Tag Archives: Bluegrass music

Cooper West. Dawn in the Orchard. Miami, FL: Dreamspinner Press, 2011.

Dawn in the OrchardHolden, North Carolina is just about the last place Gary Winston ever wanted to be. He moved away from Insbrook, North Carolina, his own stifling hometown, as soon as possible, and college in Chicago was a convenient excuse. His great-aunt Harriet’s death has brought him back to North Carolina, begrudgingly. She named Gary as the heir to her pecan farm and ramshackle home. The housing market around Holden is poor, so Gary doesn’t stand much chance of selling the place, at least not quickly. And, at the present moment, he doesn’t have anywhere better to go.

Gary’s relationship with his boyfriend Roger has fizzled out. Roger couldn’t admit his sexuality openly and he kept their relationship hidden. Roger’s insecurities rubbed off on Gary and manifested as performance anxiety. A professional musician with a performance anxiety is, Gary recognizes, more than a little oxymoronic. Obviously, Gary’s inability to play in front of an audience has stalled his musical career. Since his anxiety surfaced, Gary has become relegated strictly to some spotty studio work. Broke, he’s been testing the patience of his friends through regular couch-surfing. Thankfully, his burdensome inheritance gives him a place to rest his head at night at the very least.

With the prospect of property taxes and his lack of income, Gary starts hitting pavement around Holden. But, small town that it is, there aren’t many job openings. Nobody around town wants to hire experienced barista from a big city up North. The best option left is the harvest from the pecan farm on Great-Aunt Harriet’s property. Turns out that Harriet had a contract with a local family to gather the harvest and one of the farmers looks quite familiar.

Chuck Everett was born and bred in neighboring Cornerstone, another small Southern town. According to Holden’s resident lawyer, Fred George, the Everett’s have lived in Cornerstone “since before the War.” Chuck harvests Harriet Lee’s pecan crop with his father. He also operates one of the many antique shops in Hogan and plays the fiddle on the side. Gary is attracted to Chuck immediately, but he plays it cool. Chuck comes from an old-fashioned family that expects certain behavior and condemns non-traditional lifestyles, and Gary is not certain if Chuck is gay or straight. After Gary and Chuck safely discern each other’s intentions and interests, their relationship begins to blossom. Novelist Cooper West depicts their intimacy with vivid detail. Whether or not Gary and Chuck’s relationship will thrive, depends upon how well both men can compartmentalize and put aside their other problems.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Romance/Relationship, West, Cooper

Thomas Meinecke. Pale Blue. Las Vegas, NV: AmazonCrossing, 2012.

Set in mid-1999, Pale Blue follows the thoughts of Tillman, a young German living temporarily on the Outer Banks. Fascinated by blues music, he traces its evolution through time, musing on iconic figures and significant events from Josephine Baker and World War II to Ronald Reagan and Mariah Carey. This history is interspersed with his own ethnic and sexual self-explorations, which he embarks on with the aid of Vermilion, a local waitress earning her doctorate at Duke studying Hasidic Jews. Tillman also corresponds with an old girlfriend in Germany, Yolanda. As he and Vermilion travel from Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk to Roanoke Island, we journey with them on their voyage of self-discovery and historical inquiry.

Meinecke’s second novel, translated from the German by Daniel Bowles, is a twisting path through time and narration, often switching location and speaker abruptly. Those interested in stream of consciousness writing in particular will enjoy the style of this novel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Meinecke, Thomas

Sharyn McCrumb. The Ballad of Tom Dooley. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011.

If you grew up in the Appalachians of western North Carolina, chances are you’ve heard the tale of Tom Dooley at least once. You may even have heard the song made famous by the likes of Frank Proffitt, the New Lost City Ramblers, and Doc Watson: hang down your head, Tom Dooley…hang down your head and cry… a sordid tale of love, betrayal, and murder set in the years following the Civil War. But fact often proves more shocking than the tale. Author Sharyn McCrumb, after spending hours consulting the legal evidence, trial transcripts, and speaking with experts, determined that something didn’t add up. The answers she found in her lengthy research hint at a dark, Brontë-like pentagon of individuals trapped by disease, starvation, racial boundaries, and the after-effects of armed conflict.

Zebulon Baird Vance, the educated sometime-Governor of North Carolina,  represented Tom Dooley during his trial for murder. In McCrumb’s telling, he is convinced that Dooley is innocent. While his narrative reflects on the aftermath, the voice of servant-girl Pauline Foster recounts the tale from its origin. Survival during the war meant Pauline had to sell her body to passing soldiers for food, but she escaped death. Unfortunately, she didn’t emerge entirely unscathed. Infected with syphilis, she makes her way from her home county of Watauga to neighboring Wilkes, in hopes of staying with one of her cousins there while seeing a doctor. She chooses her wealthy relation Ann Melton, who allows her room and board in exchange for servant work. Ann is narcissistic and spoiled, and the sociopathic Pauline quickly determines that she will bring suffering to her cousin’s door, no matter the consequences for others. When Pauline realizes the depth of love between the married Ann and Tom Dooley, a former Confederate soldier and Ann’s childhood sweetheart, she hatches a terrible plan for revenge that inflicts tragedy across the entirety of Wilkes County. Expertly researched and written, history and fiction lovers alike will find this a fascinating read.

Frank Proffitt and his banjo

Click here for a clip of “Tom Dooley” as sung by Doc Watson, and here for a clip as sung by Frank Proffitt, both courtesy of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. The songs, and many others, are available on CD and vinyl in the Southern Folklife Collection, which like the North Carolina Collection, is located in Wilson Library. While you’re here, check the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog for the availability of The Ballad of Tom Dooley.



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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Historical, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains, Watauga, Wilkes

Bobbie Pyron. A Dog’s Way Home. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2011.

Abby Whistler, age eleven, knows that Tam is her true north star. It doesn’t matter that Tam is a Sheltie; nothing feels more right than when they are together. But then the unthinkable happens: a terrible accident, and Tam and Abby are separated with hundreds of miles dividing them. Still, Abby refuses to stop believing that her Tam will return, and the little Sheltie, filled with an indomitable spirit, will do anything to see his girl again.  Both Tam and Abby make new friends, encounter heartbreak, and discover their strength as they desperately attempt to reunite.

Bobbie Pyron has crafted a novel filled with the magic and dangerous beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its inhabitants- an inspiring tale of determination and the power of love. Although highly suspenseful, this heartwarming tale will delight both parents and children, and you will cheer for the intrepid Abby Whistler and her true north star, the sweet and soulful Tam.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Buncombe, Caldwell, Children & Young Adults, Henderson, Mountains, Pyron, Bobbie, Suspense/Thriller, Transylvania, Watauga

Tom Bibey. The Mandolin Case. Chattanooga, TN: Ford, Falcon, & McNeil, 2010.

Hospitals, like small towns, are political places. Although crooked individuals can seem congenial, they have malice hiding up their sleeves. They try to get away with their evil deeds, and they often do until someone discovers their game.

The CEO of the hospital in rural Harvey County, North Carolina, is a shady character with something to hide. James Olden has always hated Dr. Henry “Indie” Jenkins, who is a physician at his hospital. When Indie’s patient and best friend, Blinky Wilson, dies under suspicious circumstances, Olden tries to find a way to benefit from the tragedy. He would like to see Indie out of his hospital – and even out of business. Olden recruits Blinky’s widow to join a suit against Indie; together they seek a large settlement.

Indie, heartbroken over the loss of his friend but sure that he made no errors to cause Blinky’s death, builds an incredible legal team with the help of his friend, Dr. James “Bones” Robertson. As the lawyers from both sides begin to understand ulterior motives of the plaintiffs, the case moves in Indie’s favor. Not only does Indie look innocent, but Olden does not. Picking up nuances in unlikely sources, Bones finds a way to ensure that his friend’s reputation is saved – and justice is served.

Indie and several other characters love bluegrass music; it gives them moments of comfort and pleasure.  As Indie suggested during the prolonged trial, sometimes in life music is the only thing that makes sense.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Bibey, Tom, Novels Set in Fictional Places