Category Archives: 1993


Phyllis Whitney. Star Flight. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1993.

In the midst of Asheville’s heyday in the 1930s, silver screen idols Victoria Frazer and Roger Brandt signed on to co-star in what was sure to be a wildly successful film, Blue Ridge Cowboy. During production, an attraction developed between the two stars. Unfortunately Brandt was already married. The affair was kept hushed for appearances. Things got messier though, when Frazer became pregnant. Her illegitimate daughter was handed off quietly to another family in California. However, when it was clear that Brandt had no intention of divorcing his wife, Camilla, Victoria committed suicide, supposedly drowning herself in Lake Lure. Her body was never recovered and Roger Brandt’s career was ruined when fans learned of the tragedy. After Victoria’s death, Brandt moved to Lake Lure in semi-seclusion, and forced Camilla to come along with him.

Lauren Castle has lived in the shadow of these legends. Her mother was Frazer and Brandt’s illicit child. Although Lauren’s mother never displayed any interest in finding out more about her parents, Lauren collected old magazines and photos of her grandmother in secret. As a child, she was mesmerized by Victoria and Roger’s scandal. For the most part, Lauren has kept her true parentage under wraps. Her husband, Jim, a documentary filmmaker was one of the few to know her family history. He was enthused to discover Lauren’s background, so much that he was eventually inspired to make a documentary on Roger Brandt, an interest that ultimately led to his death. Lauren refused to go with him while he worked on the documentary, and she instead remained behind in California. Early into the project, Jim was killed accidentally when a large beam fell on him during filming.

Even after Jim’s death, Lauren has little interest in venturing to North Carolina until she receives a cryptic note claiming that Jim’s death was quite intentional. When she arrives in Lake Lure, Lauren hides behind her identity as Jim Castle’s wife. Victoria was born in Asheville and her remaining family live around Lake Lure. Lauren meets Victoria’s siblings, Gretchen, an innkeeper and healer, and Ty, a mountain man, as well as Roger and Camilla Brandt and their children and grandchildren. She also encounters Gordon Heath, an old friend of Jim’s, with whom she had a short-lived tryst eleven years ago. By hiding her identity, Lauren learns some surprising details from Brandt family members. Soon she is inadvertently investigating the unresolved mysteries behind Jim’s death and Victoria’s suicide. Many contradictory accounts of Victoria’s character surface, some highly unflattering. Although Lauren feels a greater connection and allegiance to her deceased grandmother than her living grandfather, she starts to wonder if her facts are wrong. Who was Victoria Frazer – innocent victim or vindictive siren?

There’s a lot going on in Star Flight. Novelist Phyllis Whitney packed in two intriguing mysteries at once, fictional Old Hollywood stars, tangled family relationships, romance, a bit of the supernatural, and some surprising facts about kudzu. A prolific author, Whitney wrote the novel in 1993, and it was one of her last books before her death in 2008 at the age of 104. Whitney’s research into the North Carolina mountains is evident, and Star Flight promises readers plenty of suspense.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Mountains, Mystery, Romance/Relationship, Rutherford, Whitney, Phyllis A.

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

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.

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

Donald Secreast. White Trash, Red Velvet. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Although it technically consists of short stories, White Trash, Red Velvet can be read as a novel. When taken as a whole, the book tells the story of Curtis and Adele Holsclaw, their three children, and their friends and relatives in the fictional town of Hibriten (likely based on Lenoir, NC). The first story takes place in 1952 and the other eleven follow the family and town through several decades of blue-collar southern life.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Caldwell, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Seacrest, Donald

Bland Simpson. The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

As far as anyone knew, the last person to see Nell Cropsey alive was her boyfriend Jim Wilcox, who left her crying on her front porch in November 1901 after he ended their relationship. The people of Elizabeth City, N.C. looked desperately for the young woman, relying on bloodhounds and even psychics in a search that brought national attention to the small town. Nell’s body was finally found floating in the Pasquotank River, a few weeks after she disappeared. Jim Wilcox was accused of the murder, even thought the evidence against him was only circumstantial and he hotly proclaimed his innocence. In this “nonfiction novel,” Simpson dramatizes the true story of Nell Cropsey with the touch of a novelist, relying on first- person narrators and period details to give an intimate look at small-town eastern North Carolina at the dawn of the twentieth century.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Coastal Plain, Docufiction, Historical, Pasquotank, Simpson, Bland

Michael Parker. Hello Down There. New York: Scribners, 1993.

Edwin Keene has become something of a recluse after a tragic car accident in which one of the passengers was killed. The aristocratic Keene, son of a prominent local family, eases the pain of his own injuries with too-frequent doses of morphine. As his life appears to be slipping away, there is a sudden hope for redemption when Keene falls for Eureka Spaight, a local high-school girl whose working-class family is very different from his own. The novel is set in the early 1950s in the fictional eastern North Carolina town of Trent.

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

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1993, Coastal Plain, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Parker, Michael