Category Archives: Politics

THE KING GOES AUDIBLE

 

The story of one of Kentucky’s baddest bad men (Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw) turned out to be among the most popular reads at the Kentucky Book Fair and is on its way now to becoming an audio book.

The Kentucky Book Fair is one of the largest in the Southeast. One hundred seventy authors were on hand and over 3,000 book lovers came, drawn by authors such as Craig Johnson, who brought Walt Longmire with him. Wendell Barry was there. And Barney Frank and Bobby Ann Mason, and J.D. Vance with his Hillbilly Elegy, along with a host of other first rate story tellers from all over.

Copies of The King were all gone before noon. It ranked in the top ten in sales.

This was my fourth trip to the Fair. I’d been before with Theo (the Theo Trilogy.) Enjoyed them all. This one was the best – thanks to the notorious John Fallis, the King of Craw, and the power of his story. He was the hero of the poor and downtrodden, the nemesis of the powers that be. Craw was the notorious red-light district in Kentucky’s capital city that flourished during the Roaring Twenties and was famous all the way down to New Orleans. Fallis is a folk icon now, his feats are the stuff of legend.

We’ll start recording the audio-book version this coming Monday, (February 20.) I’ll do the reading. There is a certain risk in the author reading his own work. I tried to voice the written version as if I was telling it to you, as if we were talking together. I’ll read it that way.

The finished product, ready for download on all digital devices and available on audio CDs, is scheduled for release in early May.

 

 

 

RECON, COMPLETED

 

The early returns are in.  The reactions to the opening copy for the More To Come manuscript have been  encouraging. The consensus was “we like it, tell me more, stay with it.”

Which I’m tempted to do.

But….

I didn’t quite realize how difficult a task I’d set myself. Making a story out of all that, a “story” of real interest to those who don’t know me or know of me, a story honest to the facts yet with the suspense and emotion a real story must have, a story that grabs yet is sensitive to the feelings of those involved and respectful of matters that ought remain confidential — figuring out how to handle all that is a bit more than I think I want to try to handle at present. Fiction is inordinately easier.

So for the time being, More To Come is truly more to come and I’m taking the easier way out — starting on a new piece of fiction…the story of Jimmy O’Day and Billy D. and the King of the Craw, I think.

Will keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks for you input.

 

 

RECON,continued

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.45.55 AM To refresh your memory, I’m at the start of a new book and can’t decide which idea to follow,

 So I’m doing a recon.

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

The working title for this one is “More To Come.” It’s 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. It will probably have to do with what happens when the meek inherit the earth, as it is said they will do — or be another Kentucky based story using the King of the Craw as a pivotal character.

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

Honest, unvarnished, opinion is needed.

Many thanks.

More To Come

Chapter Two

 Brigadoon

 

My mother was afraid of thunderstorms at night.

We lived a long block away from the newspaper where my father worked as a young reporter then. The quickest way there was through an alley that ran behind the two Five-And-Dimes and the Grand Theatre.

Our apartment was on the second floor of a big brick house on the corner across from the Old Capitol grounds.  From our front windows we could look out on the almost constant activity there. In early times, it had been the town square. People were always there — young mothers wheeling baby carriages, small children running and playing,  older men sitting quietly on benches under the trees reading their papers or talking.

In the summer it was shady and cool and we played tag in among the trees and over the rises, and in the fall, when the oaks and the maples took on their colors and dropped their leaves we ran laughing and kicking through the mounds of red and orange the groundsmen had raked up.

The square was on the northern edge of the downtown business district, bounded on three sides by residential streets such as the one we lived on, and in front by Broadway, the main street of town. Railroad tracks ran down the center and all traffic stopped, pedestrian as well as automotive, to the let the long trains pass. Oddly, I don’t remember ever being wakened by the sound of a train while we lived there, but I was only four.

Fort Hill was to the rear.  Rebel cannon had been entrenched there when John Hunt Morgan’s raiders briefly occupied the town before the battle at Perryville during the Civl War, and the Kentucky River, the state’s major waterway, was almost in sight down at the end of Broadway.

The Old Capital itself was majestic. Made from Kentucky River marble and fashioned after an ancient Greek temple, it sat on a slight rise in the center of this square. The only Kentucky Governor ever killed in office was shot on the sidewalk leading up to it — William Goebel — almost caused an uprising. Politics is passionate business in the Commonwealth. A brass plate marks the place where he fell. Later, after we had moved to another part of town and I had grown old enough to be allowed out after dinner to play, we’d chase each other among the trees near the marker and tell stories of old Ruby’s ghost walking these grounds while the whole town was asleep.

So there we were, my mother and I, in that second floor apartment, she just barely into her twenties, enormously proud when his byline appeared in the morning paper, but apprehensive at being left alone with only me at night while my father did the work that newspapermen do.

She managed fine — except for thunderstorms at night.

When the big black furies of spring came roaring down the valley, whipping the trees across the street into a frenzy and thunder cracked like cannons and lightning stabbed the sky, she would grab me, no matter the hour, throw her coat around us both and run with me in her arms through the wind and the rain up the alley to the Journal and the safety of my father.

I do not know what they must have thought of us, charging bedraggled and breathless into the newsroom. The Journal was a morning newspaper. The editor and various reporters, unless out on assignment, had to be there, working on their stories for the next morning’s paper. What did they think when we came busting through the door? Though she would have been embarrassed,  I think they would have been amused, and indulgent, and protective. She was so young and pretty they would have had no other option. And they were Kentuckians. Kentuckians are honor bound to be comforting and courteous to ladies in distress.

I do know that my father would take me, frightened by my mother’s fear and the dash through the storm, and stand me on the work table in front of the big window that looked out on the street and he would stand behind me with his arms around me and we would both watch the storm. He’d tell me how to count the time from the flash of the lightening to the sound of the thunder and to watch how the wind danced with the trees.

He’d tell me what a grand show Mother Nature had arranged just for us, that all that thunder and all that rain — and the wind, and the lightening — it was nature’s magic — it was marvelous– not something to be afraid of, it was something to wonder at and enjoy.

Afterwards, when the storm had passed, he would walk us home and see us safely settled.

My mother never fully lost her fear of the storms, but after a while the fear shrank to mere uneasiness and after that season, we did not run through the alley anymore.

I, though, ever since, have loved the beauty of thunderstorms at night.

The street where we lived then isn’t there anymore. It disappeared under the bulldozers of urban renewal. But I see it still.

The town I grew up in isn’t there anymore, either. Oh there is a town there. A fine town. Just not the one I grew up in.

I still see that one, though, superimposing my memories of it over the look and the feel of the town as it is now. It’s still there, but in the background, Brigadoon like.

I bring the matter up now, here at the beginning, because I think home places, the places where we are born and grow up, mold and shape us. They set our sense of self, our manners, the ease and confidence we hold, the way we talk, the way we think. The look and the feel of them comfort us, reassure us.

And the kids we grew up with, and the adults whose values and actions defined the town as we were growing up — these thing have a fundamental influence on who we are and what we become.

So there I was in this little town that I liked a lot and that I felt liked me.

Then we left.

 

(more to come)

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.

___________________________________

 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

 

At The Kiwanis

In FK for the Kentucky Book Fair tomorrow. Spoke at the Kiwanis Club meeting yesterday … a little  about “When Theo Came Home”… Kiwanis logoread just a bit of it to give them an idea of how the words hang together, but mostly about writing — about them writing, about each of them having unique and important stories  that will be lost when they pass unless they tell them — unless they write them.  Seemed to resonate with a few. Maybe a fine memoir will result, or a touching family history, or a piece of fiction that will entrance us all. Anyway, a good session. Lots of laughing, lost of questions, and a few old friends I hadn’t seen in years turning up for the festivities. Nice to be home again for a while.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor…..

Up across the Piedmont of North Caroline to Asheville, hang a right there and wiggle through the gorge through the Smokies to Knoxville, drop down onto the Cumberland Plateau to Williamsburg where Theo had his run-in with Niccan Dye and overnight there.  Up early the next morning with temps in the low thirties and snow spitting down . Run through misty rain and big-rig splashes up I75 to Lexington,  make a left there and into the Bluegrass where the sun breaks through and the sky turns  blue. It’s sparkling clear and wonderful to behold, but cold as hell and supposed to stay that way all the way through the weekend. No matter. They’re still expecting a record crowd at the Kentucky Book Fair Saturday for which I’ve come and at which I expect to have dandy  time. See old friends, make new ones and find out if Theo still has appeal. The book I’m signing is about what happened when he came home. It’s the cap to the Theo Trilogy —  Theo’s Story, Theo & The Mouthful of Ashes, and now When Theo Came Home. Like the other two, it didn’t end the way I thought it would when I started. I think I like the way it turned out, though. Hope  the readers do, too.