Category Archives: Rutherford


Phyllis Whitney. Star Flight. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1993.

In the midst of Asheville’s heyday in the 1930s, silver screen idols Victoria Frazer and Roger Brandt signed on to co-star in what was sure to be a wildly successful film, Blue Ridge Cowboy. During production, an attraction developed between the two stars. Unfortunately Brandt was already married. The affair was kept hushed for appearances. Things got messier though, when Frazer became pregnant. Her illegitimate daughter was handed off quietly to another family in California. However, when it was clear that Brandt had no intention of divorcing his wife, Camilla, Victoria committed suicide, supposedly drowning herself in Lake Lure. Her body was never recovered and Roger Brandt’s career was ruined when fans learned of the tragedy. After Victoria’s death, Brandt moved to Lake Lure in semi-seclusion, and forced Camilla to come along with him.

Lauren Castle has lived in the shadow of these legends. Her mother was Frazer and Brandt’s illicit child. Although Lauren’s mother never displayed any interest in finding out more about her parents, Lauren collected old magazines and photos of her grandmother in secret. As a child, she was mesmerized by Victoria and Roger’s scandal. For the most part, Lauren has kept her true parentage under wraps. Her husband, Jim, a documentary filmmaker was one of the few to know her family history. He was enthused to discover Lauren’s background, so much that he was eventually inspired to make a documentary on Roger Brandt, an interest that ultimately led to his death. Lauren refused to go with him while he worked on the documentary, and she instead remained behind in California. Early into the project, Jim was killed accidentally when a large beam fell on him during filming.

Even after Jim’s death, Lauren has little interest in venturing to North Carolina until she receives a cryptic note claiming that Jim’s death was quite intentional. When she arrives in Lake Lure, Lauren hides behind her identity as Jim Castle’s wife. Victoria was born in Asheville and her remaining family live around Lake Lure. Lauren meets Victoria’s siblings, Gretchen, an innkeeper and healer, and Ty, a mountain man, as well as Roger and Camilla Brandt and their children and grandchildren. She also encounters Gordon Heath, an old friend of Jim’s, with whom she had a short-lived tryst eleven years ago. By hiding her identity, Lauren learns some surprising details from Brandt family members. Soon she is inadvertently investigating the unresolved mysteries behind Jim’s death and Victoria’s suicide. Many contradictory accounts of Victoria’s character surface, some highly unflattering. Although Lauren feels a greater connection and allegiance to her deceased grandmother than her living grandfather, she starts to wonder if her facts are wrong. Who was Victoria Frazer – innocent victim or vindictive siren?

There’s a lot going on in Star Flight. Novelist Phyllis Whitney packed in two intriguing mysteries at once, fictional Old Hollywood stars, tangled family relationships, romance, a bit of the supernatural, and some surprising facts about kudzu. A prolific author, Whitney wrote the novel in 1993, and it was one of her last books before her death in 2008 at the age of 104. Whitney’s research into the North Carolina mountains is evident, and Star Flight promises readers plenty of suspense.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Mountains, Mystery, Romance/Relationship, Rutherford, Whitney, Phyllis A.

Barry D. Yelton. Scarecrow in Gray. New York: iUniverse, 2006.

Although many of his neighbors and relatives joined the Confederate Army, struggling Rutherford County farmer Francis Melton did not see that he had a personal stake in the conflict. He felt he was doing his patriotic duty buy selling his crops to the Confederacy for less than their worth. Eventually, however, he is convinced that he is duty-bound to serve and he leaves his wife and daughters to enlist. Francis and his conscripted friend, Whit Whitaker, face hunger, violence, danger, as they fight their way through the final year of the Civil War. Scarecrow in Gray is loosely based on the author’s great-grandfather’s service in the Civil War.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Coast, Historical, Mountains, Novels in Series, Rutherford, Yelton, Barry D.

J. G. Clinkscales. How Zach Came to College. Spartanburg, SC: W. F. Barnes, 1903.

Zach Whetsone, a lad from Rutherford County, happens to be selling his produce in Spartanburg, South Carolina one spring day when the commencement exercises at Wofford College are taking place. Zach is inspired by the event and later returns to Wofford as a student. As a poor mountaineer, Zach has to overcome many obstacles to complete his degree. When he finally does, he returns home to marry his true love, preach, teach, and start a high school. Zach is presented as an admirable figure: working hard, caring for his widowed mom, staying true to his love, and speaking out for national reconciliation, but his racial attitudes (or, those of the author) will offend many readers.

Check this title’s availability and access an online copy through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


Filed under 1900-1909, 1903, Clinkscales, J. G., Mountains, Novels to Read Online, Rutherford

Rose Senehi. In the Shadows of Chimney Rock. Boone, NC: Ingalls Publishing Group, 2008.

Since Elizabeth Tarrington went to a lot of trouble to make it look like her husband died in the Vietnam War, she’s angry when he informs her that he will be including their daughters in his will. One daughter, Hayden, goes to visit him in Asheville, but she discovers that her father died only a few hours before her arrival. The main plot centers on the competition between developers and a conservancy group for control of land in the Hickory Nut Gorge that Hayden and her sister inherit, but Hayden also faces the mysteries of her father’s two “deaths,” the challenges of running his art gallery, and the possibilities of a new romance. The local details of In the Shadows of Chimney Rock add realism to the story: Ben, the novel’s ex-football-star-turned-environmentalist, teaches at Warren Wilson College; the art gallery is in the Grove Arcade; and real land conservancy groups continue to work to protect Hickory Nut Gorge from developers.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Buncombe, Mountains, Mystery, Rutherford, Senehi, Rose, Suspense/Thriller

Tony Earley. The Blue Star. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

Jim Glass, introduced to readers in a previous novel, Jim the Boy, has grown into a teenager. He experiences first love, but Chrissie Steppe, the object of his affections, has promised to wait for a boy who has left for service in World War II. Although this is a coming-of-age story, it is not just about Jim, but also about how a distant war ripples through the lives in one small Southern town.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Earley, Tony, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Rutherford

Tony Earley. Jim the Boy. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000.

Jim is a ten-year-old boy who lives with his mother and her brothers and is just beginning to come to grips with the adult world. The story is set in the fictional southwestern North Carolina town of Aliceville in the 1930s and follows Jim through everyday events as he struggles to understand his family, friends, and through their stories, himself. Aliceville is probably based on Rutherfordton, N.C.

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

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Filed under 2000, 2000-2009, Earley, Tony, Historical, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Rutherford