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Asheville's Rob Neufeld on a new Charles Frazier novel and the value of state archives
By Rob Neufeld   - 08/05/2011

Asheville Citizen-Times

More Info on This Book: Around Bakersville

The advance reader’s copy of Charles Frazier’s much-anticipated new novel, “Nightwoods,” has gone out to reviewers. The finished product arrives in stores Oct. 4.

Frazier, author of “Cold Mountain” and “Thirteen Moons,” has moved his spotlight from the Civil War and Cherokee Removal to 1960s Western North Carolina. Strange twins become the focus of a murderous stalker in a former resort town.

“Luce’s new stranger children,” the novel begins, referring to the adopted twins, “were small and beautiful and violent. She learned early that it wasn’t smart to leave them unattended in the yard with the chickens.”

Literary lights
While Frazier’s literary light waits on the horizon, a troupe of local historians takes advantage of Arcadia Publishing’s interest in turning photo and information archives into commercial books.

Bookstores create special shelf displays for the Arcadia series, primarily “Images of America.” In every community, you’ll find several titles on regional towns and themes.
The publisher has developed the practice of finding local experts rather than depending on a stable of authors. The results are mixed, ranging from postcard and family-and-friends albums to truly valuable local histories.

“Around Bakersville,” written and compiled by Bruce Koran and Sandy Grisham, is the latter.

The authors, members of the Bakersville Historical Society, not only provide apt photos, covering a wide range of topics, but they also include brief historical surveys of Mitchell County and 22 communities — from Bandana to Buladean.

In the Ledger section, the Decoration Day photo, received by the authors from an individual, is one of the best I’ve seen — as is the same contributor’s photo of the entrance to the Chestnut Flat feldspar mine.

The town name Bandana, it is explained in the “Bandana and Kona” chapter, may have come from the practice of having a bandana “tied to a pole if folks wanted the train to stop.”

Part of the deal with Arcadia is that authors do their own local promotion. Keisa Kay and Elaine McAlister Dellinger, authors of the new “Images of America” volume, “Yancey County,” have scheduled an extensive tour — nine book signings in two weeks. (See box.)

Archives and history
I remember stopping in local communities 20 years ago, reading and collecting all of the books about each place.

That would not be doable today.

Scholarship has become a welcome sensation, as bookshelves show. More than half the books I see from local authors are local histories, memoirs or historical fiction.

Yet, for more than 100 years — through depressions and booms — the N.C. Office of Archives and History has provided the backbone of public scholarship.

Its publication department has produced the authoritative sets “The Colonial Records of North Carolina” and “North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster,” as well as the quarterly journal, North Carolina Historical Review and school-friendly books such as Richard Walser’s “North Carolina Legends” and Hugh Rankin’s “The Pirates of Colonial North Carolina.”

Buy It Now: Around Bakersville $21.99

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