TYBEE SUNRISE, TO SEIZE THE PRIZE, AND OTHER WORKS

CONTENTS

(1)The Gun Permit

2)What I know (And Don’t Know Now)

(3)Synopsis of  my new novel, Tybee Sunrise

 (4)Chapter One From Tybee Sunrise

(5)Article defining Southern fiction

(6) Synopsis of my previous novel, To Seize the Prize

All works can be found at Amazon.com, selected gift shops and art galleries, and all bookstores including Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. If you don’t find the  novel on the shelf, the store will order it.

The Gun Permit

By

Jim Waller

It seems that everybody is rushing to arm themselves these days. I have yet to figure out exactly who or what we need protection from. But seeing all of this dash to the gun stores made me a little nervous wondering if I, too, might need a weapon of some kind. After days of thought and anxiety, I decided that maybe I ought to look into getting a gun of my own, so I went down to the courthouse and applied for a permit.

The lady taking my information in the gun-permit place was nice enough, but either she was unclear in communicating, or I was a little short on understanding.

She didn’t have a regular paper form for me to fill out, but she explained that she would enter my information in one of the two or three computers on her desk, blinking as if they were happy to see me—sort of like my dog, General Oglethorpe, when I come home after being gone a few hours. He’s a German Shepherd, you know. I just call him “General,” most of the time. He seems to be fine with that.

The lady behind the desk started asking questions that I thought were kind of personal, but I answered them as best I could. I watched her shifting around in her chair for several seconds, maybe even a minute or two, clicking buttons on one of them happy, blinking computers. I’m not much at being up-to-date on all them electronic gadgets people play with now-a-days, even when they get together. I guess the gadgets are more interesting or personable than the people I see seated across from or beside them in a restaurant or on a bus.

“Eyes?” The lady finally began. “Yes, ma’am, two of them. They don’t work as good as they used to with my cataracts and all. That’s what I was wondering about just the other night. I always read my Savannah Morning News with my windows open to catch the late evening breezes coming up the river; and my neighbor—he goes to bed around sundown with his bedroom windows open like mine close enough that if I cough or sneeze he raises up and hurls a bad word at me. He showed me his gun one time. It’s a big one sort of like the ones policemen carry. What if he threatened to shoot me if I refused to turn my lights down or couldn’t cough or sneeze quieter? It’s kind of hard to stifle a cough or a sneeze, you know. And I’m kind of small and not overly handy at what they call “kicking fanny,” and I never have been a fast runner—except when I was a kid and ran out of the schoolhouse when the bell rang. I never put much stock in school. Oh yeah, it was easy enough to understand nouns and verbs, but when my English teachers started talking about direct and not direct objectionals and propositions and stuff  like that, it went right over my head. And my math teachers, whoo-ee! I thought they must have come from the moon or something when they started talking about high-pot-and-nooses and isocrates triangles and stuff like that.

Anyway, what would I do in a bad situation if I didn’t have a gun to defend myself with; that is, if I could see where to aim?” The lady didn’t answer my question, but she got this sort of frown on her face and peered at me through purple-framed glasses, about the same color as her hair.

“Color, sir. What color are your eyes?”

“Well, why didn’t you say so? It depends on the light that I was telling you my neighbor might not like. In bright sun or bright lights, my eyes are sort of pale blue; in dim light they are kind of dark blue.”

“Would it upset you greatly sir, if we just said ‘blue?’”

“No ma’am. That’s fine. That’s what I always put on my driver’s license.”

The lady pulled her purple-framed glasses down over her nose aways and peered at me sort of quizzical-like. “You have a driver’s license, sir?”

“Yes, ma’am. Been driving since I was twelve. Some of that was without a license, naturally.”

“You ever have any accidents, run over anyone?”

“No ma’am. Never have.” The lady stared at me a long time with that quizzical look on her face. Finally, she made a sound like she was suffering from some kind of intestinal malady. She repositioned herself in her chair, pushed them purple-framed glasses back in place on her nose and asked the next question, at least I finally figured out it was a question.

“Hair?”

“Very little here lately. Do you think I ought to look into getting one of them wigs that some of them folks in the movies and on TV wear sometimes?

“Sir, I don’t know anything about wigs. I do know, though, that I’ve got to put a hair  color on this application. Would it be too much to ask that you simply tell me a color to put in this computer?”

“Yes, ma’am, I can do that. Now, does it make a difference if I give you the natural color I was born with and grew up with—except for that time a bunch of me and my buddies dyed ours green after we saw that movie The Boy with Green Hair. I sort of borrowed my mama’s dye that she was going to use for coloring Easter eggs. Mama didn’t see it the same way I did. She couldn’t see that part about ‘borrowing’ and she was mighty disappointed when she couldn’t make green Easter eggs. She was also a little unhappy about seeing her boy looking like a space alien or something. I wasn’t quite as proud of what I had done, either, after I brought her that switch I cut from a bay tree.”

“From where I’m sitting, sir, your, uh, hair looks a little gray or maybe white. Should we call it gray or white?”

“What color do you want to write down there on that computer, ma’am?” The lady removed her purple-framed glasses and wiped her face with both hands. I could have sworn for a second there that I saw a little moisture on her fingers. I certainly hope she wasn’t crying. That gun permit wasn’t important enough to make the purple-glasses lady cry.

“Sir, it matters none to me what color we put down. Your picture on the permit probably won’t show that much detail anyway.”

“My picture is going to be on it? Like on my driver’s license?”

“Your picture will be on the permit.”

“Oh, maybe I should go home and put on my dark shirt with the red plaids and little white squares.”

“Sir, the picture probably won’t care what you are wearing. Can you just give me a color of your hair? I tell you what, would it hurt your feelings if we said ‘white’?”

“No, ma’am, I hardly ever get my feelings hurt by anything. By the way, them purple-framed glasses look mighty sexy on you. Can you tell me where I can get a pair like that? I’ll bet them things would really rattle some of the ladies I visit down at the home sometime. Me and General Oglethorpe live alone, you know. And the strangest thing, some of the ladies seem happier about seeing General Oglethorpe when we visit than they are to see me. Anyway,  maybe glasses will help me get by for a while without that cataract surgery my eye doctor keeps telling me I’ve got to have.” I paused ever so briefly and looked at the lady, and a thought popped into my head.

“Say, maybe me and you could get together sometime and…” The purple-eyeglasses lady very rudely interrupted me before I could finish what I was about to say.

“No sir! That will never happen, not in this life, not in this town, not on this planet!”

Her face lit up the brightest red I’ve ever seen on a person, and she made that sound again like she was in the throes of some kind of gastrointestinal disturbance. She sat for a long time holding in her hands a head that looked like a Christmas tree light. She finally removed her hands from her face and glared at me with a hard, blank look. I watched to see if she was going to blink, but she never did. I blinked about six times myself.

“Sir, it’s getting late in the afternoon,” she finally said, “why don’t you just go on home and see about General Oglethorpe or something, and I’ll finish this up in the morning when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.”

“Yes ma’am, I can do that, and I’ll be back in the morning to help you.”

“Oh no. No, no. I have everything I need to finish this. You take General Oglethorpe for a long walk or something in the morning. I’m sure he would be happy with that.”

The lady replaced her glasses and slumped a little in her chair. She glared at me with a blank stare through them purple-framed glasses. I figured I’d better do what she told me and I left. I glanced kind of secret-like over my shoulder at the lady as I closed the door, and she was still slumped in her chair staring with that same blank look at the place where I had been sitting.

That was a month or two ago, and I still don’t know if I’m going to get a gun permit. After thinking about it some more, though, I don’t know if I really need that permit anyway. Guns are made for killing, and I don’t know of anyone I would be overly eager to harm in any way—except maybe for my Uncle Otto. Every time he saw me when I was a boy, and he was at our house a lot, he would reach out and muss-up my hair real hard like my head was about to fall right off, and blurt out real loud so all my buddies and the neighbors could hear, “What’s happening, Zippy?”

Uncle Otto knew darn well my name is Ralph.

 

 

 

What I Know (And Don’t Know) Now

Musings of One Who Has Seen too Many Decades And Has Nothing Better to Do

By

Jim Waller

Where does someone or something go when they or it disappears into thick air?

*

I’ve often wondered what a muck is, as in, “The enraged elephant broke through the circus tent and ran a muck through the streets of the city.” Legend has it that elephants are afraid of mice. Is it possible that a muck is something like a mouse, and the elephant is determined to catch and eradicate it? Or, could it be some strange-looking creature like one of those created by Dr. Seuss?

*

Washington D. C. is not the center of the universe.

*

It has been said that man cannot live by bread alone. But slap a dab of peanut butter on it and you’re good to go.

*

It has been said that the Federal Government hates two things:

(1) Change

(2) The way things are.

*

Just how many seconds are in a New York minute?

____________________

 Tybee Sunrise 

A Novel

A Synopsis

     New York City attorney Matt Ryan’s divorce is finally settled. To escape the pain of discovering his wife with another man and the bitter break-up that followed, he migrates South and settles on a little spit of sand and marsh called Tybee Island, the last in a series of small barrier islands connected like a string of pearls by a single highway stretching  eighteen miles from the mainland at Savannah.

     The lure of the area is the laid-back ambiance of the island and its people and an ambivalent desire to reconnect with Carolyn, his college sweetheart,  who married a Savannah banker when Matt dumped her ten years ago to marry Yvette, a wealthy young lawyer in her father’s firm. He has forgotten Carolyn’s married name and spends some time searching for her. While trying to find her, he gets involved with Melody, an island girl. He eventually locates Carolyn, and now he has a decision to make.

     Orphaned at the age of eight, Matt grows up in an adoptive family in which he is neither enthusiastically received nor financially supported. As he matures he develops a compulsion for wealth, and a loving and stable family. With a committed work ethic, and a law degree from Harvard, riches are easy enough to come by, but he finds much more elusive the love and stable family he craves.

     In his new home Matt’s life merges with those of five unlikely new acquaintances: John Wayne, a homeless former philosophy professor from Kansas and his homeless friend, Robert, a Chicago murderer; Miss Florence, an elderly cussing church lady from South Florida; Hannah, a promiscuous teenager from Savannah; and Melody, a nurse and Tybee Island native.

     Together they discover all they need to know about love, family and Tybee Island.

____________________

Tybee Sunrise

A novel

Chapter One

   Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever

you call it, whoever you are, you need one.—Jane Howard,  novelist

      Matt Ryan locked the door of his office and walked out onto Butler Avenue. After a short stroll, he made a left turn onto Tybrisa Street. It was a little after four, perhaps a bit early for a drink, but everyone knows that Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet long ago affirmed that it’s always five o’clock somewhere. Besides, Tybee time could be anything he wanted it to be. He was eager to begin his search for Carolyn, but first he needed to get a feel of his new home. When he left her for Yvette ten years ago, Carolyn married a banker from Savannah and moved south. Following the bitter divorce from Yvette, Matt brushed away the shadows concealing Carolyn in a suppressed corner of his heart and freed her to reclaim the place she had dominated through high school and into college.

     Interloping into another man’s romance was something he had never considered, but with Carolyn perhaps he would. And who knows? Many changes can occur in a decade. Was she still married? Was her husband still alive? His demise was not a possibility Matt would joyously embrace—but it would be convenient. And what about Carolyn? Would the pain of the way he had dumped her be forgiven by now? He didn’t know, but he had to find her.

Walking toward the sea along Tybrisa, the smells of pizza and beer and ice cream greeted his nostrils. He reached a bar that someone had recommended and stepped inside. The cooler temperature suddenly swathed his body and he involuntarily shivered. He was surprised by that effort of his body to warm him. He was used to the cooler weather of the Northeast and liked it. Then he remembered the cooling effect of humidity on sudden temperature change. It was like coming out of the Atlantic back home on Long Island in May and facing a brisk northeast wind.

He seated himself at a table and ordered a beer. Half way through the drink, a boisterous young man challenged anyone in the house to a game of pool. Matt figured he had nothing better to do and agreed to take the kid on. After the first round—that Matt won—the boy suggested a small bet on another game. Matt accepted and won the break and a small sum of money.

The stakes were raised and the games continued. In a short while, Matt began losing. Almost an hour of play passed, and it dawned on Matt that he was being hustled. He laid the cue stick on the table and stood staring at the boy.

“What?” the hustler asked innocently.

“You know what. You just hustled me out of eighty dollars.”

“No, man, I play the game. It was your choice. Nobody made you play.”

Matt walked around the table to where the boy stood. The young man gripped his cue stick in a defensive mode. The bartender, the waitress, and the four other customers stopped in mid-animation and looked at the two men. Matt whispered so low that only the boy could hear, “I ought to kick your ass. But today is your lucky day. Mark it on your calendar.” Matt returned to his table.

The noise level from the tourists in the street outside began to rise above the music in the bar. Matt finished the first drink and ordered another beer. Ordinarily he would have had wine, but in the Georgia heat and humidity here on Tybee Island he found beer more refreshing.The waitress brought the second round. Evening customers had not yet begun filling the bar, so the waitress sat across from Matt and started a conversation. She had already concluded he would be good for a generous tip, but why not sweeten the pot?

“Where you from, cowboy? I noted from your accent you aren’t from around here.”

Matt studied the girl’s features for a moment. She was a little overly made-up, but definitely pretty in an earthy sort of way.

“Actually I’m not a cowboy at all, unless you want to consider the occasional rides on my ex-wife’s horses that sometimes made me feel like a ‘cow puncher,’ as John Wayne would say. I’m a lawyer from New York City. I just opened a new office here on the island. You need any legal services?”

“Not at the present. But if I do, I definitely will let you know.” She paused for a moment then added, “Especially now that you mentioned an ex-wife. Let me tell you about my ex. Now there’s a story you want to hear.”

The waitress began the story of her ex’s dalliances with some of the local gentry while she was working, and how he had insisted on alimony after the divorce.Between waiting on customers that had begun straggling into the bar, she returned to Matt’s table to continue the story—and perhaps cultivate a new romance. On the last return to Matt’s table, she pointed to a middle-aged man with a young woman seated beside him hanging on his every word and frequently laughing, apparently at his jokes.

“See the guy at that table over there with that gorgeous lady? He’s a Savannah lawyer. You want me to introduce you?”

Before Matt could protest, the waitress was at the other table pointing in his direction. The man looked at Matt and motioned him to join them. Matt would not be rude. The man stood and extended his hand as Matt approached the table.

“I’m Bruce Bradley.” He pointed to the woman still seated. “This is my wife Corrine. Isn’t she a knockout? She’s a nurse.”

Matt introduced himself and went through the usual greetings and getting-to-know-you ceremonies. After a time of everyone becoming comfortable with each other, Bruce mentioned  that since Matt was new in town and single, it was time for him to get acquainted with some of the local ladies.

“I’m not presently in the market,” Matt quickly answered. “I sort of have someone.”

“One more won’t hurt,” Bruce declared and laughed. “You can never have too many of them—if you know what I mean.” He winked at Matt and laughed again. Corinne looked down at the top of the table, her expression unchanged. Bruce glanced at her and frowned. “I’m going to make a phone call. I know a beautiful young lady, one of Corinne’s nurse friends, who would be perfect for you.”

Matt looked at him and wondered how he had made that assessment in the short time they had known each other. Despite Bruce’s grooming, good looks, and profession, Matt thought he looked a little seedy. He definitely sounded like a jerk.

“You might as well get to know at least one nurse. There’s one or two behind every oleander bush around here. But that’s a good thing. If you need medical care, there’s plenty available in Chatham County.”

In less than a half hour, Bruce announced the nurse’s arrival. Matt turned to look at her as she walked through the door and made her way through the gathering crowd. She was dressed in  pink pants, a matching top, and white deck shoes. Matt’s first impression of her was that she was short and could be considered by some a little plump around the middle, not at all tall and dark like Carolyn. He concluded immediately that this nurse was not his type.He started to turn away, but her confident and striking gate drew his focus. He scanned her body and noted that her breasts looked firm and in perfect symmetry with her hips. For a reason he could not explain, his indifference began to subside. His gaze eased upward to her face drawing him like a magnet. Her honey-colored skin was smooth as a porcelain doll. Her subtly colored lips were full and looked soft as warm butter. Her nose was perfectly shaped and blemish free. Her wide, sloe-shaped eyes were the color of a cloudless summer sky. Hair matching the color of her complexion curled outward at the ends slightly below her shoulders. Matt stared hypnotically. He wanted to turn away but could not.

Her walk to the group’s table was extraordinarily feminine. Her gait was leisurely and effortless without conscious effort to make it so. The placement of each of her small feet seemed to fall into the plane of the previous step. She greeted the group with a soft smile. Bruce stood up and hugged her tightly to his breast and kissed her on the cheek near the dimple at the corner of her mouth. For a moment Matt felt a twinge of jealousy. He felt he should have been the one to greet her in that manner. What is wrong with me? I don’t even know this woman. Besides, didn’t I come here to find Carolyn?

“Matt, I want you to meet Melody Malone, one of the finest nurses in the county, and if for some foolish reason you don’t run away with her, I will.” Bruce looked at Corinne, obviously not pleased with that declaration and her husband’s “friendly” manner with another woman.

Melody tried to hide the embarrassment and pain she felt for Corinne. She smiled and nodded subtly. Except for Matt, everyone’s attention turned to Bruce, who kept up constant chatter and off-color jokes. Melody smiled softly and attempted to steer the conversation in a different direction. Matt could turn his attention away from her for only brief moments. His mind returned to the reality of his yearning for Carolyn from time to time, and he wondered what was happening to him. He came south hoping to find a lost love, not a new one.

After half finishing a margarita, Melody announced that she hated to leave good company, but she had to go.

“I’m ready to call it a night, too. I’ll walk out with you.” Matt said his goodnights without acknowledging Bruce’s suggestion that they should get together again soon. Matt instinctively disliked Bruce. He was the kind of lawyer that gave the others a bad name.

He and Melody stepped onto sultry, unquiet Tybrisa Street busy with tourists of every variety. The couple walked past young—and not so young—tourists in bikinis, and a woman wearing a thong barely covering her nether regions. Two young men across the street stared at her and weaved unsteadily as they sipped from plastic cups. One of the men gave a garbled wolf whistle and a sandaled foot slipped from the curb. His friend caught him before he fell to the street and both struggled to regain their footing. The woman ignored them and kept walking. A light breeze wafted from the ocean. The full moon almost directly overhead cast an enchanting glow on Melody’s face.

“Can I walk you home?” Matt asked.

“It’s such a beautiful night out, do you mind if we stroll around a bit?” Melody looked up into Matt’s face. He was already looking at hers.

“No, I don’t mind at all. I would love that.”

The couple walked slowly to the pavilion and onto the pier. In a darkened place, Melody stopped and leaned on the rail looking into the surf falling gently on the shore. Matt followed and stood close to her, their arms touching. The moon glade sparkled on the water like strobe lights on a trail of white diamonds. They stood silent for a minute or two watching the glade, and the ebb and flow of the tide. After a while Melody spoke, her voice floating soft and smooth like a mellow love song.

“I’m glad you left the bar with me. I would have been heartbroken if you hadn’t.”

“But you ignored me all evening.”

“You’re a stranger, and I’m a lady.”

Matt looked down at her and smiled. “And you ladies do have your ways. You should have let me know something, given me a clue. You didn’t even look at me all evening. What if I had let you leave alone?”

“I knew you were watching me. I left early because I knew you would leave with me.”

“You knew that?” Matt straightened from leaning on the railing. “I don’t believe this!” he said with mock disbelief. “And you would take a chance that you could miss an opportunity to meet a great guy—meaning me, of course.” They laughed.

“Would you care to walk down the beach a ways?”

“Sure. We can do that.”

Melody walked away and Matt followed her. They descended the steps from the pier onto the beach.

“I can’t navigate this sand in these shoes,” Matt protested.

“Of course you can’t. Take them off.” Melody removed her shoes and began rolling the bottoms of her pants. “Roll yours as high as you can,” she ordered. Holding her shoes in one hand and Matt’s hand in the other, she led him to the water’s edge. They walked along the shoreline toward Back River, the broad body of water separating Tybee from Little Tybee. Near the estuary of the river, they stopped and stood looking out over the moon-lit water. For a long while they silently breathed in the beauty before them. Melody took a deep breath as if summoning courage and moved closer to Matt and took both of his hands in hers. He turned from the ocean and looked into her face. She raised her head and their gaze met in the glow of the moonlight. He moved his arm around her waist and drew her to him. Her warm body melted into his. He should stop now before it was too late and take this woman home. He breathed the fragrance of her hair and thought of lilac. Intoxication swept over him, and he knew he was approaching the point of no return. He kissed her, gently at first and then urgently. A series of soft moans rose up from deep inside her.

After a long time that seemed a mere instant, Matt raised his head and looked over melody’s shoulder. Fifty feet or so behind her, a small grove of palm trees stood near the trough of two high sand dunes. He took her hand and steered her in that direction. She made no effort to stop him.

She knew immediately where they were headed and thought she should protest, but she could not. A wanting stirred inside her, urgency she had never before felt with a man, and certainly not with someone she had just met. Was there really such a thing as love at first sight?Men came on to her frequently, but she was rarely moved by their approach. Young Dr. Morehouse had been pestering her since he came to the pediatrics wing of the hospital last spring. He was nice and she liked him and he had her attention. But she was not sure she was ready to give in to his advances.  She had not been with a man for more than a year. She had her work and the activities of the island, and she was happy. Now, here she was with this stranger awakening feelings in her that she had neither sought nor expected. But here they were, loosed and unrestrained, saturating every pore of her body. Humidity seemed to rise and caress her, and the night suddenly felt hot. The stranger in her arms would be gone in the morning never to be heard from again. She would hate herself, and Regret would take his place as her new companion. But for now all resistance had flown from her, and she would fight no more—at least not tonight.

Matt’s grip of her hand tightened, and she followed him toward the place where he was leading her for what she eagerly anticipated would happen. Brief thoughts of resistance gripped her, but she forced them from her mind before she could act. She should turn now and run home as fast as she could. The guilt that she knew would be hers in the morning was already nagging at her. She had been with a man or two, but she had never felt like this before, and she was afraid.

They reached the place where the New York stranger was leading her, and she was glad.

____________________

SOUTHERN FICTION

What It Is

From Mark Twain to John Grisham

     Walk into a major bookstore and you will notice that the thousands of books are organized by genre. These dozens of styles range from literary fiction to mainstream to horror to fantasy to  romance to various types of non-fiction. Literary fiction is usually the style of the classics. The most influential fiction, perhaps, has been Southern fiction.It seems that many, if not most, authors in this genre are incorporating at least some elements of Southern fiction into their writing.

Southern fiction was introduced into American literature with the publication of Mark Twain’s  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885. A further distinction is that the book is considered the fore-runner of the modern American novel. Through the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Southern fiction enjoyed its own place as a discrete genre. This was the era of Faulkner, Caldwell, Lee, Mitchell, O’Connor, and others.

The style has currently been adopted by so many American authors it is now mixed with other fiction and no longer holds its coveted place on separate shelves in book stores.

In my novel, To Seize the Prize, my major goal was to write an entertaining book, but a secondary objective was to write a comprehensive “perfect” Southern fiction novel. And while it may be argued that it is not a perfect novel, I believe it achieved the goal of including all of the elements of the genre. Most Southern fiction novels, however, do not include all the elements, nor do they have to in order to earn the label.

Southern fiction has 11 elements or characteristics. These include:

  • Race: Usually a minority, most often handled with sensitivity and respect. Of late, it seems that Hispanics are frequently featured, and Asians are sometimes the race element. In the South, of course, African-Americans are most commonly a significant part of the story. The obvious reason is that the history and lives of blacks and whites are inextricably intertwined, and always will be. A good example is John Grisham’s newest novel, Sycamore Row.
  • Religion: Often referred to as the “Bible Belt,” the South is generally thought to be more influenced by religion than the rest of the country. Consequently, it often finds its way into Southern fiction. Virtually all Southern fiction authors are familiar with the Bible and Christianity.
  • Economics: Usually poverty, but not always. Steinbeck’s East of Eden is about the wealthy and decadent Trask family. Incidentally, the race element in this novel is Chinese.
  • Usually Written by Authors from the Deep South: Twain and Steinbeck, of course, were not Southerners, but most writers of this genre are. After all, who best to write Southern fiction?
  • Deceit and betrayal: Gone With the Wind and Erskine Caldwell’s Trouble in July are excellent examples.(I don’t recommend Trouble in July [available in the library]. It will keep you awake at night.)
  • Romance: Who wants to read fiction that does not include a good old love story? Even Squeaky-clean Nicholas Sparks writes love stories.
  • Off-beat humor: Twain was a master of quirky humor—some difficult to understand.
  • Violence: Twain did a good job of this as does Grisham, particularly in his A Time to Kill.
  • Use of the vernacular: The prize here goes indisputably to Mark Twain. Many Southern fiction writers have abandoned the vernacular, probably because “Southernese” is difficult to write and to read, especially by readers outside the South.
  • Family: Usually dysfunctional. (Would the Kennedys be as interesting if they were a traditional family?) Check out Huckleberry Finn, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Tobacco Road, The Sound and The Fury, South of Broad, God’s Little Acre  and hundreds more Southern fiction titles.
  • Reverence for the land: Twain, Faulkner, Caldwell, Steinbeck, Conroy, Dickey, Mitchell and an incalculable number of other Southern fiction writers have expressed this in their writings. Whether it is  the Mississippi River, the California Mountains or a cotton farm in Georgia, placement on the earth is an indelible part of and, therefore, of utmost importance to Southern fiction authors.  Twain’s Huckleberry Finn made a giant leap into realistic literature in which, as the saying goes, “art mirrors life.” And as culture and mores change with passing time, language and plots and scenes become more accurate in reflecting life as it really is. To me this is an exciting turn of events when art can demonstrate to humanity its ugliness, follies and foibles—and its beauty, grace and gifts.

____________________

To Seize the Prize

A Novel

A Synopsis

     Paul Straughn and Flashlight Jackson are thrown together by geography and circumstance. They grow up on adjacent sharecropper farms and long for the American Dream in a world not yet ready to allow them to succeed. Paul has the advantage of being born white, but his fortunes erode from there. He is deeply in love with Karen, but cannot tell her because of his suffocating fear of rejection. He is obsessively sensitive to the club foot he is born with and emotionally flawed by the abandonment at birth by his mother.

In the middle decades of the twentieth century in rural Bonds County, Georgia, Flashlight struggles against the barriers he encounters because of the pigment in his skin. As he matures, he strives to satisfy the yearning in his soul for acceptance and respect.

To seize the prize of their long striving, the two young men must first find the strength to overcome their own individual demons, and come to terms with the long-held tradition of racial separation that seems to overwhelm them at times, and may prove a free fall to Paul’s ultimate destruction.

The young men experience three decades of Georgia history, including the desegregation of  public schools and the South. As they grow toward their goals, they discover that, rather than obstacles, adversities are challenges to be overcome.

Anyone who has ever experienced the anguish of seemingly insurmountable adversity in any area of life will find encouragement in the truth of To Seize the Prize.