Tag Archives: Musicians

Kim Church. Byrd. Ann Arbor, MI: Dzanc Books, 2014.

ByrdAddie Lockwood notices Roland Rhodes the first day he appears in her fourth grade class. He’s the new boy in town, the son of a doctor. Roland doesn’t notice Addie until his senior year of high school. By then, she knows all sorts of personal details about him. Roland is a talented musician. He favors the Blues. Impressed by Addie’s outspoken intellect during an elective class (“The American Counterculture”), he invites her over to write lyrics to accompany a song. They quickly become friends, but after an awkward encounter, they drift apart just as quickly. Roland places a wedge between them, and Addie accepts it without much of a fight. They never write a song. After graduation, they part ways, for what seems like good.

Roland pursues his dreams of musical stardom in Los Angeles and Addie attends college in Greensboro, nearby to her fictional home town of Carswell. Although their lives are set on two different tracks, Addie refuses to give up on the idea of Roland. Now in her early thirties, she gets Roland’s contact information from high school friends and calls him up.

His musical career, as it happens, hasn’t panned out. He still plays, but he works for a company that constructs movie sets. Roland struggles with the practical details of life, like making rent or picking people up from the airport on time. All of his friends, Addie included, have heard the story of his childhood swimming pool accident and the resultant head injury that left him not quite right. Addie, meanwhile, has remained working at the same secondhand bookstore in her college town. Emboldened by a bottle of Beaujolais, she arranges to visit California after she and Roland catch up over the phone. During the visit, Addie becomes pregnant. On a promptly scheduled return trip, she informs Roland in person that she will terminate the pregnancy. But mysteriously, the abortion fails and Addie gives birth to a son that she names Byrd. She puts up Byrd for adoption without notifying Roland. The adoption colors Addie’s life well into her middle age. Surrendering her son becomes her and Roland’s most life-altering secret.

Byrd is Kim Church’s first novel. The novel focuses on the two main characters from childhood to middle age, showing their influences on each other’s lives. The story concentrates primarily on Addie and Roland’s perspectives, with imaginary letters from Addie to her forfeited son, Byrd spliced in between. Church represents the pieces of Addie and Roland’s lives with prose that feels simultaneously removed yet intimate. Characters are observed with a detached eye from the third-person, but their emotions and inner thoughts are conveyed openly on the page. Addie is wistful, longing first over Roland, and later over Byrd. As a daughter, she shies away from her parents, keeping them at arm’s length. As a sister, she doesn’t have much contact with her brother, Sam, following her high school graduation. As a mother, she loses the chance to experience motherhood with Byrd. Addie, Roland, and the other characters contend with relationships and love, accepting regret and shame, and coming to terms with loss.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Church, Kim, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Roland Smith. Kitty Hawk. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2012.

I, Q: Kitty Hawk*This blog post highlights the third book in an on-going series. Some of the information provided for context might contain spoilers for events that occurred in the previous two books.*

Quest “Q” Munoz and Angela Tucker are just your normal, everyday teenagers – with rock star parents and inside connections to Secret Service operations, of course. This is the third book in Smith’s action-packed I, Q series. The first two books, I, Q: Independence Hall and I, Q: The White House, were set in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. respectively. For this next installment, Smith selected the smaller, but still historic, town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. His series is aimed toward younger readers, but people of any age could find interest in Smith’s colorful cast of characters.

At the start of the series, Q’s mom, Blaze Munoz, married Angela’s dad, Roger Tucker. Angela’s mother, Malak Turner, a former Secret Service agent, is dead, and Q’s father, Peter “Speed” Paulsen, is a limelight-loving rock star. The happy couple formed a new band called Match and released a hit single, which prompted a nation-wide tour. Step-siblings Q and Angela are along for the ride, which has proven much bumpier and more suspenseful than expected. In the first book, they meet Tyrone Boone and his huge, slobbery dog, Croc. Boone, a roadie, is charged with looking after Q and Angela. But Boone is more than an old roadie; he’s a retired CIA agent with his an independent team of agents called SOS, or Some Old Spooks. And Boone has plenty of suspicions surrounding Angela’s mother’s death. Or supposed death…

By the third book, Q, Angela, Blaze, Roger, and the SOS group are in Washington, D.C. for a special concert at the White House. But a terrorist ghost cell has kidnapped President J.R. Culpepper’s daughter, Bethany; they plan to use her in a hostage video against the U.S. government. So Q, Angela, and the SOS team chase the terrorists down I-95 to rescue the president’s daughter. Unfortunately, there is a brutal hurricane headed right in their direction. SOS has help from a few other sources luckily, including Angela’s very alive mom, Malak, who is working to infiltrate the terrorist group. Yet Boone and Croc have some eerie talents and are pretty capable of taking care of themselves.

Smith sets a fast pace to the story. The book spans a single day with chapters segmented roughly into hour or two-hour blocks to keep the sense of urgency high. However, Smith cuts the tension with moments of humor, especially when Q’s father Speed shows up and almost derails the whole chase. With distractions like ostentatious rockers and violent hurricanes, Smith leaves his audience on the edge of their seats, turning page after page. Will Q, Angela, and the SOS team save Bethany in time? Or will the ghost cell succeed in their scheme?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Novels in Series, Smith, Roland, Suspense/Thriller

Mark Schweizer. The Organist Wore Pumps. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2010.

It’s been two years since St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in St. Germaine, North Carolina burned to the ground, and the holidays are just around the corner. Police Chief  Hayden Konig, also the organist at St. Barnabas, is looking forward to a long month of Advent music and writing bad prose between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly for those familiar with St. Barnabas, murder and mayhem intervene. First, Old Man Hiram Frost, the town grump, dies after the bank forecloses on his property. At the resulting auction, Hayden gets sucked into a bidding war with a stranger over three cases of French wine. A week later, the mystery bidder shows up again…floating face-first in Tannenbaum Lake. Additionally, St. Barnabas has a new deacon: the aptly named Donald Mushrat (that’s Moo-shrat). Deacon Mushrat is oily, overfond of the word “awesome” and obsessed with tithing. Everyone feels blessed that the beloved Rector Gaylen Weatherall will still be giving the sermons, but thanks to a terrible car accident, Rector Weatherall is put out of action for a time, opening the way for Deacon Mushrat’s pontificating. Even worse, Konig was in the car with Gaylen during the accident…and his arm is broken. A substitute organist is found, and Konig will just have to grit his teeth and endure their “creative differences.” But when another murder occurs and it becomes clear that a killer is stalking St. Germaine, the Chief finds he has bigger fish to fry.

Filled with the hilarity and quirky characters that are distinctive of The Liturgical Mysteries, this book includes a live creche, an inflammatory (literally) Christmas parade complete with a tap dancing Virgin, a scoodle of skunks, and the “liberation” of a priceless medieval reliquary by a gang of hyperactive children trapped in the church for a lock-in. It may be many things, but at least St. Germaine is never boring.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Schweizer, Mark. The Tenor Wore Tapshoes. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2005.

With writing that compares the rustling of a woman’s gown to the sounds of a cockroach rooting in a sugar-bowl, it’s safe to say that Police Chief Hayden Konig will never join the greats of American literature. Still, he insists on trying, even purchasing an old typewriter that once belonged to Raymond Chandler. Mr. Chandler, and his pipe, even show up on occasion to compliment Hayden’s efforts. Poor prose and ghostly sightings notwithstanding, Konig is an excellent police chief, and a talented organist at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in the small, sleepy mountain town of St. Germaine, North Carolina.

Hayden has just settled in from his last crime-solving adventure, which included the theft of a valuable diamond, a dead chorister, and multiple trips to England. You’d think that life would resume its leisurely pace, but this is just when St. Germaine chooses to get…interesting. First, there’s the body that parishoners discover hidden in the altar at St. Barnabas. Next, the local bakery produces a miraculous cinnamon bun in the shape of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is soon stolen. Poor Hayden loses a bet with his beautiful girlfriend Meg, and is made to enroll in a program designed to help him discover his religious masculinity, known simply as the Iron Mike Men’s Retreat. As if this weren’t enough, an itinerant preacher blows into town with his large revival tent and a feathered assistant known as Binny Hen the Scripture Chicken, who helps him select passages from the Bible.

Reeling from the amount of insanity a small town can apparently inflict in such a short time, Chief Konig somehow also finds time to be troubled by the arrival of a charming attorney called Robert Brannon, who immediately worms his way into everyone’s heart, and the very center of church politics. Hayden is also perplexed by the crimes that have sprung up throughout the community–very specific crimes that seem to follow a popular hymn depicting the trials of the saints. Will Konig solve all, or any of these mysteries? More importantly, will he have time to pay attention to what, or who, really matters? And will she say yes?

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

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Filed under Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

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

Sharyn McCrumb. The Ballad of Tom Dooley. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011.

If you grew up in the Appalachians of western North Carolina, chances are you’ve heard the tale of Tom Dooley at least once. You may even have heard the song made famous by the likes of Frank Proffitt, the New Lost City Ramblers, and Doc Watson: hang down your head, Tom Dooley…hang down your head and cry… a sordid tale of love, betrayal, and murder set in the years following the Civil War. But fact often proves more shocking than the tale. Author Sharyn McCrumb, after spending hours consulting the legal evidence, trial transcripts, and speaking with experts, determined that something didn’t add up. The answers she found in her lengthy research hint at a dark, Brontë-like pentagon of individuals trapped by disease, starvation, racial boundaries, and the after-effects of armed conflict.

Zebulon Baird Vance, the educated sometime-Governor of North Carolina,  represented Tom Dooley during his trial for murder. In McCrumb’s telling, he is convinced that Dooley is innocent. While his narrative reflects on the aftermath, the voice of servant-girl Pauline Foster recounts the tale from its origin. Survival during the war meant Pauline had to sell her body to passing soldiers for food, but she escaped death. Unfortunately, she didn’t emerge entirely unscathed. Infected with syphilis, she makes her way from her home county of Watauga to neighboring Wilkes, in hopes of staying with one of her cousins there while seeing a doctor. She chooses her wealthy relation Ann Melton, who allows her room and board in exchange for servant work. Ann is narcissistic and spoiled, and the sociopathic Pauline quickly determines that she will bring suffering to her cousin’s door, no matter the consequences for others. When Pauline realizes the depth of love between the married Ann and Tom Dooley, a former Confederate soldier and Ann’s childhood sweetheart, she hatches a terrible plan for revenge that inflicts tragedy across the entirety of Wilkes County. Expertly researched and written, history and fiction lovers alike will find this a fascinating read.

Frank Proffitt and his banjo

Click here for a clip of “Tom Dooley” as sung by Doc Watson, and here for a clip as sung by Frank Proffitt, both courtesy of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. The songs, and many others, are available on CD and vinyl in the Southern Folklife Collection, which like the North Carolina Collection, is located in Wilson Library. While you’re here, check the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog for the availability of The Ballad of Tom Dooley.

 

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Historical, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains, Watauga, Wilkes

Clyde Edgerton. The Night Train. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.

The phrase “the night train” has two meanings in Clyde Edgerton’s latest novel. For most people in Starke, North Carolina, this daily event is something to which they give little thought. Accepting the brief clatter, many have trained themselves to sleep right through it. The tracks upon which the train glides divide the small town racially, with Larry Lime Beacon of Time Reckoning Breathe on Me Nolan (so named by his grandmother) being from the black side and Dwayne Hallston being from the white side. Although they live on different sides of the track, Larry Lime and Dwayne forge a friendship that encompasses their shared love of mischief and music – and overlooks race.

For Larry Lime and Dwayne (and anyone else following pop culture in 1963) “Night Train” represents the hottest single on the charts. James Brown’s unbelievable presentation of it on Live at the Apollo prompts Dwayne to envision his band performing a similar rendition on the local television program The Brother Bobby Lee Reese Country Music Jamboree (a show that “people on both sides of the tracks enjoyed”). Fortunately for Dwayne, Larry Lime is musically gifted, especially after taking lessons from a  jazz master called The Bleeder, and he instructs his friend on exactly how to move, sound, and look on stage. When Dwayne and his band, the Amazing Rumblers, land a spot on the show, Dwayne and Larry Lime see firsthand how unprepared Starke (and society) is to see a white boy impersonating James Brown. In an age of sit-ins, with the Ku Klux Klan seven miles down the road, and prejudice strong, Dwayne and Larry Lime test the status quo, not afraid to blow like the night train through Starke, North Carolina.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Edgerton, Clyde, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Deborah J. Ledford. Snare. Kernersville, NC: Second Wind Publishing, 2010.

Steven Hawk and Inola Walela, Swain County’s best police detectives, are back in Deborah J. Ledford’s sequel to 2009’s Staccato. This time, they have bigger problems than a crazed sociopath. Katina Salvo, a young Native American emerging as the next musical megastar, is coming to Bryson City, North Carolina to perform her first live concert ever. Unfortunately, at the root of her fame lie two ominous figures determined to seek her out and silence her music forever. One, recently released from prison for a brutal crime against Katina’s family, wants to finish the job. What motivates the second is more uncertain, but no less deadly. Hawk, plagued by the demons of a recent tragedy, is determined to protect the singer no matter the cost. But when he and Katina are brutally attacked on the night of the performance, it is clear that the cost may be his life and everything he holds dear.

Ranging across the United States from Nebraska to California to North Carolina and finally the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation in New Mexico, this gripping thriller turns on themes of family, race, and the great courage necessary for us to make our own destinies.

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

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Ledford, Deborah J., Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Suspense/Thriller, Swain

Deborah J. Ledford. Staccato. Kernersville, NC: Dagger Books, 2009.

Millionaire Alexander Kalman is a master manipulator who thinks that he can settle all of his problems by having people removed. Elaine, his niece, has become too much of a distraction for his protégé, Nicholas. As a world-class pianist, Nicholas provides Alexander with everything that matters most to him – money, fame, and glory for the family name. Although they are not related, Alexander convinced his sister (Elaine’s mother) to adopt Nicholas, giving the boy their surname and covering up Nicholas’ parents’ deaths. When Nicholas discovers the truth of his father’s disappearance, he and Elaine make plans to escape. However, before they can get away, Alexander orders Elaine killed, forcing his servants to do the dirty work. He then charges Timothy, a less-favored piano student, with the task of disposing of the body. When Timothy alters the plans with the hope that it will impress Alexander and incriminate his rival, he jeopardizes the clean cover-up. Nicholas, now aware of Elaine’s death, is distraught and eager to avenge the senseless murder of his beloved. What follows is a terrifying game of cat and mouse.  Alexander has loyal employees who will do anything that he wants, but he realizes that he is loosing control of Timothy.  Plus, Elaine’s mother has asked the sheriff’s department to investigate her daughter’s disappearance.  Deputy Sheriff Steven Hawk is given the case, and it is his diligence, plus Nicholas’s desire to live his own, true life,  that is Alexander’s undoing.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Ledford, Deborah J., Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Swain

Bryan Gilmer. Felonious Jazz. United States: Laurel Bluff Books, 2009.

Leonard Noblac’s career as a musician peaked in the early 1980s, but he hoped that his music would again be appreciated if he just kept at it.  Leaving New York City was not the best career move, but when his wife wanted to relocate to Raleigh he came with her.  Once the marriage broke up, Leonard became unhinged.  As this novel opens, Leonard is robbing a house in a tony Raleigh suburb, starting on a string of crimes that Leonard thinks of as “a perfect jazz albums of burglaries.”  To Leonard, the McMansions of Rocky Falls represent all that is wrong with America in the 21st century–sprawl, over-consumption, soulless materialism.  Jeff Davis Swaine isn’t crazy about the Rocky Falls lifestyle, but he knows who pays his bills–the clients of the Raleigh law firm that has him on staff as their chief investigator.  Once Swaine is called to the scene of that first robbery (called because the homeowners would prefer that the case be handled privately), he is on the trail.  Noblac knows that Swaine and the police have a line on him, but he’s a performer who has always craved the spotlight.  Soon bodies–of people and pets–start to pile up.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Gilmer, Bryan, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller, Wake