Tag Archives: Mill towns

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.

Leave a Comment

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

Rhonda Riley. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope. New York: Ecco, 2013.

The Enchanted Life of Adam HopeAfter her Aunt Eva passes away, seventeen-year old Evelyn Roe is charged by her parents to tend to her deceased aunt and uncle’s farm near the fictional town of Clarion, North Carolina. The farm lies twenty-five miles outside of Charlotte. Riley’s story begins at the end of World War II and most of the town’s men are off fighting, if they have not already perished in the wake of the war effort.

With their work at the cotton mill, Evelyn’s parents do not have time to look after the farm. Despite her initial shock at the responsibility, Evelyn quickly adapts to her new circumstances and finds freedoms alongside her obligations. Thanks to her height, her red hair, and her smattering of freckles, Evelyn is teased mercilessly. Like many small towns, Clarion does not take kindly to differences. But on the farm, she develops a loving bond to her family’s land.

On the farm, Evelyn happens upon something odd — a man lodged in the harsh, red clay earth. Evelyn rescues and cares for the disfigured man. Yet the unknown, unnamed man is not what he seems. He possesses strange talents that verge on supernatural. Evelyn and the man who eventually transforms into Adam Hope fall in love. Their connection is profound, both spiritual and sensual. They marry and start a family.

The town of Clarion accepts Adam unequivocally. They appreciate his kind heart, large appetite, and earthy nature. At first. After a tragic incident brings grief to the Hope family, Adam’s unusual behavior elicits discomfort and draws questions from the townspeople. Suddenly, the Hope family finds their way of life endangered. Will Evelyn and Adam be able to restore their standing in the community and maintain their intimate bond? Or will the stress of prying public opinion unravel the Hope family?

First-time novelist Rhonda Riley presents a story with biblical undertones that focuses on unwavering love and that experiments with concepts such as gender and physical manifestations of differences. Her exploration of gender in particular is at times reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. She highlights the subtleties and secrets that exist within families. Riley questions ancestry and if people can know one another truly.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Riley, Rhonda, Romance/Relationship

Wendy L. Young. Come the Shadows. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2011.

Campbell Creek, North Carolina is the epitome of a sleepy small town. Officer Will Harmon, now in his forties, hasn’t seen much action over his near-twenty year career on the police force. His day usually consists of eating at the local diner and center of the community, the Pie Shop, and chasing after young teenage ne’er-do-wells as they think up new pranks. But one morning all that changes when Campbell Creek has its first murder in seventeen years. A group of kids discovers a pile of bones in an abandoned factory, and no one seems to know to whom they could belong.

Soon Will is caught up in the investigation, bringing a young rookie cop named Ricky along for the ride. But this rabbit-hole goes much deeper than it appears on the surface. Is the murder connected with all the new housing developments going up in the quiet town? Will’s wife Laura is busy protesting the high-handed way developers are dealing with the Campbell Creek community, and soon she’s receiving threatening responses to her activism. Can Will, Ricky, and Laura find the wrongdoers before it’s too late for them, and for Campbell Creek? Find out in the first book in the Campbell Creek Mysteries.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Young, Wendy L.

Alice E. Sink. Ain’t No Bears Out Tonight. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Book Publishing, 2010.

It is the summer of 1951 in the fictional town of Piedmont, North Carolina and nearby Burnett Mill Village. For the fifty-odd years since Piedmont was founded by a band of upright gentleman, it has always appeared to be the very model of a wholesome community. But when Miss Amelia Miller is found murdered in her home, the peaceful citizens are forced to remember uncomfortable secrets they would rather forget. Frannie Cline, the little girl next door, finds her imagination gripped by Miss Amelia’s collection of antiques; in particular, a beautiful silver and opal pinkie ring. Unbeknownst to Frannie, the ring represents a dark time in Miss Amelia’s and Piedmont’s shared history, when social mores possessed greater value than human life.

Sink explores these towns using a large, diverse cast of characters that draws the reader back and forth in time between 1900 and 1951. Filled not only with murder but also racial and social conflict, the book gives the reader a taste of how attitudes began to change in small North Carolina towns in the first half of the 20th century.

Due to descriptions of sexuality and violence, this book is recommended for older teens and adults.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Docufiction, Historical, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Sink, Alice E., Suspense/Thriller

Michael Cogdill. She-Rain. New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2010.

Young Frank Locke grew up in a bad situation.  His father, a World War I veteran, was an angry, violent man with a taste for both alcohol and opiates.  Work in the mill and jealousy of his sister only further embittered Frank Senior.  Young Frank’s mother and grandparents loved him, but their love, wisdom, and generosity could not change the basic conditions of his life.  But the Lockes weren’t the only poor people in and around their mountain town.  Mary Lizbeth Hunter grew up nearby, a  wild child, left to roam the woods.  She and Frank met in school where Frank’s kindness to her bound them to each other.  Frank and Mary Lizbeth’s story carries through the book, enmeshed in a rich tale of faith and loyalty, but also violence and secrets.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Cogdill, Michael, Mountains

Grace Lumpkin. To Make My Bread. New York: Macaulay Co., 1932.

To Make My Bread follows the McClure family during the years 1900-1929.  Initially, they are mountaineers, self-sufficient on their small plot of land.  Most of their neighbors live as they do, except for the Swains, who own the store in their community.  When the family is swindled out of their land by timber speculators, they move to a mill town forty miles away.

Not all family members adjust to the move.  The two younger children, John and Bonnie become the primary breadwinners, and they are radicalized by their experiences. Bonnie also struggles with the conflict between the demands of industrialized work and traditional expectations for women.  She becomes an important figure in the nascent labor movement in the town.

Part family saga, part political novel, To Make My Bread is one of six novels from the 1930s  based on the Gastonia textile strike of 1929.  The book has been the subject of academic study, and it is still in print from the University of Illinois Press.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1930-1939, 1932, Gaston, Historical, Lumpkin, Grace, Mountains, Piedmont

Toni L.P. Kelner. Dead Ringer. New York: Kensington Pub., 1994.

In the second book in the Laura Fleming mystery series, Laura and her husband Richard return to the small town of Byerly for her family reunion. Her calm vacation is quickly livened up with amateur sleuthing when a stranger is shot to death at the town’s mill and she discovers that her aunt is being blackmailed.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Catawba, Kelner, Toni L. P., Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Toni L.P. Kelner. Down Home Murder. New York: Kensington Pub., 1993.

Laura Fleming left North Carolina years ago to attend MIT, but is summoned back to her western North Carolina hometown when her grandfather is badly injured in an accident at the town’s mill. But was her Paw’s “accident” really an attempt on his life? Laura (or Laurie Ann, as her family calls her) sees connections between his case and the murder of a local woman. Although she has her hands full investigating the incident, she also has to deal with a slew of her kooky relatives. This is the first of the Laura Fleming Mysteries, all of which are set in the fictional town of Byerly.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Kelner, Toni L. P., Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Gloria Houston. Littlejim. Fairview, NC: Bright Mountain Books, 2008.

Littlejim wants nothing more than to earn the respect of his father, Bigjim. He is an excellent student, but his father does not see the value in school work and other such “tom-foolery.” Littlejim tries to prove himself in other ways, but he has no luck in demonstrating his worth to his father by working on his family’s farm or in his uncle’s sawmill. When an essay contest is announced, Littlejim decides to try to win both the contest and his father’s approval by writing about what it means to be an American. The people of his World War I-era Appalachian community provide the inspiration for his writing. Littlejim is based on the childhood of the author’s father and is the 2008 children’s focus novel for Western North Carolina’s Big Read Project, Together We Read. It has two sequels: Littlejim’s Dreams and Littlejim’s Gift: An Appalachian Christmas Story.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1990, 1990-1999, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, Houston, Gloria, Mountains

Henry Clark. Trophy Boy. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2007.

This is a coming-of-age novel centering on Victor Carter, a high school boy who lives in the fictitious Piedmont town of Hopkinsville.  Victor is a very good golfer and a serious, reliable young man.  He hopes to be a Methodist minister and is studying theology with his pastor.  Taking a summer office job at his grandfather’s lumber company exposes Victor to attitudes and situations he has not previously encountered.  He feels pulled by the varied expectations that the adults in his life have for him, and he struggles to find his own sense of justice in a small town that harbors racism, economic blackmail, and a social structure that doesn’t welcome change. The book is set in the late 1940s.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Clark, Henry, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont