Monday, July 19, 2010

Countdown to Southern Festival of Books: 12 Weeks

I've spent my time during the last week doing exactly what I said I would do -- researching the author list from the Southern Festival of Books for this fall. Each Monday, I'll be writing a Festival-related post: authors who will be attending the Festival, books by those authors, or general Festival information posts. To follow my post last week introducing the Festival and pretty much gushing over how excited I am by it each year, this week I'm giving you a sampling of the authors who will be at the Festival.

My "definitely-want-to-see" list:
  • Jefferson Bass -- The writing duo of journalist Jon Jefferson and forensic anthropologist Dr. William Bass has written the Body Farm series of mystery novels, but they have also written two non-fiction books. The first, Death's Acre, relates the Body Farm's beginnings. Their second, Beyond the Body Farm, takes a look at real cases Dr. Bass investigated during his tenure at the University of Tennessee and examines current police procedures as they relate to science. I've seen Dr. Bass speak (at a previous SFB held in Memphis), and while his slides are disturbing -- think bodies in various states of decay -- his information is captivating.
  • Sonny Brewer: The writer and anthologist returns with a new anthology of southern writing, titled The Railroad as Art. Brewer states that it will focus on writers and their (previous) day jobs. Included in the not-yet-released book are pieces from southern geniuses such as: John Grisham, Pat Conroy, Cassandra King, Rick Bragg, Silas House, Connie May Fowler, Daniel Wallace, Joshilyn Jackson, Lee Smith, and more.
  • Tom Franklin: There's nothing I love more than southern literary fiction and mysteries. Put the two together, and you almost always have a winner. Franklin's newest novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter combines the two genres in what sounds like an exceptional way. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.
  • Susan Gregg Gilmore: I saw Gilmore speak a few years ago at the SFB when her first novel Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen was released. She was hilarious, and I bought the book purely on the premise that such a strong personality had to produce a similarly-wondrous book. I wasn't disappointed, and I'm excited about reading Gilmore's latest novel, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. Hopefully, Gilmore's session at SFB will include a Sip 'n See, a southern tradition that she recently described on The Book Lady's Blog.
  • Amy Greene: Her debut novel Bloodroot tells the story of an Appalachian family through four generations. The novel was chosen as an Amazon Best Books of the Month selection in January 2010.
  • Holly LeCraw: Her debut novel The Swimming Pool sounds like beach reading at its best. The setting is Cape Cod, although LeCraw's own family vacationed at the South Carolina coast. In the novel, LeCraw takes her experiences as an adult summering on the Cape and juxtaposes a southerner's view of "the beach" as a tropical paradise versus the chilly, windy place that is the Northeast coast. The premise -- a family saga full of extramarital affairs and death -- is right up my alley. Not only that, but all the reviews I've read have been glowing.
  • Jill McCorkle: Her latest story collection is titled Going Away Shoes. I'm currently reading it in a cabin in the woods in the Cherokee National Forest. Fitting, if you ask me, considering McCorkle's knack for making literature out of the ordinary Southern life.
  • Lee Smith: The great author of one of my favorite novels, Fair and Tender Ladies, will undoubtedly be the focus of one of my later Countdown to SFB posts. She has written many novels and short stories set in the South. Her latest release is a short story collection titled Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger.
Also excited about:
  • Bryan Batt: The actor from the award-winning A&E show Mad Men has written a memoir about his childhood in New Orleans, titled She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother. Reviews are good, and I'm always in for anything relating to my favorite city.
  • Melanie Benjamin: I haven't read her novel Alice I Have Been, but with all the hype over Tim Burton's interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, it's not surprising it has done well. Benjamin researched Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and the real-life Alice Liddell, who served as his inspiration for the Alice stories. Benjamin reportedly does an excellent job of blending fact with fiction in this novel (which I plan to read prior to the SFB in October).
  • Marshall Chapman: The songwriter turned book author returns to the world of non-fiction with the music-inspired They Came to Nashville. Chapman includes stories from various Nashville music artists written as she pursued a career in music journalism. Included are stories from Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Miranda Lambert, and Willie Nelson, among others.
  • Adam Ross: His writing debut Mr. Peanut is a southern mystery that's been praised by Stephen King. Ross is a former Nashville Scene employee who teaches at Harpeth Hall in Nashville, a pre-literary-world life which he discussed in an interview in the Scene in June 2010.
The Southern Festival of Books will take place October 8-10 in Nashville, Tennessee.


  1. Just read "Alice I Have Been" recently and it was okay (I don't know which creeped me out more: Dodgson or the fact that the author tried to romanticize his behavior), but on the same trip to the store I picked up "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott" and thought it was great. My favorite of the summer, so far.

    Also, the Holly LeCraw book is set on Cape Cod, not the SC coast. Amy Greene's "Bloodroot" was great.

  2. Thanks, Claire. I fixed the LeCraw bullet point to be correct. There is an interview/ background piece on Amazon's The Swimming Pool page where LeCraw discusses how (or how not) autobiographical her novel is -- in it are references to S. Carolina, and somehow in my reading it I read that & not the Cape Cod part. I hate to put incorrect info out there, so I'm very glad you helped me out :) Glad to hear Bloodroot was good. I'm in the mountains right now (long weekend vacation), so I'm very interested in it at the moment!



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