Sex, muscle cars and Mencken

Fall’s around the corner, and area writers are gearing up. We’ve got everything from a sex-obsessed painter, to a belligerent newspaperman, to a woman who wants to drive Elvis’ muscle car back to Graceland.

When retired Charlotte neurosurgeon Larry Rogers served in Vietnam 1967-’68, he kept a daily journal. Two years ago, Rogers says he finally sat down to write what he knew “to be the facts about Vietnam.” The result is “Sword and Scalpel: A Doctor Looks Back at Vietnam” (Hellgate Press, $24.95 paper), which Charlotte physician Jessica Schorr Saxe says, “will transport you out of your comfort zone to a world far away where you will be shocked, challenged, saddened and moved.”

“Cobalt Blue,” a novel by Peggy Payne of Raleigh, published last year in Britain and published in the U.S. by Roundfire Books ($20.95 paper), has according to Payne, “the particular distinction of being probably the only novel ever to be the book of the month on a Playboy Radio Network program and in the top 100 spiritual books for Kindle.” That’s because Payne’s latest, about a sex-obsessed painter, is, like her other novels, about the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.

“The most powerful individual journalist of the Twentieth Century” is the dust jacket description of the belligerent and controversial H.L. Mencken, the subject of a new biography by Hal Crowther of Hillsborough. “An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken” is due in October from the University of Iowa Press. Crowther (the husband of novelist Lee Smith) has himself won the Baltimore Sun’s H.L. Mencken Award for his syndicated newspaper column.

Kim Wright (“The Unexpected Waltz”) of Charlotte has signed a two-book deal with Gallery Books. She’s finished one of the novels: a modern-day take on “The Canterbury Tales,” in which a group of women walks from London to the cathedral in Canterbury, swapping stories as they go. The seed for the other novel, still in progress, was an Observer story about a mechanic who is restoring the very muscle car Elvis drove the day he died. Wright’s heroine is taking that same car back to Elvis’ home Graceland in Memphis.

Kim Church, Raleigh lawyer and author of the haunting novel “Byrd,” is at work on a novel set during the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia. Working title: “Mill Mother’s Song,” the name of a song written by Ella May Wiggins, the ill-fated mill worker balladeer and the inspiration for one of the novel’s characters. (Yes, Church says she’s aware that novelist Wiley Cash is also at work on a novel about that strike.)