Princess Augusta, like many young brides, caught grief from her meddling mother-in-law. Queen Caroline said her daughter-in-law had a “wretched figure,” and questioned the legitimacy of her granddaughter, calling the baby a “she-mouse.”
That’s one of many colorful anecdotes in Hidden History of Augusta (History Press, $21.99). Did you know that the Wright Brothers once owned a flying school located just off Wrightsboro Road? Or have you ever wondered if the Haunted Pillar on the corner of Fifth and Broad is truly cursed?
Aiken author Dr. Tom Mack guides the reader through three centuries of Augusta’s past, from the travails of a teenage Princess Augusta to a recounting of opera singer’s Jessye Norman’s rise to fame.
“There’s no other book on Augusta that covers such a wide variety of colorful events,” Mack said.
Mack pays homage to the area’s rich literary history. He recounts the life of Paul Hamilton Hayne, the Poet Laureate of the South, who wrote an ode to the fruit of the Southern vine.
Hidden History of Augusta also discusses the city’s role in Stephen Vincent Benet’s epic poem John Brown’s Body and traces the careers of two Augusta novelists, Edison Marshall – a notorious womanizer and contemporary of Hemingway’s – and Berry Fleming, who fictionalized the crooked antics of Augusta’s Cracker Party in The Lightwood Tree and Colonel Effingham’s Raid. Mack will sign books Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon at the visitors’ center of the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, 419 Seventh St., Augusta.
EXPLORING THE DEEP SOUTH: “Ain’t no strangers here, baby.” That’s what a woman in Tuscaloosa, Ala., said to New England author Paul Theroux while he was researching his travel book, Deep South. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.95.) He writes, “I stayed away from the big cities and coastal communities. I kept to the Lowcountry, the Black Belt, the Delta, the backwoods, the flyspeck towns.”
During his travels he dickered with sellers over the price of vintage assault rifles at gun shows, bumped across backroads dotted with shotgun shacks and shuttered motels and dined at downscale meat-and-threes.
Theroux made his way to the Savannah River Site and listened to locals’ fears of radioactive blight.
He writes, “Just up the road … is Augusta, Georgia, where you never hear the horror stories of nuclear contamination… only the whispered delights of playing golf.”
Theroux chats up laborers, small town mayors, reverends, the working poor and farmers, peeling back the layers of the South in all its contradictions and idiosyncrasies, making Deep South a fascinating and eye-opening read.