Who was the real James Brown? According to National Book Award-winning author James McBride, “the hardest working man in show biz” was wary about letting anyone get too close to him and even his children had to make appointments to see him.
In McBride’s biography of the Godfather of Soul, Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and American Soul (Spiegel & Grau, $28), Brown’s reticence to reveal himself to others had to do with his hardscrabble childhood, racial issues and the cutthroat record business. The title refers to Brown’s relationship with his fans; after gigs he rarely stayed around to glad-hand with admirers.
IT ISN’T EASY being a woman living during the Great Depression, especially if you’re married to a fundamentalist preacher. Irenie, the main character in Atlanta author Julia Franks’ novel Over the Plain Houses (Hub City Press, $26), leads such a claustrophobic existence, she isn’t even allowed to play the piano. Then she meets a forward-thinking USDA agent who’s assigned to teach the Appalachian women how to modernize their homes. When Irenie begins to exercise her independence, her husband wonders if she’s a witch, which results in disastrous consequences. Over 2,000 independent booksellers chose the debut novel as their top pick for May.
MOST PEOPLE know Coy Bowles as a member of the Grammy-winning Zac Brown Band, but now he can add author to his résumé. The musician has penned a children’s book for ages 4-8 called Will Powers: When There’s A Will, There’s A Way. (Post Hill Press, $17) The book teaches goal achievement and encourages a strong work ethic. Georgia first lady Sandra Deal has recognized the book for Read Across Georgia Month.
WHIMSY ABOUNDS in the latest novel from Athens, Ga., author Terry Kay called The King Who Made Paper Flowers (Mercer University Press, $24). An optimist named Arthur ends up in Savannah and hooks up with a street magician and an assortment of displaced characters who live in a warehouse called the Castle. Arthur, who makes paper flowers, becomes a champion for his friends when they face difficulties. The novel is dedicated to the late Pat Conroy, who championed Kay’s career.
RELEASES FROM LOCAL AUTHORS: Along with magnolias, mysteries are blooming in Charmain Z. Brackett’s latest novel, Murder Under the Magnolias (Amazon Digital, $2.99). The book is the first in a series and features an Augusta florist who’s trying solve a mystery while arranging flowers for parties in celebration of a certain golf tournament. Brackett, a columnist and freelancer for The Augusta Chronicle, will be signing copies of her novel at a special Mother’s Day weekend event at the Book Tavern called Wine, Women and Words from 6 to 8 p.m. May 6. Christine Deriso and yours truly will be joining her.
• Local author of God, Me and Sweet Iced Tea, Rose Chandler, has written her first novel, My Father’s House, (Amazon Digital, $2.99) about a young woman who discovers the meaning of home after a failed marriage.
UPCOMING LIT EVENTS.
• Enjoy three South Carolina poet laureates for the price of one at Morris Museum of Art on April 30. At 1 p.m., Marjorie Wentworth, Ed Madden and Laurel Blossom will read and discuss their work. The Poetry Society of South Carolina is putting on the event and admission is $10 for PSSC members, $15 for nonmembers and $5 for students.
• Looking for cheap reads? Visit the downtown Augusta library April 30 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and May 1 (2 to 4 p.m.) for the Friends of the Library mega book sale.