Tag Archives: Moonshining

Lights, Camera, Novel: Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

Christy TV SeriesSome of the best stories originate from real life, like Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel Christy. Marshall was inspired to write her famous book based on the experiences of her mother, Leonora Whitaker, who left her family and home in North Carolina to teach at a mission school in the Appalachian Mountains in 1909. After Marshall and her parents later visited the mission school in Del Rio, Tennessee in the late fifties, Marshall wanted to tell her mother’s story. Many elements in Christy are rooted in fact. Marshall conducted extensive research into Appalachian life and culture, so even the fictionalized aspects of the novel are still well-founded.

Twenty-seven years later, Christy was developed into a TV series, which debuted on Easter Sunday on CBS. True to the novel, the show was filmed in Tennessee. Kellie Martin portrayed Christy. Tyne Daly won an Emmy for her supporting role as Alice Henderson, a Quaker missionary, and LeVar Burton joined the cast in season two. Fans of Marshall’s novel enjoyed the series, though their satisfaction was short-lived. Executives canceled the show soon after the season two finale was shot. Twenty-one episodes were filmed in all.

Viewers were upset about the cancellation because the season two series finale ended on a cliffhanger with Christy split between two very different men vying for her affection, the rugged Dr. Neil MacNeil and the handsome Reverend David Grantland. Seeking resolution, fans wrote to CBS requesting that the show be put back on the air. Five years later, in 2000, PAX network (since renamed Ion) continued the unresolved plot line in a made-for-TV movie. Some of the same actors reprised their roles, but Christy was recast using an unknown actor, Lauren Lee Smith. Three TV movies adapting Marshall’s novel were released between 2000 and 2001 giving fans the closure they were denied in the canceled TV series. The movies – Christy: Return to Cutter Gap, Christy: A Change of Seasons and Christy: A New Beginning — were filmed primarily in Canada.

Lauren Lee Smith as Christy

A book cover with Lauren Lee Smith as Christy.

Christy still boasts an active fan base. Starting in 1997, enthusiasts of the novel and TV show have met to discuss their fascination for Christy. The annual meeting was dubbed “ChristyFest,” and it often occurs in Townsend, Tennessee, the filming location of the TV show. This year ChristyFest will be held May 23-25 in Del Rio, Tennessee. From the ChristyFest site, it appears that registration will open soon.

No doubt, Christy has captured the attention of loyal fans, and the love triangle between the main characters is a big draw. In writing this post, I found evidence of a Neil and Christy fan site with photos from the TV show and the TV movies, interviews with cast members, episode guides, and analysis and more. There are also special fan fiction sites and some fictionalized Twitter accounts created from the perspectives of Christy, Neil, David, and Alice.

Catherine Marshall is recognized as a Christian writer. The Christy Awards were created to acknowledge Christian fiction writers and the three Christy TV movies were backed by the support of the now defunct PAX network, which focused on “family-based” programming. It appears that Inspiration Network, or INSP TV, currently broadcasts episodes from the Christy TV series. INSP headquarters are in the Charlotte metro area.

Kellie Martin as Christy

An audiobook cover with Kellie Martin as Christy.

Read the original blog post on Catherine Marshall’s Christy here. The complete TV series is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog along with the original novel and an audiobook version of the novel read by Kellie Martin.

Sources consulted here: Christianity Today, The Christy Awards, ChristyFest site and blog, Christy Fan Fiction, IMDb, Inspiration Networks/INSP TV, Neil and Christy fan site, Twitter (see paragraph above for the specific accounts), Wikipedia (Catherine Marshall, Christy [novel], Christy [TV series])

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2000-2009, 2001, Buncombe, Historical, Marshall, Catherine, Mountains, Novels by Region, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Ann Hite. Ghost on Black Mountain. New York: Gallery Books, 2011.

Nellie Clay falls hard for winter-eyed, curly-haired Hobbs Pritchard. In no time at all they are married, paying no heed to Nellie’s mama, who warns that she sees death in her tea leaves. It’s 1939, and despite the Depression that the country is in,  it’s the modern world. Who believes in ghosts and hoodoo? Hobbs brings Nellie home to Black Mountain, a very different world than the one Nellie grew up in near Asheville. For a time, she’s happy, despite their neighbors’ coldness and the strange rumors she keeps hearing regarding her husband. But slowly she discovers that Hobbs Pritchard isn’t the man she thought he was, and she begins to dread hearing his tires on the gravel outside.

And she begins seeing people. There’s an old woman in the house with steel gray hair, and a small man with round glasses who walks the Pritchard land. Only Shelly, the Pritchards’s sometime maid, sees them too. Nellie knows that she has to get off Black Mountain, but Hobbs is squarely in her way. One dark night everything falls apart, and Nellie does leave Black Mountain for good…or so she thinks.

Told through the eyes of five women touched by the murderous cruelty of Hobbs Pritchard, Ghost on Black Mountain is set against the rich beauty of the Appalachians. Linked by blood, common experience, and the ability to see “haints,” each woman nonetheless has a unique voice that engages the reader with its compelling tale.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Buncombe, Hite, Ann, Mountains

Lynn Boyd. The Awakened Heart.Mustang,OK:Tate Publishing, 2009.

This brief, moving novel recounts the early adult years of a Halifax County man.  Told in the form of a memoir, seventy-five year old Vernon Lee (Buddy) Young reflects on working on his family’s farm, serving in the Korean War, and meeting and marrying the love of his life, Emma Jean.  Buddy’s life was hard. His family was poor and his father was cruel.  Meeting Emma Jean changed Buddy–he found acceptance and love, and through Emma Jean’s influence he came to believe in a loving God.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Boyd, Lynn, Coastal Plain, Halifax, Religious/Inspirational

Jennifer Niven. Velva Jean Learns to Drive. New York: Plume, 2009.

Rhinestones. High-heeled cowboy boots. Hawaiian steel guitars. Many people are drawn to the bright lights of Nashville, Tennessee, and Velva Jean Hart Bright is one of them. She is enthralled by the opportunities afforded by the city and consumed with her lifelong desire to be a famous Grand Ole Opry singer. When Velva Jean was a little girl on (fictional) Fair Mountain, North Carolina, her mother supported her dream by encouraging Velva Jean to write songs and to sing for her. After her mother dies and her father abruptly leaves the family to work on the Scenic (the Blue Ridge Parkway), Velva Jean quickly grows up and puts her wish for fame on hold. At age sixteen, she marries Harley Bright, a convict-turned-traveling preacher who grew up in nearby (fictional) Devil’s Kitchen.

Harley is initially a sweet and doting husband. However, his views of marriage are very traditional. He doesn’t allow Velva Jean to drive and he forbids her beloved pastime, singing. As she gets used to married life, Velva Jean realizes Nashville may be even further from her reach. However, she is headstrong, and when Harley turns cold, controlling, and fanatical in his opposition to the Parkway and the “outlanders” that have moved in to build it, Velva Jean refuses to be acquiescent. She realizes that her dream is too much to give up for a loveless marriage, and she leaves Devil’s Kitchen – driving and singing her way to a new life.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Historical, Mountains, Niven, Jennifer, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Cotton Ketchie. Little Did They Know. Davidson, NC: Lorimer Press, 2009.

Many women like being part of a group–the monthly book club, the weekly dinner group, the daily walking crew.  But how well do we know the women we spend time with?  The once five, now four, women of the Wednesday Night Club always eat at the same restaurant in Mooresville, but when Carmen suggests that the group go to a winery in the Yadkin Valley for dinner, the other women go along.  Carmen is the newest member of the group and a bit of a hard-charger, but Joanie and Gail have no reason to question Carmen’s plans. Debbie knows what a dirty-dealer Carmen is since Carmen is carrying on with her husband, but Debbie Seacrest has not shared that sorrow with her friends.

Carmen has met her match in Kevin Seacrest–they are two people with a thirst  for the good life and a ruthless streak.  Together they hatch a plan to kidnap the other women in the dinner group and then demand ransom from Gail’s wealthy husband, James Caldwell.  James suspects trouble right away and enlist the help of his friend, Jake McLeod, whose late wife Kitt was once part of the dinner group.  Although James and Jake push the authorities to act quickly, they are no vigilantes.  They work closely with the police, including Iredell County detective Marci Meredith.

Even though Kevin Seacrest’s behavior leads the authorities in the right direction, Gail, Joanie, and Debbie spend several harrowing days on the run from Carmen and a fierce and murderous accomplice.  During that time the women depend on each other for their very lives. The women draw closer, and each woman comes out of the experience with a clearer sense of what is important in her life.  During the days of searching Jake and Detective Meredith are attracted to each other, and this plot line is merged with the capture of the last kidnapper in a satisfying ending.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Iredell, Ketchie, Cotton, Piedmont, Wilkes, Yadkin

Bob Terrell. Get Rufus! Alexander, NC: Land of the Sky Books, 2008.

Rufus Raby was an easy-going mountain lad until his friend Sid Hollifield was murdered.  Rufus is a good tracker, helping Sheriff Clure find people missing in the mountains of Jackson County.  (In return, the sheriff overlooks Rufus’s moonshining.)  Seeing Sid’s battered and snake-bitten body changes Rufus.  Finding Sid’s killer becomes his mission, but the search is also a journey for Rufus.  As his heart warms to Sid’s widow, he learns to read and write, control his impulse for revenge, and combine his new knowledge of town ways with his backwoods talents.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Jackson, Mountains, Terrell, Bob

DuBose Heyward. Angel. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926

This novel’s North Carolina setting is a bit of a surprise since the author, DuBose Heyward, is strongly associated with that other Carolina–particularly the city of Charleston, the setting for his novel PorgyPorgy was the basis for Porgy and Bess, the play, movie and great George Gershwin opera.

Angel is set among the mountaineers of the Great Smokies.  Buck Merritt is a handsome and daring young bootlegger, and the sweet and beautiful Angel Thornley is in love with him.  Angel’s father, a preacher, is opposed to her relationship with Buck.  When Reverend Thornley betrays Buck to the revenue officers, Buck is sent away to do hard time.  What the reverend didn’t know is that Angel is pregnant with Buck’s child.   To save his reputation in the community, Rev. Thornley arranges a hasty marriage between Angel and old Stan Galloway.  Angel and her son spend six years with Galloway until the construction of a road through the mountains brings job opportunities for Galloway and a convict road crew that includes Buck.

This is a lyrical novel that conveys both the beauty of the mountains and the values of the individuals who live there.  The scenes at Rev. Thornley’s revival services are especially vivid.

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

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Filed under 1920-1929, 1926, Heyward, DuBose, Mountains

Andrew Carey Lincoln. Motorcycle Chums in the Land of the Sky. Chicago: M. A. Donohue, 1912.

Four young boys from the North seek adventure in the mountains around Asheville.  They find hospitable Southerners, ornery sheriffs, runaway horses, moonshiners, and a long-lost brother. The plot might not hold the attention of the YouTube generation, but the cover illustration will delight all who see it.

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

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Filed under 1910-1919, 1912, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Lincoln, Andrew Carey, Mountains

Margaret Maron. Bootlegger’s Daughter. New York: Mysterious Press, 1992.

Lawyer Deborah Knott is a modern southern woman, but as the only daughter of a notorious, retired bootlegger, she still has one foot in the traditions of the old south. After one of the local judges is particularly and unnecessarily harsh on one of her partner’s clients, she decides to run for a seat as district judge in Colleton County. The campaign is a hard one, but Deborah is also distracted by her large family and gets tangled up in trying to resolve the 18-year old unsolved murder of a neighbor. The first in the Deborah Knott series of mysteries, Bootlegger’s Daughter also won four of the major mystery awards: the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, & Macavity Awards.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1992, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Catherine Marshall. Christy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

After hearing a missionary doctor speak about his work in the Great Smokies, nineteen year-old, Christy Huddleston volunteers to be a mission teacher. She leaves her home and well-to-do family in Asheville and travels to the remote Cutter’s Gap, a place that does not take easily to outsiders. She faces numerous challenges related to both the place and the people of rural Appalachia–including the lack of modern conveniences, the influence of folk beliefs and superstitions, moonshining, and the community’s abject poverty–but her faith sustains her. Miss Alice, the missionary who founded the school, helps her and she is romantically torn between two men: minister David and the locally-born Dr. MacNeill. Most of the book’s action takes place in Cutter’s Gap, which is actually based on the community of Morgan Branch, located just over the border in Tennessee in the Cherokee National Forest. Based on the life of the author’s mother, Christy has inspired a television series of the same name, as well as several TV movies.

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

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Filed under 1960-1969, 1967, Buncombe, Historical, Marshall, Catherine, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship