Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Charleston' author Margaret Thornton at Barnes & Noble Arboretum

Bradham Thornton
Eliza Poinsett is a fictional heroine, Southern at that. But she doesn't depend on the kindness of strangers, as do so many of the heroines of Tennessee Williams's plays.

Eliza is the invention of  Margaret Bradham Thornton, a graduate of Charleston's Ashley Hall and of Princeton University. She is the award-winning author of  "Tennessee Williams's Notebooks." After ten years of research into the great playwright's journals, she was unwilling to create a heroine who was waiting around for a man to rescue her.

Thornton's "Charleston" (Ecco, $25.99) tells the story of  two Charlestonians: Eliza, an art historian living in London, and charming newspaperman Henry Heyward, who is raising his nine-year-old son. The two happen to meet again in 1990, after a decade apart, at a wedding in the English countryside. A second chance? Maybe so.

Thornton herself grew up in Charleston, and the Charleston Mercury praised her eye for detail, "from the swamps of the ACE Basin to a South of Broad dinner party."

I'm hoping the author will call for questions. Be sure to ask her about the role of Henry James's heroine Isabel Archer, and what she found under the paint in the Charleston house she restored.

Meet the Author:

Thornton will sign copies of her book from 3-5 p.m., Wednesday, at Barnes & Noble at the Arboretum, 3327 Pineville-Matthews Road, Charlotte, 28226.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Charmaine Cadeau winner of the Brockman-Campbell Award

Charmaine Cadeau
Charmaine Cadeau of High Point is this year's Brockman-Campbell winner for her collection"Placeholder" (Brick Books). A native Toronto, Cadeau is an assistant professor at High Point University. The Brockman-Campbell is awarded each year to a poet whose book is judged to be the best collection of poetry by a North Carolinian published in the preceding year. Finalists for the prize were Joseph Bathanti, former N.C. poet laureate, and Susan Meyers, a graduate of the Queens University MFA program. The award was presented earlier this month at Weymouth in Southern Pines.


Draw closed the seine over
aaaaaaaa silver dashes, sleek impulses, water slipping through
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa cupped hands.

aaaaaaa a What’s been lost
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa quietly resurrects in cursive letters, the hammock of
the lowercase r, the question mark an ear tuned
for the bolt’s slide from inside.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Carve pages
from a book to put what matters between the covers. And sling
aaaaaaaa the rest in the t-shirt you’re wearing,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaa overflow of apples harvested for a pie
bulging out like zeros.

Some part prefers the dark, presses up in a locket,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa would change in the telling.

-- from Placeholder, by Charmaine Cadeau, Brick Books

Sunday, September 28, 2014

You're invited: Book club at Charlotte Museum of History

One of the most frustrating things about being new to Charlotte is finding a book club to join. Many of the book clubs here have been in existence for generations, and spaces are often reserved only for legacies of members.

These clubs are wonderful institutions, rich in friendship and shared history, but they are hives only for their own bees.

I don't have the statistics to back this up, but I would guess that most of the book clubs in Charlotte are made up of only women, followed, not at all closely, by book clubs of only men, followed by those for men and women.

So listen up for this good news: The Charlotte Museum of History is forming a book club for men and women, and you are invited!

The History Reads Book Club will be led by Hugh Dussek, a Londoner, who teaches courses on American history, world history and local history at Central Piedmont, where he is also director of the behavior and social sciences division.

The book under discussion will be "The Road to Black Ned's Forge: A Story of Race, Sex and Trade on the Colonial American Frontier," by Turk McCleskey.

Here's the schedule:

  • Sunday, Oct. 5, 2-4 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 18, 10 a.m.-noon
  • Saturday, Nov. 1, 1-2 p.m  
Registration fee for members: $25 ($30 for non-members) includes a hardback copy of the book, refreshments and author talk.

To register, click here.

For additional information: info@charlottemuseum.org

Charlotte Museum of History
3500 Shamrock Drive
Charlotte, N.C., 28215

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Poet Laureate position in your hands: Nominate a NC poet today

It's a new day for North Carolina poet laureatedom.
Thanks to the clumsy move by our good governor in the summer, more poeple are aware now that there is such a position as poet laureate. And, I'll venture that more people care how that valued position is filled.
So now it's your turn.
The Department of Cultural Resources in Raleigh has issued a call for nominations for the state's next poet laureate.
This means you can nominate a poet you believe to be qualified to represent North Carolina as the ambassador for poetry and the written word.
Keep in mind that the selection criteria will be:
  • A North Carolina resident with deep connections to the cultural life of the state
  • Literary excellence
  • Influence on other writers and appreciation of literature in its diversity throughout the state
  • Ability and willingness to conduct the public engagement duties of the office
  • Statewide, national or international recognition
In other words, an energetic, well-known N.C. poet with great people skills.

The process will be led by N.C. Department of Cultural Resources secretary Susan Kluttz.
Deadline for nominations is Oct. 14.
The Governor will announce his choice the first week of December.
Only electronic submissions will be accepted.
Send nominations to: www.NCDCR.gov/PoetLaureate.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Novel based on harrowing story is set on a Lowcountry plantation

Dee Phelps
Disappointment rooms -- spaces in attics or basements fashioned to hide mentally or physically handicapped family members -- were a fact of life in the antebellum South.

The idea of such isolated bondage grips us, in both horror and fascination.

Dee Phelps, a long-time surgical nurse of Beaufort, S.C., listened as her mother-in-law told her the "fascinating and sometimes harrowing stories" passed down from her ancestors who once owned a  Lowcountry cotton and indigo plantation in Jasper Co., S.C.

Phelps did not consider herself a writer, but the stories she'd heard begged to be told. "The Disappointment Room" (River City, $26.95), in which a conniving mother hides her afflicted son in the attic, an act which affects the next eight generations, is the result of Phelps' perseverance in finally getting the stories on paper.

Pat Conroy calls the novel "haunting and fascinating." In her acknowledgments, Phelps says Conroy's wife, Cassandra King Conroy, "took me under her wing and helped me fly. A better mentor and friend would be hard to find. Thank you for helping me navigate my way around the perplexing world of publishing."

Phelps opens the novel in 1844 and uses as its fictional setting the now privately-owned Coffin Point Plantation in St. Helena Parish, Beaufort, S.C. The original house, no longer standing, was built about 1801 by Boston native Ebenezer Coffin, who married Mary Matthews, whose father gave the couple 1120 acres and 63 slaves.

In 1861, the Coffins, along with other sea island plantation owners, abandoned their homes as Union troops advanced into the Lowcountry.

"The Disappointment Room" recently won The Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel at ceremonies in Nashville, Tenn. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Miraculous healing subject of Jason Mott's novel 'The Wonder of All Things'

Jason Mott by Michael Becker
"N.C. Bookwatch" will be re-running host D.G. Martin's interview with bestselling N.C. novelist  Jason Mott ("The Returned") at 5 p.m. on Thursday on UNC-TV.

"The Returned" was the inspiration for the popular ABC series, "Resurrection," about the dead returning to life. This week, Mott's second novel, "The Wonder of All Things," will hit bookstores.
If you're hoping for more magic, you're in luck.

"On an ordinary day at an air show like that in any small town across the country," reads the jacket copy, "a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators. After the dust clears, a 13-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds disappear."

The Washington Post has called it "compulsively readable" and Publishers Weekly says, "Exceptional.... Riveting."

Mott grew up in and still lives in Bolton, N.C., a town of three-square miles in Columbus County, once the home of the Waccamaw Lumber Company. Population: 700 and holding.

Mott, who is 36, was raised Southern Baptist, and he told a USA Today reporter that the idea of miraculous healing has always interested him.

"In the South there's always a bit of magic, through the stories you hear. Everything here has a back story to it. And in the South there's the phenomenon of churches where healing goes on."

Mott studied fiction and poetry at UNC Wilmington, earning BA and MFA degrees. He's published short stories and two books of poetry, one of which, "This Thing Between Us We Call Love," is from Main Street Rag of Charlotte.

Upcoming Jason Mott Readings and Book Signings

  • 7 p.m. Sept. 30: Barnes & Noble, Wilmington, N.C.
  • 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1: Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh, N.C.
  • 2 p.m., Oct. 9: Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, N.C.
  • 7 p.m., Oct. 28: The Hanesbrand Auditorium, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bestselling Kathy Reichs will read Wednesday at Park Road Books

Kathy Reichs by Arthur Kade
You'd think after 16 bestselling novels starring the same leading character, a writer would be teetering on the smoky edge of burnout.

Not Charlotte's own Kathy Reichs.

Now with "Bones Never Lie," her 17th Temperance Brennan novel, due in bookstores this month, Reich tells me that burnout is not a problem for her.

"I don't have time for burnout," she says by email. "I am involved in too many things. I am constantly shifting between working on Temperance Brennan books, Bones episodes and young adult books in the Virals series. And throw in a bit of forensic work too."

Same with her characters. She keeps interested, she says, by keeping them engaged in new and different experiences.

For instance, Reichs introduces a new character in "Bones Never Lie" and a new challenge for Tempe. Tempe's mother is a bit unbalanced (she's been in and out of institutions) but she's a computer whiz and therefore invaluable in tracking down the killer Tempe is sleuthing.

"She's a complicated individual," says Reichs. "Engaging, witty, but also very much troubled. Therefore, at times, annoying as hell."

We've read about this killer in "Monday Mourning." He's the monster who escaped -- killer of girls -- those ghastly murders now linked to children in North Carolina and Vermont.

Reichs, who is vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists and professor of forensic anthropology at UNC Charlotte, says she writes all day when she has a free day.

"In other words," she says, "if I am not traveling, touring for a book release or at the lab, I am at the keyboard from morning until late afternoon. I rarely work after dinner and a glass of wine."

By the way, back before Tempe, Reichs talked with the Observer's editorial editor Ed Williams about the possibility of writing op-ed pieces. She didn't, but she says she thinks journalism would've made a fascinating career.

Reichs will read from and sign copies of her new novel at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (9/24) at Park Road Books, Park Road Shopping Center, 4139 Park Road, Charlotte.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bestselling novelist Lisa Wingate writes about mysterious Melungeons

Lisa Wingate
Picture this: It's 2007, and I'm in London, trapped for a week in an old hotel near Russell Square with my 11-year-old granddaughter, who's immersed in a hair-tossing, month-long snit. At night, as I collapse into my narrow bed, she looms on the other bed, performing vigorous cheerleading routines, while gazing adoringly at herself in the full-length mirror.

Here's what saved me: Lisa's Alther's memoir, "Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree, The Search for My Melungeon Ancestors."
At 2 each morning, I wake to an hour or so of peace and a thoroughly entertaining trek as Alther struggles to find her own link to these mysterious, dark-skinned, blue-eyed people, sometimes with an extra thumb, who burrowed into Southern Appalachia before the 1600s.

So I was thrilled to see that award-winning Lisa Wingate's new novel, "The Story Keeper" (Tyndale, $14.99 paper), is also about Melungeons. In short, it's the story of a New York editor, Jen Gibbs, a native of the North Carolina mountains, who finds herself engrossed in an anonymously-written manuscript about a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in a place Gibbs thought she'd left behind.

What inspired the novel? I ask Wingate by email.

She'd just finished writing "The Prayer Box," she emails back, and was researching her next novel, which she thought would also be set on the Outer Banks, when she came across an article on the Melungeons.

She clicked on it. Then she clicked on another and another and still another until something happened that had not happened in "15 years and 23 novels."

"I literally dreamed a story," she writes. "I saw the tale of a busy New York editor who finds a partial manuscript in an old slush pile. She's captivated by the story of Sarra, a young Melungeon girl being sold off in a card game in turn-of-the-century Appalachia.

"Sarra's circumstances in some ways mirror the editor's painful childhood in the Blue Ridge mountains. In my dream, the search for the manuscript's author took the editor back home after many years away, leading her to a place called Mirror Lake, deep in the mountains."

A 2012 genetic study shows that Melungeons are the offspring of Sub-Saharan males and women of Northern or Eastern European origins, though that doesn't preclude Native American DNA flowing  into the mix at a later time.

Whatever the case, Wingate says it's been an amazing ride, solving in fiction a mystery that may never be fully solved in real life.

Hear Lisa Wingate Talk about the Novel:
  • On Wednesday at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Park Road Books, Park Road Shopping Center, 4139 Park Road, Charlotte, 28209.
  • On Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 317 S. Chester St., Gastonia, 28052. Reservations required: 704-864-3468 or rmaney@firstarpchurch.org.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Latin poets to read Wednesday at Mint Museum on Randolph

Latin poets reading Wednesday at the Mint Museum on Randolph Road

I love Latin poets. They tend, as a group, to be so romantic, so imaginative, so flashy and still so tenderly charged.

One of my favorites is Martin Espada, who was born in Brooklyn, but is Latin through and through. In his poem, "The Republic of Poetry," from the book of the same name, he proclaims that in the imaginary Republic of Poetry, "monks print verses about the night / on boxes of monastery chocolate," that "poets read to the baboons /  at the zoo, and all the primates, / poets and baboons alike, scream for joy."
 And, of course, it goes without saying that in the Republic of Poetry, "poets eat free."
 If you, too, love the thrill of Latin writing, you're in luck.
 To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, six Latin poets -- three Colombians, two Mexicans and one Venezuelan -- will give a bi-lingual reading of poetry and prose on Wednesday, 7-8 p.m., at the Mint Museum on Randolph Road.
The occasion is the publication of the anthology, "La Fragancia del Agua" (The Fragrance of Water") from Main Street Rag Publishing of Charlotte, which includes work by the group Artesanos de la Palabra.
Poets reading are Cielo Ramirez, Claudia Quijano-Tourn, Irania M. Patterson, Jose Vazquez, Kurma Murrain and Patricia Atilano.

In the Republic of Poetry, all poetry readings would be free, and the poets, of course, millionaires. I don't know about any millionaires among them, but the reading is definitely free and open to the public. Mint Museum: 2730 Randolph Road, Charlotte, N.C., 28207.

'Rich with the troubles of love' -- Tommy Hays to read at Quail Ridge

Tommy Hays by Michael Mauney
Tommy Hays will read from his young adult novel, "What I Came to Tell You," just out in paperback, at 7 p.m., Tuesday at Quail Ridge Books, 3522 Wade Ave., in Raleigh.

South Carolina novelist Josephine Humphreys says of the novel: "This is a story rich with the troubles of love and grief, family and community, but there's a surprising aura of innocence over all, lifting the novel and its readers into another realm. A rare accomplishment."

Bestselling North Carolina novelist Ron Rash calls the book "...a great-hearted novel filled with wisdom and truth."

"What I Came to Tell You," set partially in a bamboo forest in Asheville, was recently chosen by the Atlanta Constitution as one of 12 books of 2013 recommended for younger readers.

Hays says he is at work on two more novels set in Asheville: another for young adults and one for adults. He is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and serves as executive director of the Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Joseph Mills: 'Admitting what we haven't read'


We play the party game,
admitting what we haven't read.
Jane Eyre, Madame Bovary,
anything of Faulkner's.
Amid mock gasps, we name titles
with a mix of embarrassment,
swagger, and relief
that we can finally reveal
how we never made it
more than twenty pages
into Portrait of a Lady,
Middlemarch, Moby Dick.
We don't bother pretending
we'll get to them eventually.
We're confessing, but unrepentant,
and then we begin to get serious:
the newspaper, warning labels,
the mortgage, legal contracts,
every Christmas card from her
for the last twenty years,
the letter he sent before he died,
the lab's blood results last month
and this month and the next.

-- From "This Miraculous Turning" (Press 53, $14.95 paper), by Joseph Mills, who teaches at the UNC School of the Arts. He is co-author, with his wife Danielle Tarmey, of  "A Guide to North Carolina's Wineries." His poetry collections include "Somewhere During the Spin Cycle," "Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers," "Love and Other Collisions," and "Sending Christmas Cards to Huck & Hamlet." Virginia poet Kelly Cherry says "...these poems show us how to live with one another."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thomas Wolfe Winner: 'a short story is when people shut up and listen'

Sandra Cisneros
Novelist and short story writer Sandra Cisneros is this year's winner of the Thomas Wolfe Award, sponsored by the Department of English at UNC Chapel Hill. She will deliver the free public Wolfe lecture at 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the Genome Sciences Building on the campus. 

Winner of a MacArthur "genius grant," Cisneros is the author of two award-winning novels, "The House on Mango Street" and "Carmelo," as well as three collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, "Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories" and, most recently, "Have You Seen Marie," a picture book for adults.

In 2002, the Missouri Review asked Chicago native Cisneros about her definition of a short story. Her answer:
I don’t know what the definition of a short story is, and I don’t even care to answer that question. That’s something somebody in academia would think about. I just want to tell a story, and if people listen, and if it stays with you, it’s a story. For me, a story’s a story if people want to hear it; it’s very much based on oral storytelling. And for me, a story is a story when people give me the privilege of listening when I’m speaking it out loud, whether I’m reading it in a banquet hall for a convention and it’s the waitresses and busboys who are looking up from their jobs, or whether it’s across an ice house table (ice house is an outdoor bar here in San Antonio), or whether it’s a group of my girlfriends when we’re having soup. Its power is that it makes people shut up and listen, and not many things make people shut up and listen these days. They remember it, and it stays with them without their having to take notes. They wind up retelling it, and it affects their lives, and they’ll never look at something the same way again. It changes the way they think, in other words.
The Wolfe Prize and Lecture honors the memory of Thomas Clayton Wolfe, UNC class of 1920. Previous winners include Ron Rash, Josephine Humphreys, Lee Smith, Robert Morgan, Reynolds Price, Fred Chappell and Ellen Gilchrist.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nancy Stancill to read from 'Texas' at Morrison Regional Library


Investigative-reporter-turned-novelist Nancy Stancill of Charlotte will sign copies and read from her debut suspense novel, "Saving Texas," at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 10, at Morrison Regional Library, 7015 Morrison Blvd., Charlotte.

Stancill is a former award-winning Charlotte Observer reporter who's earning her MFA in the University of Tampa low-residency program. She'll talk about the skills a long-time non-fiction writer must learn to produce a good novel.
D.G. Martin of the UNC-TV show "Book Watch," calls Stancill's novel "mesmerizing."

Last November, Stancill pledged royalties from the first thousand copies sold of “Saving Texas” to an Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) endowment to support the Godfrey Wells Stancill Fellowship in memory of her father, the former Suffolk News-Herald editor who died in 1995.

Friday, September 5, 2014

'I Love You More' author Jennifer Murphy says 'dreams do come true'

Former Charlottean Jennifer Murphy has concocted a doozy of a plot in her debut novel, "I Love You More" (Doubleday, $24.95). Lawyer Oliver Lane is shot to death in his Outer Banks rental cottage, and the prime suspects are his three wives, who are each unaware of the other but all sport the same haircut.
The star of the book is 12-year-old Picasso, Oliver's precocious and dictionary-reading daughter, who tries to make sense of what she knows and doesn't know.
Kirkus Review calls this "a thoughtfully written, original and entertaining exploration of events ignited by love and lies."
Murphy, who now lives in Seattle, emailed me that her biggest dream was always to write and publish a novel. But as a former single working mom, a writing schedule was a luxury. She got serious after she went to the Wild Acres Writers Conference in Little Switzerland, N.C., and studied with novelist Ann Hood, who encouraged her.
At Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Vermont, she met an agent, who offered to represent her. In 2011, Hood invited her to a conference in Tuscany, Italy. Murphy took 50 pages of her novel-in-progress, "I Love You More." Hood liked it so much, she advised her to dump the novel she'd been working on and stick with this one.
Nine months later, she completed "I Love You," and in a few more months, her agent sold it to Doubleday.
"It took awhile," she writes, "and there were a lot of rejections along the way. But ultimately I believe it was the stick-with-it-ness that made it happen."

Murphy, who served as executive director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Art Commission, will read from  "I Love You More" at 2 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 7, at Park Road Books in Charlotte.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why is Jan Karon not coming to Charlotte to read or sign books?

Jan Karon
Here's what I want to know: Why is Jan Karon not coming to Charlotte to promote her new novel, "Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good," her first Mitford novel in years?
After all, Karon lived in Charlotte as a teenager, and for years she was here as an adult, working in advertising.

Just look at her schedule.
Tuesday of this week she was in Birmingham.
Wednesday in Lexington, Ky.
Today, Thursday, Dallas.
Friday, Wichita, Kansas.
Saturday, Decatur, Ga.
Sunday, at least she'll be in the state, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.

What gives? I asked Park Road Books manager Frank Burleson.
"We have no control over where the publicist sends her," he says. "We have a hard time landing major authors sometimes. Sometimes we have great luck. We've had Anne Rice, Pat Conroy. It just depends. Sometimes they will send them out of their normal area trying to increase their readership and sales. They know she's going to sell in North Carolina.
"I wish they had sent her this way," he says. "We could have sold a lot of books."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Elizabeth Spencer to be on N.C. Bookwatch this Sunday

From Landscapes of the Heart: A Documentary about Spencer 

If you're interested in casual elegance, and a 93-year-old woman who's as with-it as most 50-year-olds, then to turn on North Carolina Bookwatch at noon on UNC-TV this Sunday for host D.G. Martin's interview with prize-winning novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Spencer of Chapel Hill.
Her latest collection, "Starting Over," won the Rea Award for the Short Story last spring. The prize carries a $30,000 cash award, and Spencer told me she used some of the money to upgrade her garden.
Spencer is a native of Carrollton, Miss., and when she was a student at Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss., she met Eudora Welty, who lived across the street from the school. Welty joined with Spencer and a few other students to form a small writing group. Spencer and Welty became lifelong friends.
Spencer is also the author of the novella, "Light in the Piazza," later made into the 1960 film of the same name starring Olivia de Haviland.
Of "Starting Over," Malcolm Jones reviewing it in January in the New York Times, said, "Elizabeth Spencer seems to have spent her life watching, observing, always paying close attention, and for her it’s the whole truth or nothing. As far as I can tell, she never missed a thing. Judging from the stories in her latest collection, she’s not about to start now."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Quirky writer Tony Earley reading Wednesday at Park Road Books

Tony Earley
Rutherfordton native Tony Earley, whose short story "Charlotte" was accepted over-the-transom
by Harper's magazine while he was still a graduate student at the University of Alabama, will talk about his writing and teaching and read from his new collection of short stories, "Mr. Tall" (Little, Brown, $25) at 7 p.m., Wednesday at Park Road Books.

The new collection has already gotten raves from The Boston Globe, Publishers' Weekly and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"Charlotte" did not flatter us. No, indeed. It fact, it made us look like a homogenized hick town of superficial overreachers. But that's OK. Early, who graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1993 and now holds the Samuel Milton Fleming Chair in English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., has new stories and new characters to engage and entertain us.

His fiction has earned a National Magazine Award and appeared in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories. Earley was chosen for both The New Yorker's inaugural best "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers and Granta's "20 Best Young American Novelists."

His 1994 collection, "Here We Are in Paradise," was followed in 2000 by his first novel , "Jim the Boy," set in fictional Aliceville, N.C. That book catapulted him to national fame. Scott Turow, writing in the New York Times, called Earley's 2008 sequel, "The Blue Star," was irresistible.

"Jack and the Mad Dog," one of the stories in the new collection and published in the New Yorker, is a brilliant take on depression.

I've interviewed Earley several times over the years, and I always come away struck by the quirky workings of his deeply intelligent and original mind. This time, he told me that he has recurring dreams of two N.C. towns, one between Shelby and Hickory, and the other "out toward Golden Valley," the latter of which "sits on the top a hill with a great view of the mountains," he says. "I always stop in that little town (in the dreams) and look at the mountains."

My longer interview with him will run in the Observer in mid-September. For now, I'll simply say you don't want to miss hearing him read from the memorable "Mr. Tall," his first collection of stories in 20 years. The reading is free and open to the public. Park Road Books is in Park Road Shopping Center, 4139 Park Road, Charlotte.

Earley will also read at 8 p.m. on Sunday at the Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth Street, Durham, N.C., 27705, and at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 10, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.