Category Archives: Books

WHY HIM?

Antonio (Anthony Policastro, the CEO & Publisher of the Outer Banks Publishing Group) asked the question, and others, in an interview after reading the final manuscript of Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw. Fair question.  The answer, and others, follow:

What brought you to write about John Fallis and his life and times?

King of Craw by Ron RhodyI had just wrapped up When Theo Came Home (the last, maybe, in the Theo trilogy) and was searching for a subject for the next book. I had two ideas. One was for a story about what happens when the meek inherit the earth – you know, the promise in the Beatitudes, Mathew 5.5, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” – what would happen, I wondered, if that happened?  The end of times… everyone gone … to heaven or hell … only the meek left. What would happen? Fascinating idea to play with. The other idea was to try to build a story around John Fallis, the King of Craw. Fallis was a real character, a fascinating character, a dominating figure in Kentucky’s capital city during the Roaring Twenties, controversial at the time, legendary now. I grew up in that town.  I remember hearing stories about about him  – most of them bad. He was a legitimate businessman on the one hand, but on the other a gambler, a brawler, the biggest bootlegger in the whole area with a violent temper and a reputation for mayhem. He was also handsome and charismatic. The  common folk loved him. He helped them and stood up for them against the Establishment. The-powers-that-be thought he was Lucifer unleashed. There is speculation even today that powerful forces in the city sent a hit man to do him in.  I thought I’d try to find out about him and build a story around him. The meek could wait.

Fallis is a real person. How did you get the information you needed to craft an informed story?

 The way a reporter goes about it. Search the record. Ask questions.  Talk to people who might have some information on the matter.  Son Bixie Fallis’s “biography” of his father at the Capital City Museum was a start and an enormous help.  Bixie’s story is that of a loving son writing about a hero father, so it has to be taken with a certain reserve, but it is first hand and intimate. And, thankfully, there is Jim Wallace’s collection of oral history interviews with people who lived in the Bottom and Craw and who did know John Fallis. Those interviews are in Jim’s This Sodom Land treatise done for the University of Kentucky. It is enormously rich. And there is Doug Boyd’s work in his book Crawfish Bottom. It has a whole section on Fallis. Those two pieces, and the local area newspapers, were my principal sources. And there are, of course, people who didn’t know Fallis but have relatives who did and who remember the stories they were told. I managed to find and talk with several of them.  After that, it was a matter of imagining what might have happened or could have happened. I’ve tried to stay true to facts I could uncover and make sure the inferences I’ve drawn from them are fair.

Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw is my fourth novel.  I think it is the best. I learned a lot listening to Theo. The first three books are about him and make up the Theo trilogy. They did not start out to be trilogy. But one story led to another and then became three. Like Concerning The Matter, they are set in Frankfort, which is Kentucky’s capital city – a jewel of a place, a river town in a Bluegrass Valley that has a character and a feel to it that works on me like magic. The Theo books are about a young man who starts out as rookie reporter assigned to cover a bizarre murder which leads him to a career in big time newspapering in New York city and other world capitals and ultimately back to that little town on the river trying to decide whether to run for Governor. Along the way there are a couple of murders. There is political intrigue and malfeasance, graft, blackmail, Melungeons, and, of course, a girl, Allie, who becomes a woman and who is in and out of his life through it all. I don’t know whether Theo runs and gets elected Governor or not. At present, I’m not interested in finding out, but I may want to.

I “reported” those first three books.  I grew up newspapering, That’s the way you tell a story – who, what, when, where, why –and, if you can figure it out, how. I think they’re good books. They move fast and the stories should keep the reader wanting to know what happens next.

I didn’t “report” Concerning The Matter Of The King of Craw.  I wrote it. There’s a difference. The who, what, when, where, why, and how are there. But there’s more. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

When you start a novel, who are you writing for?

I’ve given that a lot thought. I’m writing for myself. I’m telling myself the story. If I can hold my interest, keep the story moving, touch a cord of emotion, be intrigued by things I didn’t know, discover something of value in the motives and actions of my characters, I’m happy.  I’m not trying  to do art. Or ” literature.” I’m trying to tell a story. A good story. A worthwhile story.   Our live are built on stories. All we knew is stories — the stories we are told by others … the stories we tell ourselves. We live by stories.

Is there another book on the horizon?

 Probably. For a long time I’ve wanted to try a memoir of a sort. Not a real memoir. A string of stories or vignettes that tell of some of the things – people, places, events – that have mattered and may hold some interest for others. I’m not sure I have the courage to do that. There is the remembering of course. Pain came along with the good times. Not sure I want to revisit all that.  And there is the matter of ego. I’ve never been accused of being overly modest, but there seems something so egotistical about presuming to do a memoir that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with trying one.

Theo is still hanging around. Not sure whether he’ll want to run for Governor or not. Might be interesting to find out what happens if he does. And, of course, there’s the meek. I’ve often thought that given choice of an ambitious Heaven, or the certain beauty of Mother Earth, I’d opt for her.

We’ll see.

 

King of Craw by Ron Rhody

COMING IN NOVEMBER: THE KING OF CRAW

He brooked no insult, would not be cheated, would not be pushed around. He bent a knee to no man. He was the King of Craw and the powers-that-be wanted him gone.

John Fallis, the King of Craw
John Fallis, The King of Craw

That’s the notorious and perplexing John Fallis — a legend in his own time and an icon in Bluegrass folklore now – a mercurial man about whom a great deal is said but very little really known. He was a successful businessman, a political power, a gambler, a bootlegger, movie-star handsome, sometimes wildly violent, yet compassionate and charismatic. The proper folk thought him Lucifer unleased. To the the poor and the powerless, he was Galahad ascendant.

The story is set in the Roaring Twenties in Kentucky’s capital city. It’s about two boys who fall into his orbit and are witnesses to the events that made him a legend and sparked questions that are still unanswered.   It begins just before the night of the The Big Shoot-Out when he takes on the entire city police force and ends with his bullet-riddled body lying on a craps table in Craw. They said it was a gambler’s fight. But many then, and still, think powerful forces in the city brought in an assassin to take him out.

This is the first piece of fiction built around the man and the times. It moves fast, has much drama and action.  For readers particularly drawn to the mystery of why men do the things they do, and to the unending struggle between good and evil, it should hold a particular appeal.

Titled Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw, the book is set for release on November 5, 2016 at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort. The publisher, Outer Banks Pubishing Group, is taking advance orders now. The website is outerbankspublishing.com.

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Concerning The Matter of The King of Craw

Concerning The Matter of The King of CrawList Price: $16.99
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
288 pages
Outer Banks Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 978-0990679042
ISBN-10: 0990679047
BISAC: Fiction / Historical / General

Now $11.99 – Pre-order here

 

FLIP A COIN

I’m not sure whether I’m conflicted about this next book or merely procrastinating.

They are three possibilities. I’ve already mentioned them to you

One is a story about what happens when the meek, whoever they are, inherit the earth, as it is written they will.

The second is how the King of the Craw was killed, and why, and how — and what therefrom resulted. He was a person of quite some notoriety was the King, John Fallis, and the Craw itself even more so. Fallis wouldn’t be the main character, a young man who becomes involved with him would be. But Fallis will be pivotal and since he is real and much about him is known, I must be extraordinarily careful about what I imagine him doing and saying. This requires more control of a character than I’m used to. Usually, I just listen and watch.

The third is that  tale of the poor country boy trying to do the best he can in a world he never made. You’ve seen some copy from it — the More To Come stuff. I’ve put that story hold. It would be a true story, or as true as memory can make it, and very difficult to write. I’ve not jettisoned the idea entirely. It’s still there like one of those old songs rarttling around in your mind that you can’t quite turn off.

Must decide. Must pick one. Must begin. Flip a coin?

Tomorrow.

 

A RECON

I’m at the start of a new book and have a couple of ideas in mind.

Can’t decide which to try.

 So I’m doing a recon.

The idea is to load a few chapters of the one I’ve started on here and see what sort of reaction it gets. If the piece seems to appeal, I’ll stay with it. If not, I’ll start on the other.

This one, working title “More To Come,” is a reminiscence of a sort, not exactly fiction, but based on remembrances and conversations with people who were there and notes and stuff. The other, as yet without a working title, will be pure unadulterated fiction.

I’ll file a bit of copy from “More To Come” here each week for a couple of weeks starting today. Not too much, just enough to give a feel for the book and where it might be going. My guess is that the piece of fiction will be a better use of time, but want to test the water with this idea before deciding.

If you’re so inclined and have the time, your reactions would be appreciated.

Honest, unvarnished, opinion is needed.

Many thanks.

_________________________________

MORE TO COME

Country Boy

I haven’t decided whether I’m just a poor country boy trying to do the best he can in a world he never made … or a lover and a poet.

Neither may turn out to be the case, but we’ll see.

Kentucky State Capital Building
Kentucky State Capital Building

When I say country boy, think of Kentucky, think of the Bluegrass of Kentucky.

Think of a land where, in the spring, broad meadows of blue-tipped grass flow in gentle swells across the countryside like waves on a peaceful sea.  Think of small creeks gurgling over polished pebbles and white board fences lining pastures where young colts play. Think of cornfields in rich river bottoms and tobacco, golden brown, hanging in racks in big black barns whose sides are open to the season to let the sun and wind do its work.

And moonlight. Lord, there is no light so soft and clean as the light of a full moon on a mid-summer’s night with the whippoorwills calling and the big bass moving up on the rocky points at Cumberland.

Think of that.

I haven’t mentioned the snow-capped hills of winter, or the bright woods of spring with the dogwoods and the redbuds blooming. I haven’t mentioned the fight around the flagpole the night the Northern Lights came down. Or how he died arguing that blacks had rights. I haven’t mentioned the visitors at Romance, or what we did about the cyanide in the river, or the L.A riots, or the Tech Center rapist, or the way we gobbled up empires, or even the day they killed the king and brought the old king back.

But I may. And more maybe.

I confess that all this may be mostly fiction. It is only what I remember. I will try to make it true, though there is the lesson of Roshomon to be recalled and the truth that truth, like beauty, may lie in the eye of the beholder.

As for the lover and poet part, think of John Donne and Andrew Marvell. Think of King Solomon’s Song of Songs and the Rubyiat. Think of the real Thomas Wolf searching down that lost lane end into heaven, looking for a leaf, a stone, an unfound door.

Think of your first serious kiss. Think of the morning coming and the scent of her still warm and fragrant on the pillow. Think of music on summer nights drifting down the hill to the little beach by the river. And sunsets hanging on as long as they can over Hanalei Bay.  And how peaceful it is.

Think of that.

Country boy.

Poet and lover.

We’ll see.

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 Wanderer

My dad was a newspaperman

Rhody.Dad
My father and I at the Frankfort Sportsman’s Club. I’m surely not a poster child for gun safety!

One of that special breed.

A crusader.

He died fighting for the little man.

He was only forty-six.

My mom, bless her heart, was the prettiest, sweetest woman you ever saw – a country girl that came to town and met this dashing young man just back from the Navy.

She was still a young woman when he died, with four children to raise and no money to speak of.

She lived to be ninety-one.

Fifty-odd years a widow.

I ache when I think about that now – about how lonely it must have been for her – and how hard.

If she thought it was hard, she didn’t let on.

We lived in a lot of places

My dad got wanderlust and we trekked out to California… to Yreka, a county-seat town up north in the Siskiyou Mountains near the Oregon border. He edited the paper there. It was his first editor’s job. He’d been a reporter back in Kentucky, so moving up to the editor’s chair was a big step.

He liked Yreka all right. Mom and the rest of us loved it. My youngest sister was born there. But he wanted to come home. Our town had a hold on him he couldn’t shake.

There were no newspaper jobs open there then so he had to do it in stages. From California, we went to Mississippi, to Tupelo. Hated it. We were there only a few weeks. And then to Sarasota and Tallahassee in Florida, and then to Mobile and Dothan in Alabama.

He edited papers in all those towns.

We weren’t gone very long – three years or so. To make that many moves in that short a time span, we must have been almost constantly getting on and off trains and buses and in and out of schools.

I don’t remember whether I thought we were gone a long time or not. I was about eleven when we left. I know I was glad to get home.

Home.

Little-Frankfort-nestled-among-the-hills, seat of culture and learning, capitol city of the Grand and Glorious Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Home.

That seems the place to begin.

______________________________

Wonderer

So the story starts in a small town in a bend of a river in the Bluegrass.

It moves on to another little town in the bend of another river and from there to Manhattan and then San Francisco, with diversions to attend to a few matters in Washington and Chicago and London and Paris and Weipa up on the western edge of the Cape York Peninsula of Australia, and Dusseldorf and Hong Kong, and Tema  in Ghana, and the Druid’s island of Anglesey in Wales.

 

(more to come…)

 

THE MORNING AFTER – THEO is Home

IMG_0018
Frankfort Mayor Gippy Graham, left, and Kentucky Book Fair event volunteer & Kiwanis Club VP Cathy Carter, right with Ron Rhody before the fair.

So Theo is home.

The story of his return was made public at the Kentucky Book Fair  Saturday, Nov. 16. The curious or interested can know it all now. And I, as his chronicler, am, I think, done.Or more accurately, he is done with me.

We got along fine, but he’d had enough of me looking over his shoulder and digging into his thoughts. Truth told, I was becoming a little rebellious as well.  Theo seldom did what I thought he should do. He consistently insisted on going the way he wanted to go rather than down the path I’d planned for him. That’s hard on a writer’s ego.

With Theo, I came to feel early on that I wasn’t creating his story. I was reporting it. I must admit I found him and what was happening to him so interesting that I didn’t object. But it wasn’t the sort of relationship that could go on forever.

I wish him all the best. We shared some high times together, survived some perilous threats. I liked the guy.

The question now, I suppose, is what happens next. Theo says he knows what he’s going to do. I’m less certain. There is one more book I want to try. Maybe two. One is another piece of fiction. I have the idea in mind. The other? A memoir, perhaps. Of the two, it would be the most difficult.

Could I do them both? Is there the talent and the discipline, and, more importantly, time enough to do them? I wonder.

January. Make the decision by January.

__________________________________

When THEO Came HomeLast novel in the THEO Trilogy
List Price: $15.99
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
360 pages

Outer Banks Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 978-0982993101

 

TWO WEEKS TO KICK-OFF

Two weeks to kick-off.Kentucky State Capital Building

Saturday, November 16, at the Convention Center in the Commonwealth’s Capital City.

The Kentucky Book Fair.The release of When Theo Came Home. It finishes the Theo Trilogy. Theo & The Mouthful of Ashes started him on his journey.

Theo’s Story got him to a crucial point.  In this one he comes full circle, back, unwillingly, to the city where he started. There is a new Governor and his actions are playing havoc with the town.  There is a suicide, a showdown, a long ago love is re-kindling, and Theo hasn’t yet been exposed as a murderer — but it’s being threatened.

What happens when Theo comes home isn’t what he expects, or what I expected. I never know how a story is going to end when I start it. It unfolds as I go along and is as much a surprise to me as it may be to the reader. I don’t try to control a story, don’t try to shape it to get it to fit a preconceived notion. I think I know the characters pretty well when I start, but sometimes I don’t and sometimes they take over the story. That happened here. Don’t blame me. Blame them.

Anyway, two weeks to kick-off, two weeks to the day that readers will get a look at it. Suspense.

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Now buy When THEO Came Home at the special publisher’s pre-launch price of $12.99 until Nov 16.

List Price: $15.99Front Cover Thumbnail
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
360 pages

Outer Banks Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 978-0982993101
ISBN-10: 0982993102
BISAC: Fiction / Suspense


When THEO Came Home
is also available on Amazon and for the Kindle.

When THEO Came Home, the last of the THEO Trilogy – Coming November 2013

“Michael was dead and buried.When THEO Came Home

And Jesse Bristow.

I waited until the furor died down and the new Governor was seated, then I left.

Not that anyone suspected me.

There was nothing to link me to Jesse Bristow’s killing. But a grey fog of depression wrapped round me. I could find neither peace nor comfort where they had always been.

I didn’t try to slip away. I was too well known to simply disappear. I wound down my column, wrote my swan song, closed my affairs and made my way out of town as inconspicuously as possible.

I had already said my goodbyes to those closest to me.  Rhae Dannan kissed me on the forehead and said, “Remember what your are.” Marnie understood, but cried. Dulin wished me well. There were no others I needed to tell. Except Allie. I couldn’t face Allie.

That was almost ten years ago.

I had no intention of returning.

Yet here I am…in the cemetery overlooking the river…kneeling beside Rhae Dannan’s grave and not ashamed of the tears or the hurt in my heart.”

Thus begins When THEO Came Home, the third volume in the Theo trilogy. The year is 1980. The setting is the Bluegrass of Kentucky. The narrative picks up where Theo’s Story ends. Theo is now a successful writer living in San Francisco and working around the world as an Editor-At-Large for The Atlantic Magazine.

Rhae Dannan’s death calls him home and sets in motion a chain of events that could expose his hand in Jesse Bristow’s killing and force him to confront the phantoms he thought he’d left behind.

What happens when Theo comes home is not what anyone expects – most particularly Theo.

Pre-order your copy at a special pre-launch price of $12.99, list $15.99, now through November 1, 2013.

“The characters are richly drawn. The action runs at a riveting pace. What happened When THEO Came Home is a helluva read and a fine, fine story.” – Ian Kellogg

When THEO Came Home is the concluding novel in the THEO Trilogy. The other books in the series are: THEO’s Story and THEO & The Mouthful of Ashes, both available on Amazon in print and ebook format and in fine bookstores everywhere.

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When THEO Came Home
List Price: $15.99
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
360 pages

Outer Banks Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 978-0982993101
ISBN-10: 0982993102
BISAC: Fiction / Suspense