Pondering of the Past: Harper Lee, A Southern Literary Legacy

Harper Lee, A Southern Voice that Opened Eyes and Hearts Across America

A Southern Classic that Exposed a Broken Culture Caught in its Past

Nelle Harper Lee (1926 – 2016), simply Harper Lee to millions across America, a Southern voice for decades based on her first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Her other book though written in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman, did not see the light of day until 2015 and was published as a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize classic. 

Harper Lee wrote what she knew best, the Deep South of the 1930s from a child’s point of view. Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama provided her with ample opportunities to portray the irrationality of adult attitudes in the racist culture that permeated the South.

A footnote worth mentioning: the character in her novel named Dill was based upon her real childhood friend, Truman Capote. What were the odds that little old Monroeville, Alabama would rear up both Truman Capote and Harper Lee? Today, Monroeville, Alabama entertains thousands of visitors who flock into town to get a glimpse at the old courthouse and homes that Harper Lee wrote about in To Kill a Mockingbird. Might I suggest you might want to visit the link below to learn more-http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/monroeville.html

What’s Coming in 2023…

Shiloh Mystery Series, Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories & Testament, An Unexpected Return. Watch for updated new book covers in 2023 and a flurry of personal appearances to promote the anniversary of all three Shiloh novels, including Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Expanded distribution and availability of the printed and e-book editions coming.

July 2023, The Last Laird of Sapelo (Koehler Books) is coming. A historical novel that explains why at the end of the Civil War virtually all the freed Geechee slaves risked their lives and found their way back to the only homes and land they ever knew. And, why for the rest of the tumultuous Nineteenth Century the Spalding family became the only permanent white residents on Sapelo Island. A unique and near-forgotten legacy linked the post-war Geechee community and the Spaldings until the last Spalding passed away and the Geechee descendants fell victim the wishes and whims of the rich and famous in the first half of the 20th Century.

Watch for more about The Last Laird of Sapelo in the coming months…

Sapelo Island

Southern Voices from the Past: Zora Neale Hurston

(Read all the way down and catch a recent interview of T. M. Brown by Canvas Rebel Magazine.)

Zora Neale Hurston, an Undeniable Southern Voice

1891-1960, Zora Neale Hurston 

Zora Neale Hurston, a Notable Southern Voice from the Past

Zora Neale Hurston became an influential African-American voice for Southern literature in the 1930s. She portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th Century South. Of her four novels and numerous published short stories, plays, and essays, her 1937 book Their Eyes Were Watching God brought her the most notoriety.

Born in Alabama, her family relocated to Eatonville, Florida in 1894. While attending Barnard College in New York, Zora became a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance and befriended Langston Hughes. She returned to North Florida and wrote her novels about the African-American experience, folklore, and her personal struggles as an African-American woman. She would be instrumental as an instructor at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida and later at North Carolina College for Negroes, now North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina.

Posthumous Notoriety, Continued Recognition

Zora Neale Hurston’s works continued mostly unrecognized until Alice Walker in 1975 published “In Search of Zora Neale Thurston” in Ms. Magazine. Two of her works published posthumously were Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001) and Barracoon (2018).

Posthumously Published by Harper Collins, 2018.

A little extra for those curious about T. M. Brown, Southern Author & President of Hometown Novel Writers Association, Inc.

Below is the recent interview by Canvas Reel Magazine. It provides a broad picture of Mike as an published author and founder of Hometown Novel Writers Association in Newnan, GA. There’s much to look forward to in 2023.

Upcoming appearances, Saturday, October 15th, Arts on the Creek Book Festival, Johns Creek, Georgia, 10 AM.

Southern Voices from the Past: Erskine Caldwell

Along with Tobacco Road (1932), God’s Little Acre (1933) destined Erskine Caldwell to become one of the greatest Southern Voices of the Twentieth Century.

After a stellar, extended career as an author of twenty-five novels, countless short stories, and twelve non-fiction books, Erskine Caldwell became a charter member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, 2000.

Born in 1903 to a Presbyterian minister and a schoolteacher mother in Moreland, GA, he lived an itinerant life in his early years living in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee before his family returned and settled back in Georgia near to Augusta. His father’s compassion for the desperately poor folks impacted Erskine. His first notable writing came while he studied at the University of Virginia. “The Georgia Cracker” (1926) established the themes that infused his future writing: political demagoguery, racial injustice, depraved religion, cultural sterility, and social irresponsibility. He continued to develop as a writer through several groundbreaking magazine articles before F. Scott Fitzgerald recommended him to Maxwell Perkins, the senior editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons. Besides many short stories and articles, Caldwell wrote three highly successive novels by 1940, Tobacco Road, God’s Little Acre, and Trouble in July. Through these novels, Caldwell brought attention to the Depression’s dire effects upon Georgia’s tenant farmers, abuse of southern industrial workers, the disintegration of family values, and punctuated the brutal, racist attitudes aroused by white southern fears of interracial relationships.

Though interest in his novels waned by the early 1940s, they received a resurgence in the paperback revolution in American publishing following WWII.

In Caldwell’s later years, he turned to non-fiction to focus on social injustices earned him some harsh criticism of his views during the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Though he lived and traveled extensively away from his beloved Southern roots and family home in Wren, GA, he wrote to then GA Governor Lester Maddox in 1967, “I think that I am as much a Georgian as Brer Rabbitt.” Peachtree Publishers published fittingly his final book in Georgia a month before his death, April 11, 1987, an autobiography, With All My Might.

Personal Insights

During a conference on Lost Southern Voices two years ago, I listened and learned how Erskine Caldwell influenced and interacted with the likes of Pat Conroy and Terry Kay. I live not ten minutes from Moreland, GA’s tribute to Erskine Caldwell. One cannot survey his humble beginnings and the collection of memorabilia on display without a sense of awe. How many more Southern novelists did he inspire?

Thanks to my extended conversation with folks behind Moreland’s exhibits on Erskine Caldwell, it is worthwhile to note that his novel successes and notoriety in the early 1930s stirred Madison Avenue publishers in New York to leave their sanctimonious ivory towers and scour the South to discover more nascent Southern voices.

Mixon, Wayne. “Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 16 May 2016. Web. 11 July 2018.

Watch for great news regarding my latest historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo”!

Subscribe to my newsletters and future mailings. You may get chosen to become a member of the launch team and get a free copy of my next novel. Be sure to visit @TMBrownAuthor on Facebook to catch my latest appearances and book signings.

Darien, Georgia’s Waterfront at the breakout of the Civil War.

Southern Voices from the Past – Caroline Miller

Throughout this fall of 2022, I’ll be focusing on former Southern voices that forged the way for all Southern authors…

Caroline’s inaugural novel, Lamb in his Bosom (1934), won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Caroline was the first Georgian to earn this esteemed award, which changed Caroline’s life forever, and the floodgates opened for future Southern female voices.

The pioneer women in her family and hometown stories passed down as she grew up became the inspiration for Caroline’s writings. As an adult, she visited older folks throughout her community, pen in hand, to capture more stories from the past. Their tales of the past, replete with colorful backcountry sayings and distinctive dialects, made it into her book Lamb in His Bosom.

“Don’t let people tell you there is no drama in your life, or that your surroundings are too colorless for novel material. If you can’t find the novel in someone else’s life, look into your own. Perhaps you don’t have any Georgia pines to write about, but there is something else quite as lovely in your life. I am certain of that. There never was another you. Write the way you feel it.” Caroline Miller.

Excerpts from Biography of Caroline Miller.

Watch for more Southern Voices from our past that have established what it means to be a Southern Voice today.

T. M. Brown, Southern Author – Stories with a Message

Stay tuned to news about my latest historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo

Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories
Testament, An Unexpected Return
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest
Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy face the challenges of retiring in Shiloh, a time-lost South Georgia town after raising their family and Theo’s long publishing career away from their rustic roots.
 

Older, and hopefully wiser.

Find out more about me and my pondering on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/T.M.BrownAuthor

A W.O.W. Interview

Podcast aired August 16, 2022–Click the image for the podcast link.

An interview that pulled a lot of background information about my journey to become the Southern inspirational author working on publishing my fourth novel.

Head over to the bookshop tab and order your copy of any three Shiloh novels. After listening to this podcast, you’ll appreciate where the muse for the stories came from.

‘Time crept while I stirred and tossed in futile attempts to capture any semblance of actual sleep. Capitulation arrived shortly after four when I poured a cup of coffee and sat down in the living room…Okay Lord what are you trying to share with me?’ Theo Phillips, Main character Ch 20, pg. 169

When the author used the descriptor, ‘a couple of southern minutes’, I knew I was in for a treat as main characters Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy started retirement in their new hometown of Shiloh, Georgia.

The town residents began introducing themselves as soon as the Phillips arrived, inherently southern by nature, Christian in their beliefs and warm with human spirit. At first I thought there were too many people appearing one after the other and lost track of who they all were. But as they became familiar, I realized there would be no point in delaying introductions as they were all part of the Phillips’ daily life in a small town. Only a writer with personal experience in a small town could define so many characters so intricately, and so Mike Brown has. 

The tale gathers momentum as more citizens come forward with their secret truths, the weight of which has prevented them from moving ahead in life. Theo and Liddy realize they’ve been sent on a divine mission and with God’s guidance, they make themselves available where needed. 

Thank-you for this inspiring, funny and heart-warming journey with Theo and Liddy as they accept the challenge presented them and become part of the town of Shiloh. 

Writing Can Be Hazardous!

Out of utter humility and embarrassment, I want to share with you a story of how hilariously hazardous writing can become. I pray for your mercy and understanding as you read this story.

REAL-LIFE STORIES ADD LIFE TO OUR FICTIONAL STORIES

I learned I should never dump swept up fireplace ash into a cardboard box.

On a cold wintry afternoon a couple years ago, Connie scooted out on some errands to give me an undisturbed afternoon to work on my latest story. I got tunnel-visioned as I often do but I managed a quick break when I got up to refill my coffee mug to remove the ash from the fireplace, as my wife had requested before she left. I shoveled the dusty, dark gray remains of the split oak logs that I had burned to cut the chill from the front of the house that morning. I placed the new ash atop the damp old ash from the previous day occupying the bottom half of a frozen cardboard box I kept on the back porch. When I reopened the door to complete my chore, the blast of bitter chill air caused me to tuck the box posthaste beneath the nearest metal chair on the porch. I ignored the fact a couple days earlier I had draped a neatly folded old grill cover over the top of the chair–a new grill cover now protected our grill from the weather.

I scooted back to my writing desk situated just across the den from the back door. Minutes later, I’m banging away on my keyboard once again with my back to the door entranced by the creative flow of words racing across the screen until a whiff of unfamiliar smoke catches my attention—I wondered who would burn anything on such a cold winter’s day, especially emitting a burning plastic smell. I turned my head to look out the windows beside my desk towards the woods out back but noticed nothing. I attempted to refocus on my writing frenzy but my eyes noticed flickering on the computer screen. I spun around to discover flames rising from the metal chair on the porch. Flames and black smoke from the burning plastic grill cover ignited by the cardboard box now on fire beneath the chair thanks to the resurrected-from-the-dead embers I obviously swept up amongst the ashes.

Move to the scene of me racing from my chair, yanking the door open, and racing onto the porch in my flip-flops and shorts. I flung the flaming grill cover into the grass and then kicked the smoldering cardboard box into the nearby winter-barren garden. Suddenly I realized the smoldering grill cover lit the dead grass in my backyard. The flames spread like a prairie fire (slight exaggeration). Wearing only cheap flip-flops, I frantically stomped at the growing flames to no avail. I hurried to the side yard and reattached the garden hose—removed for the winter from the covered spigot. A long minute later, I doused the sprawling flames that scorched a sizeable chunk of my dormant rear lawn, and then for good measure, I soaked the charred remains of the cardboard box in the garden. At this point several things became profoundly clear to me: I fought these oh-my-god flames in shorts, t-shirt, and my cheap flip-flops in bone-chilling, damp cold air; thankfully, none of my neighbors appeared to be home to witness my comical calamity; the black metal chair on the porch would require a good wire brushing followed by some Krylon spray paint; and, some of the moss green vinyl siding on the porch wall had buckled from the heat and would need replacing. While I mumbled and grumbled and shivered assessing my utter stupidity, the sound of the garage door opening announced Connie’s return. That’s when the real horror swept over me!

The initial shock on Connie’s face turned to belly-laughs as I recanted the story of how I rescued the house from my carelessness. A week later, I replaced the vinyl siding (thankfully I had extra stored in the garage) and added some nice new cedar window trim for good measure, winning a cynical smile from my wife. This story finds new life, every so often, whenever Connie finds the urge to expound stories about her ding-dong husband. I gleefully point to the red metal ash bucket beside the fireplace as my trophy for my heroic rescue that day.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

Mike