Get Rufus! (Land of the Sky Books, 2008) by Bob Terrell boasts on it’s cover that it’s “a novel by the dean of mountain writers.” I don’t actually know what that means. Local author Terrell has long contributed to the Asheville Citizen-Times and also penned the book Grandpa’s Town, about Asheville at the turn of last century. Keeping in line with his regional and historic inclinations, Terrell set Rufus in Sylva in 1917.
Published this year on frequent Xpress commenter Ralph Robert’s imprint, Rufus is already garnering much attention at area bookstores. Makes sense: It’s a distinctly WNC-flavored work of fiction, with a firm grasp on local history, landscape, concerns and dialect.
After two men from the town race up a steep slope, Terrell writes, “The man turned to Clure and said, ‘Great gobs of gooseflesh! They clumb that’air hill like two big jackrabbits!’” At times the strong accent takes some getting used to, but for the most part the author does a good job of not letting the mountain colloquialisms hijack the story.
The premise of Rufus is part cop drama, part romance. Title character Rufus supports himself and his mother by farming a little and moonshining a little on the land left to them by his late father. When Rufus’ best friend Sid turns up dead after a camping trip, the resourceful mountain man teams up with the town’s sheriff to solve the mystery.
Woven into the plot, Terrell adds enticing bits of culture. “That’s the way churches are,’ Sue said. ‘They split the women to one side and the men to the other. It’s something Biblical, I think. Maybe it will change one of these days. I hope so.’”
There’s also a mention of the purchase of a Model T (though the early car isn’t much competition for Rufus’ mule, a female animal called Fred) and one of the area’s first telephones.
At 224 pages, Rufus is a quick read and moves along at an engaging clip. Readers interested in regional fiction are likely to enjoy this new novel.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter