Category Archives: Historical

M. S. Cole. Southern Conflict. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Books, 2011.

southernnMany of us have learned about the textile industry in North Carolina from history books or family stories.  Mill village housing, segregation of the workforce, stretch-outs, time-and-motion studies, company stores, strikes, blacklisting–all of these are known to us as pieces of history. Southern Conflict brings that history to life through the story of the Turner family.

One small mill house is home to the Turners– two children and five adults.  Four of the adults work in the Banner Cotton Mill that dominates the little village of Pine Valley.  Emma Lee, who presides over the household, used to work in the mill too, but she now stays home to raise two children who have been abandoned by their mother, one of Emma Lee’s cousins. Emma Lee thinks she knows mill work, but it is Aunt Elle, who at 72 still works in the mill, who has seen it all.  But maybe not.  It’s the 1950s, and some winds of change are beginning to blow. When the owner tightens the screws at Banner Cotton Mill, the workers organize, even to the point of reaching across the racial divide. Owner Isaac Banner pushes back, and there is violence and retribution.

Each member of the Turner family member is touched by what happens. How they think about the mill and their lives, and the actions they take, may prompt readers to have fresh ideas about North Carolina’s industrial and social past.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Cole, M. S., Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places

W. Ferrell. The Secrets of Sterling Shearin. Kernersville, NC: W. Ferrell, 2013.

Using the device of a diary, this novel tracks the life and emotional development of Sterling Shearin, a young man living in Warren County in the early years of the American republic.  Sterling has been mentored by Nathaniel Macon and through Macon meets other public figures of the period and is exposed to political ideas that shaped the philosophies of the Founding Fathers.  But Sterling doesn’t just live in a world of ideas.  He is a young man, trying to build up a farm, a family, and his position in his community.  Not all of his impulses and actions are noble–his relationship with his wife sours even as he savors the memory of his relationship with an enslaved woman and dallies with another man’s wife.  He finds his way in part by weighing his behavior against what he sees around him. The Secrets of Sterling Shearin does what historical novels are meant to do–it makes clear that this was a different time. Readers can ponder what they would have done had they lived back then.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ferrell, W., Historical, Piedmont, Warren

George Foster Leal. The Lost Colony of Roanoke. Saratoga Village, CA: Bedside Books, 2012.

As a young man, Don Robeson lived a life of action and danger.  For six years he was a Navy Seal and he honed his skills on some very dark missions during the Iraq War.  But in many ways Don’s character was set during his college years, when Professor Archibald Caulder turned him on to archaeology, and his roommate Johnny showed him how much he didn’t know about women.  Now, at thirty-five, Don is a professor at UNC, lecturing, writing papers, and looking forward to summers when he can be out in the field on a dig.

As this novel opens, Don has just received a phone call from Professor Caulder.  His mentor has been working at a dig site in Manteo, North Carolina.  Caulder has unearthed an old journal–so old that it may be from the Lost Colony.  Now that’s the kind of news that get Don in his car fastOver cognac, Don and Caulder examine the book. Could it be that this is really Ananias Dare’s journal? Caulder has not shown it to anyone working at his dig.  Instead he intrust the book to Don, asking him to get it authenticated–and to get away from Manteo.

Driving back to his beach house in Swan Quarter, Don wonders what to make of his old teacher–Is the book for real?  Is Caulder unnecessarily paranoid about the other researchers at the dig site?  Before the dawn breaks, both questions are answered.  As Don reads the journal, he sees the names one expects and observations and situations that ring true.  He falls asleep thinking about the year 1587, but he is abruptly awakened by a phone call from highway patrol telling him that Caulder has died in a house fire.  Before Don can process the news, two strange cars pull in and block his driveway. Don’s Seal training saves his life, as he slips out the backdoor before his house goes up in flames.

So begins this adventure tale.  Don Robeson will be on the run, barely one step of well-funded killers who want the journal.  He is aided in his adventure Caulder’s beautiful daughter, by his college buddy Johnny, and by a backwoods woman named Ginny Dare.  Not everyone is what they appear to be in a story that has several twist and turns.  History buff will enjoy the excerpts from the journal which reveal the challenges that the colonist faced–and their eventual fate.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, Historical, Hyde, Leal, George Foster, Suspense/Thriller

Perry Comer. Dead Man’s Clothes. United States: CreateSpace, 2012.

In the winter of 1864-65 Wilmington, North Carolina was the last open Confederate port on the Atlantic Coast and as such it was an important lifeline for the Confederacy.  Wilmington was protected by a huge earthwork fort eighteen miles downstream, Fort Fisher.  Every man in the fort knew that it was only a matter of time before the Union launched a coordinated attack on the fort and that the attack would involve the massing war ships of the Union navy and a sizable landing force of veteran fighters.  It isn’t hard to imagine how the men in the fort felt as they anticipated the battle of their lives.  But what would others at the fort–civilians–be thinking?  Dead Man’s Clothes attempts to answer that by imagining how the battle would have been experienced by three boys, Willie, Jeremy, and Tom.  The boys are orphans who have attached themselves to the Confederate encampment at the fort.  By performing personal chores for the soldiers, begging, and scrounging leftover food, clothes, and provisions, the boys attempt to stay alive in that cold winter.  Their survival is as precarious as their loyalty to each other is strong.  Knowing that a great battle is coming, Willie has made  a hideout for himself and his friends.  But how successful can a boy be in anticipating the chaos and horrors of a naval bombardment and a massive invasion?  Dead Man’s Clothes provides readers with an interesting perspective on a well known battle.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Comer, Perry, Historical, New Hanover

C.K. Volnek. Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. United States: Spark Books, 2011.

ghostdogofroanokeIt feels like fate when Jack Dahlgren’s family inherits his great-aunt Ruth’s home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His dad has lost his job, and all the family’s savings are gone. But twelve-year-old Jack doesn’t want to live on Roanoke Island, especially in a house that the kids at school say is haunted. He also feels responsible for his little sister’s accidental fall off of a nearby sea cliff, which put her in a hospital in Raleigh. On top of everything, a hurricane is bearing down on the Outer Banks, howling like a monster.

…Or is it a hurricane? There’s definitely some stormy weather, but there’s also something dark and scary living in the woods near the Dahlgrens’ new house. When Jack investigates, he finds a mysterious, vanishing mastiff, and something much wilder. Later, Jack meets and befriends their Algonquin neighbor, Manny Braboy, who explains it all– the evil living in Jack’s woods is a Witiku: a demon summoned by the natives of Roanoke Island in the sixteenth century to rid the island of all invaders. Incredibly, Manny tells Jack that he, Jack, must be the one to defeat the Witiku. The twelve-year old is skeptical, but when Manny takes him back to the sixteenth century to observe the events of the Lost Colony unfold, he begins to believe. Will Jack defeat the Wikitu? Will Roanoke Island finally be at peace? Will Jack ever be happy in his new home?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Volnek, C. K.

Maurice Stanley. Midwinter: A Novel of the Frankie Silver Murder. Wilmington, NC: Whittler’s Bench Press, 2007.

History tells us that Frances “Frankie” Silver of Morganton, North Carolina, murdered her husband Charlie during a fight in late December of 1831. According to Frankie, Charlie Silver had been loading his musket in a jealous rage at the time in order to kill her.  Perhaps it is the whim of fate, and the expediency of axes over that of early 19th century firearms, that Frankie lived and Charlie died. Although the murderess attempted to conceal her actions, it’s said that she regretted his death bitterly. Eventually, however, Charlie’s family found her out, and Frankie was executed by hanging in the summer of 1833.

Maurice Stanley’s account of this infamous tale, long part of North Carolina mountain lore, is part historical fact, part fictional characterization, and part ghost story. He takes the perspective of various persons reputedly involved in the affair, including that of Frankie and Charlie’s families, the ill-fated couple themselves, and local law enforcement. He renders an imaginative retelling of this well-known classic, and provides a comprehensive list of resources for anyone interested in the historical accounts. But one thing will never be settled by reading newspaper stories or first-hand reports: do the vengeful ghosts of Frankie and Charlie Silver still walk the earth to this day?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. For more information on Frankie Silver and her story, come by the North Carolina Collection and discover our historical sources, including the official court record from the Morganton News-Herald.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Burke, Historical, Mountains, Stanley, Maurice, Suspense/Thriller

Stephanie McCoy. Sweet as Cane. Berkeley, CA: Pen & Mouse Books, 2012.

Marrow is a small, fictional town in North Carolina, somewhere between the Triangle and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1957, it still clings to many of the thoughts and traditions that have been at its core for the last century. This includes the practice of photographing deceased loved ones as if they were still among the living– babies in particular. No one is more skilled in this morbid photography than Cane Walker, the daughter of the town’s (surprisingly female) mortician.

At a healthy twenty-three years, one would expect Cane to be married with a family of her own. But a tragic accident during her birth left her with a scarred and disfigured face. Neither life nor the townsfolk have been kind to Cane, who finds her raison d’etre behind the safe, concealing disguise of a camera lens. She has a gift for composing a photograph so good that it brings a dead child back to life, at least for a time. While the town inhabitants ridicule her face, they cannot deny her talent– every mother who loses a child wants a photograph from the mysterious Miss Walker. Unfortunately, Cane has a bad habit of stealing small keepsakes from the little bodies before they go next-door to her mother, Darleen, for burial. A pin here, a letter there– Cane herself isn’t sure why she steals, only that it is part of her process. But Cane’s life is about to change, and although they don’t realize it, the community around her will also change as a result.

Told through the eyes of different residents in the small town, from rich to poor and black to white, Sweet as Cane follows the little tragedies of daily life in a more unforgiving time.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Historical, McCoy, Stephanie, Novels Set in Fictional Places

William F. Kaiser. Bloodroot. Deep Gap, NC: Bloodroot Books, 2007.

It’s 1860, and Billy Jack Truehill thinks he’s a goner for sure. Bitten by a giant rattlesnake while hunting alone in the North Carolina mountains, the tough woodsman knows he’s likely to perish. But Providence must smile on Billy Jack, for instead of dying in the forest, he stumbles onto the Widow Johnson’s humble homestead.

Elvira May Johnson was gently raised in New York City, where she was married off to the affluent Methodist preacher, Reverend Hiram Johnson. At twenty years her senior, Reverend Johnson was not her ideal match, but Elvira May bowed to the wishes of her father and brothers. But a sudden, unexplained assignment to a parish in western North Carolina meant Elvira May was uprooted from all she knew and loved, and taken out of civilization into the mountain wilds. Yet, the twenty-four-year old Elvira proved stronger than anyone thought, learning herb-lore from local granny-women and how to care for her humble living space. When Hiram died, the self-sufficient Elvira was more than prepared to cope on her own. Or at least she thought she was, until the day Billy Jack falls over in her cornfield.

Elvira heals Billy Jack’s snakebite, and it doesn’t take long for them to begin courting. Unfortunately, the day they marry is just after the formation of the Confederacy, and it doesn’t take long for the simmering mountain communities to boil over. Now Elvira and Billy Jack must fight to defend their country, their neighbors, and their very lives. But can a young woman with strong ideas about abolition and a young man with a stubborn streak a mile wide survive in the wartime mountain wilds for five years? With bandits, soldiers, and feuding neighbors roaming the highlands, it will take a lot more providence to see them through.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Historical, Kaiser, William F., Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Terry Roberts. A Short Time to Stay Here. Banner Elk, NC: Ingalls Publishing Group, 2012.

Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee in 1917 wasn’t the “rural, undeveloped South” of northern newspaper articles; it was a land far beyond. It was a place of the steepest mountains, the wildest river gorges, the meanest lives, and the shortest winter rations in the country. It was deep, hard, lonesome, and –if you weren’t starving to death–beautiful.  

Stephen Robbins has been running the glamorous Mountain Park Hotel in Hot Springs, North Carolina for seven years. An insomniac, alcoholic widower, Stephen is devoted to his hotel and the people who work with him, confessing that he feels physically one with the elegant architecture. But Stephen’s life is about to change radically. World War I finds its way to the Mountain Park Hotel in the form of 2,000 German nationals, trapped in the United States after the declaration of war. Forced to turn the hotel into an internment camp, Stephen thinks he has more than he can handle. Not only is he expected to babysit 2,000 Germans, but he also has to keep the increasingly bloodthirsty townsfolk of Hot Springs from violence, especially his violent cousin Roy, who just happens to be the Sheriff. Sheriff Roy Robbins has no reason to love Stephen– thanks to a terrible mistake, Stephen shot and killed Roy’s brother a few years back. Roy is biding his time for revenge, and Stephen knows it.

Then Anna Ulmann, New York photographer, steps into the impending catastrophe. Fleeing a domineering husband in the North, she has also come south with a very real desire to photograph the internees in their prison. Stephen is by turns annoyed and attracted to the beautiful Anna, but he can’t help falling in love with her. Together, the two stand against escapees, typhoid, bodies arriving from the European front, and society’s own mandates against a married woman falling in love with a man who is not her husband. With blood feuds and angry husbands lying in wait, will Anna and Stephen survive the coming storm?

Written in descriptive, intelligent prose, this debut novel is a moving tale of finding love and empathy in a time of conflict, and what it means to be a prisoner in spirit, even if the body is free.

A Short Time to Stay Here was the winner of the 2013 Sir Walter Raleigh Award.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Historical, Madison, Mountains, Roberts, Terry, Romance/Relationship

Marcia Gruver. Raider’s Heart. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2011.

Back in the early 1850s, Silas McRae was a no-good thief and a charlatan. He had to be: despite having the surname name “McRae” he and his family, like other Lumbee residents of Robeson County, North Carolina, were looked down on and scorned by most North Carolinians. Now it’s 1871, and as an older man with a family, Silas regrets his thieving ways. But his greatest regret is the loss of a beautiful golden lamp, stolen from a rich Fayetteville home one fateful night in 1852. Silas has told the tale repeatedly to his two boys, Hooper and Duncan: how beautiful the lamp was, and how Silas was sure that its strange shape held a genie that would answer all of his problems. When Hooper and Duncan hear from a cousin that the lamp might have found its way to the family of a wealthy local planter, how can they resist stopping by to acquire it?

It seems like a simple job of thievery, but the boys don’t count on the feisty Dawsey Wilkes, the (supposedly) gently raised daughter of Colonel Gerrard Wilkes. Dawsey apprehends the criminals in the act of stealing her father’s precious lamp, but the situation goes terribly awry for all parties involved, and somehow the McRaes end up kidnapping Dawsey. But the trouble is just beginning. When the McRaes arrive home in Scuffletown with Dawsey, they discover that she is the spitting image of their little sister Ellie, who is exactly the same age. Are the two girls twins? And could the beautiful, haughty Dawsey ever fall for the likes of Hooper McRae? What unfolds is a tale of danger, unexpected family, and romance. This first novel in Gruver’s Backwoods Brides series charts a stormy course through the racially charged history of Reconstruction era Robeson County.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Gruver, Marcia, Historical, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Robeson, Romance/Relationship