In my last post, I wrote about my friend Charles Price, whose first novel, Hiwassee, is set in Appalachia during the Civil War. I went on to say that there haven’t been very many books that examine the war in the Mountain South, and certainly not too many novels. Well, I have another one I want to tell you about, if you’ll give me a few minutes of your time. And if the crows haven’t just taken your eyes, you’ve already seen the title.
The novel is by Vicki Lane, who’s originally from Tampa, Florida, but she’s lived in western North Carolina for 45 years now and knows the place in the way that all writers must know a place in order to write about it. In other words, she knows its culture, its folkways, its history, and knows how that history is still present in the landscape and within the blood and memory of the people who live there. It’s cliché to say that the Civil War pitted neighbors and family against each other, but it is still a hard truth, and it’s most true of the Mountain South where those divides were deep, intense, violent, and carried into future generations.
Vicki’s novel is based on an event called The Shelton Laurel Massacre where 13 men and boys who supported the Union were shot down by Confederate soldiers in Madison County, near where Vicki lives. It was an inexcusable, senseless act, but Vicki, being the writer she is, looks at it in all its complexity, shows readers how the violence that took place was predicated by violence from both sides, and then makes the lives of those involved real for us; we see their hated and fears, their love and hopes, and their ability to survive and mourn all who were lost.
It’s Vicki’s use of multiple points of view that I find most admirable. Among others, there is a colonel’s wife, a young woman who is mute and who sees the boy she loves gunned down, and a conscripted soldier who may be the moral center of the novel. Each first-person voice is captured perfectly; Vicki has an unerring ear and is able to relay through the speech of her characters what is most hidden within them.
Now, I must disclose that Vicki and I share a publisher, Regal House Publishing, but if I didn’t think this was a fine novel that’s worthy of your time, I wouldn’t be writing about it. It’s easy to stay silent, but when you’ve got something powerful to share, it’s not so easy. So this is me shouting from a rooftop beneath a broad, blue sky where I think I see some dark birds flying close.
If you’d like to read more about the actual event, here’s a link: www.vickilanemysteries.com/history/
And if you’d like to read a little more about Vicki’s novel, go to this link: www.vickilanemysteries.com/
Or to purchase the book: www.regalhousepublishing.com/product/and-the-crows-took-their-eyes/
And finally, here’s a podcast where she talks about and reads from the novel (just scroll down to “Historical Fiction Series” and ignore the dude who talks occasionally; he’s only about half smart): regalhouse.buzzsprout.com/966220