluring.  Betty Headapohl puts that allure in print in this novel about a woman in need of renewal. Anne Duvall has been feeling numb since the death of her husband, but as soon as she arrives in the mountains outside of Asheville, she begins to come alive. The mountain scenery and the good, friendly folks all make her feel that she could make a home here.  And then there’s that handsome minister Jubal Turner.  There are no surprises in this Christian romance, just a satisfying story of love and healing.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1987, Headapohl, Betty R., Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Michael Malone. Time’s Witness. Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.

Time’s Witness is narrated by Cuddy Mangum, formerly a homocide detective and now the Chief of Police for the Piedmont town of Hillston. By his own admission Cuddy doesn’t have the best thing one can have in Hillston (class), or even the second best thing (looks). What he does have are brains and he makes use of them in this, the second of the Justin and Cuddy mysteries. With a young African-American man’s execution on the horizon, racial tensions rise in the town and things only get worse when the convict’s brother is murdered. Then a candidate for governor becomes involved and starts receiving death threats. Complicating matters is the fact that the politician’s wife is Cuddy’s first–and perhaps only real–love.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1989, Malone, Michael, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont