Tag Archives: Politics

Barbara Kingsolver. The Lacuna. New York: Harper, 2009.

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Lacuna follows the short but fascinating life of Harrison William Shepherd. Born to a Mexican mother and an American father, Shepherd grows up in Mexico after his parents’ divorce. Living on a pineapple plantation without any access to formal education, Shepherd reads old, moldy novels he finds in the hacienda library. He also begins a lifelong habit of keeping a journal. Literature and writing become Shepherd’s two passions. To this he adds an appreciation for art after he is hired as Diego Rivera’s assistant, cook, and typist. Living in Rivera’s home he also comes to know Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky; he establishes a strong connection with Kahlo.

After Trotsky’s assassination in 1940, Shepherd flees to New York. His assignment is to deliver Kahlo’s paintings to the Museum of Modern Art. He tries to avoid being questioned by the authorities about his relationship with Trotsky, a fear that follows him throughout his life.

After spending time in New York, Shepherd learns that his father died before he could meet him. In a car left to him in his father’s will, Shepherd takes the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to its end in Asheville, North Carolina. Here he meets Violet Brown, an older widow, in a boarding house. Although World War II has just started and Shepherd is of fighting age, his homosexuality prevents him from serving in the military. He is given a job supervising the transportation of national treasures from Washington, D.C. to the Biltmore Estate where they will be stored for the duration of the war.

After establishing himself in Asheville, Shepherd leaves the boarding house and buys a home. In this new setting, he begins writing novels about Pre-Columbian Mexico that gain him great notoriety (he is compared to Thomas Wolfe) and undesired attention from teenage girls. Shepherd enlists Brown to help him confront his popularity, and she proves to be a devoted assistant and archivist.  (It is Brown who is responsible for preserving the diary entries, letters, and newspaper clippings interspersed throughout the novel.) Brown stands by Shepherd as he is investigated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding his relationship with Rivera, Kahlo, and Trotsky. After the inquiry Shepherd is fired from the Department of State, his books are banned, and he is distrusted by locals and the general public. Shepherd tries to adapt to his new, censored life, but he finds it difficult. When he drowns in Mexico, he is a person who most people would like to forget.  Brown, his faithful companion, is responsible for the story we have today.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Buncombe, Historical, Kingsolver, Barbara, Mountains

Tim Myers. Room for Murder. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2003.

After a fire destroyed the original Dual Keepers’ Quarters of the Hatteras West Inn, Alex Winston, owner of the lighthouse-themed hotel, has a new building constructed with funds from emeralds found on the property. After finishing touches are put on the structure, Alex decides to host a mayoral debate to get some publicity. The day is going well – there’s a great turnout and two of his best friends, Mor Pendleton and Emma Sturbridge, announce their engagement – until Mor discovers a dead body in the driver’s seat of his truck. The dead stranger is Emma’s ex-husband, and both Emma and Mor become suspects. A few days later, one of the candidates is found dead. The two cases seem completely unrelated, but Alex wants to investigate the crimes. Unfortunately for him, the crotchety sheriff has no interest in an amateur fiddling in his cases. As the mayoral race heats up and Alex’s relationship with Elise Danton, his housekeeper, strains, he is determined to get his sleepy (fictional) town of Elkton Falls back to normal. When Hurricane Zelda hits right as Mor and Emma’s wedding ends, the remaining guests find shelter in the lighthouse. Within those walls, the truth behind an unlikely murderer surfaces, and Alex helps solve the mystery.

Room for Murder is Tim Myers’ fourth novel in the “Lighthouse Inn Mystery” series.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Mountains, Myers, Tim, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Fern Michaels. Fast Track. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008.

Fern Michael’s Sisterhood, the tight group of women who seek revenge on individuals who dodge justice, is back in the States after banishment to a Spanish villa as a result of their last adventure. Now on a remote mountaintop estate in western North Carolina – Big Pine Mountain in Yancey County, to be exact – the fugitives are faced with undertaking a new high-stakes, extremely dangerous venture. When approached by World Bank board members who are concerned with the misplacement of twenty billion dollars (yes, billion with a “b”), the women accept the challenge to find fairness for the bank’s beneficiaries… and the blank check. The Sisterhood travels to Washington, D.C. to take down the slimy Maxwell Zenowicz, who is serving as World Bank president thanks to his questionable Capitol Hill connections. The money is recovered, the corrupt playboy is punished, and the elusive group succeeds once again.

This is the tenth novel in Fern Michaels’ Sisterhood Series, but not all of the novels in the series are set in North Carolina.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Michaels, Fern, Mountains, Novels in Series, Suspense/Thriller, Yancey

James Hay, Jr. The Bellamy Case. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1925.

Stokes Jackson is a slick political operative who comes down to Asheville from New York to run Wayne Gilmore’s state senate campaign. It’s the early 1920s and women have just gotten the right to vote, so a key part of Jackson’s strategy is to persuade women to vote for his candidate.  However, Gilmore’s opponent is a woman, Joan Bellamy.  Jackson’s first thought is to throw mud on Bellamy, but before he can do that he is murdered.  The whole Bellamy family comes under suspicion.  Only with the help of a detective is Joan able to prove her innocence, and as the novel ends her personal and professional futures look quite bright.

Because there were two factual errors early in the book (Asheville is not in Orange County and Marshall, not Madison, is the county seat of Madison County), I was ready to dismiss this novel, assuming that the author hadn’t spent much time in the state. In fact, James Hay Jr. spent over a decade in Asheville, working some of that time at the Asheville Citizen.  And, in 1920, a woman, Lillian Exum Clement, was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly from Buncombe County.

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

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Filed under 1920-1929, 1925, Buncombe, Hay, James, Madison, Mountains, Mystery

Tom Wicker. The Kingpin. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1953.

This is generally considered a  roman à clef of the vicious 1950 Democratic primary campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Frank Porter Graham.  The action is centered in the state capital where Bill Tucker, a political operative, works maniacally to tip the election away from the moderate candidate.  Tucker’s candidate, Colonel Harvey Pollock, lost the initial primary to the incumbent despite possessing the advantages of a good family name, a wealthy, attractive wife, and a substantial campaign chest.  Now it’s the run-off primary and Tucker wants to pull out all the stops to win. When the book opens, Tucker is no Boy Scout, but as he masters dirty dealing and race baiting in his pursuit of victory, he goes past the point of no return. Tucker’s man wins the election, but Tucker has lost his moral compass, the woman he loves, and his future.

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

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Filed under 1950-1959, 1953, Historical, Piedmont, Wake, Wicker, Tom

Tom Wicker. The Devil Must. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957.

Just outside of Marion (a town that might be Lumberton, Hamlet, or Rockingham), a farmer is murdered.  A young African American man is accused of the killing, but newspaperman Sandy Martin thinks he is innocent. The murder itself is gruesome, but what Martin uncovers during his investigation is worse: political corruption, personal betrayals, witchcraft. This is a dark picture of a small southern town in the last days of one party rule and Jim Crow.

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

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Filed under 1950-1959, 1957, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Wicker, Tom

Michael Malone. First Lady. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2001.

When a pair of teenagers found the body of a young woman in the woods on the north side of the Piedmont town of Hillston, there was a tag was affixed to her foot. The tag was addressed to Lt. Justin Saville and asked him to deliver the body to his friend, Chief of Police Cuddy Magnum. It is now several months later and the two policemen have not only failed to find the killer–nicknamed the Guess Who killer by the media–but they have also failed to determine the identity of the woman. Justin and Cuddy face media and community pressure to solve the case, but other complications arise, including the appearance a famous Irish rock star in town, the interference of crooked politicians, and several other murders. This is the third book in the Justin and Cuddy series of mysteries.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2001, Malone, Michael, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Joanna Catherine Scott. Child of the South. New York: Berkley Books, 2009.

Child of the South continues the story started in The Road from Chapel Hill. The War has ended, but Eugenia, Tom, and Clyde all face substantial hardships. Eugenia travels to Wilmington, where she lives with family and searches for the truth about her past and her mother. She also meets and becomes friends with Abraham Galloway, the former Union spy who is a charismatic leader and one of the new African American state Senators in Raleigh. Back in Chapel Hill, Clyde–who was crippled fighting for the Union–struggles to keep his farm afloat and his family alive. Ironically, the former fugitive-slave hunter is helped in this endeavor by Tom, the ex-slave who was given his freedom by Eugenia and at one point captured by Clyde.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Novels in Series, Orange, Piedmont, Scott, Joanna Catherine

Margaret Maron. Southern Discomfort. New York : Mysterious Press, 1993.

When she was running for the open district judge position in Colleton County, Deborah Knott commented to a meeting of the local WomanAid group that she wished she could take time out of campaigning to help with their work.  Now that she has been appointed to the seat, the group has come to claim her weekends and she starts working with a group of women building a house for a needy single mom and her kids.  On top of her new duties and the construction project, the new judge also faces violence in her community and in her family.  Before the house is finished, the group’s electrician (who also happens to be Deborah’s niece) is attacked, the accused attacker is found dead, and the girl’s father is poisoned.  This is the second in the series of Judge Deborah Knott mysteries.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mac Sherman Harris. Leaving Levittown. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2000.

The town of South Shore in fictional Walter County has a growing population of transplanted Northerners who headed south to retire and this has created significant tension between the newcomers and their neighbors. After a newly elected state senator is killed by a sniper while golfing, two local detectives become frustrated by a lack of evidence in the case. The victim’s widow is a suspect, as is a local man who hates all the town’s northerners, but both claim to be innocent. The waters are muddied even further as information about the victim’s past begins to surface.

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

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Filed under 2000, 2000-2009, Coast, Harris, Mac Sherman, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places