Reading Matters

As with ‘Cold Mountain,’ Frazier draws inspiration from Civil War

While you’re planting pansies or spin cycling, out there in the vast reaches of our state, writers are creating works that might include characters so memorable they could live on for years in our minds. Characters like Reynolds Price’s Wesley Beavers or Thomas Wolfe’s Eugene Gant or Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta or Charles Frazier’s W.P. Inman, the Confederate deserter in Frazier’s 1997 National Book Award-winning novel “Cold Mountain.”

Speaking of Frazier: His wife, Katherine, tells me he’s “buried working on his fourth novel right now.” This novel, she says, takes him back to the 19th century and the Civil War and is inspired by the life of Varina Howell Davis. Varina was 18 years younger than her husband and, at her death, was survived by only one of her six children. So drama galore.

Patricia Cornwell is, of course, the Davidson grad and dark-ages Observer cop reporter, who put her considerable skills to her bestselling fiction. Her latest, “Chaos,” is due mid-month. Scarpetta, I hear, will come face-to-face with a life-changing truth.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s Kathy Reichs keeps them coming. An anthology of four novellas, “The Bone Collection,” including one on Temperance Brennan’s entrance into forensics, came out last week. Due next July, two new ones. First, “Two Nights,” an off-series novel with a Charleston setting. And a short story – are you listening? – co-written with Lee Child, which means Tempe Brennan and Jack Reacher meet. (And who knows what else?)

And Charlotte’s Webb Hubbell? A new Jack Patterson thriller is underway with a working title of “Eighteenth Green.”

UNC creative writing prof Marianne Gingher is looking forward to a second-semester sabbatical to work on her novel about “an unconventional marriage.” But, she says, at its core, it’s about “the survival of kindness and quirkiness in an age that seems to ignore or disparage both.”

Former WBTV anchor Bob Inman, who now lives in Conover and Boone, is writing a novel, set in a small Southern town, about a young Iraq/Afghanistan vet trying to get his life back together.

By the way, the late historian and novelist Shelby Foote, who spent most of his time at UNC-Chapel Hill devouring books in the library, would be 100 on the 17th of this month. He once said that there was a wonderful urgency about writing, when the writing is going well. “You wake up in the morning glad to wake up and get back to your desk. Wolf down your breakfast and come back. That’s good. ’Course it’s also nice to mow the lawn.”

Dannye: dpowell@charlotteobserver.com

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