• Bestselling romance writer Jacquelyn Frank is expecting her latest book, Damien (Zebra Books, 2008), on shelves in June. Though Frank’s fiction takes readers to vampiric underworlds, the novelist calls Asheville home. Her new offering is the tale of a vampire prince who, wearied of his evil ways, turns his attentions to protecting his minions. This books comes at a time when there’s a dearth in vampiric literature. With Anne Rice now gone over to the light (she converted to Christianity after the death of her husband and is currently at work on a book about Jesus) and the flurry of interest in The Historian all but died away, it seems the perfect time for a new writer to pen a novel of bloody-thirst conveyed through strangely beguiling anti-heroes. Frank’s title character promises to be just that. Of course, where Rice’s Lestat was a somewhat unwittingly sexy beast, Frank’s Damien is the Fabio of the dark side. “The minute her lips were sealed over his skin, Damien felt the balance of the world spin away from them. He groaned savagely as she swept her tongue over him slowly, her deft little mouth burning him like a brand…” This is the stuff of bodice ripping, for sure, but for fans of the genre — either vampiric or romantic — Frank’s book deserves a read.
• Mars Hill College English Professor Hal McDonald sets the standards high for his students. Though the teacher had never before attempted a crime novel, he felt certain he could do it. To up the ante, he committed his plot to paper in time to enter it in the “Search for the Next Great Crime Writer” a mere four days before the contest, hosted by truTV and publisher HarperCollins, closed. The result, The Anatomists (Harper, 2008) was not only the contest winner, it’s set to be released on Tuesday, March 25.
The novel is an edgily dark period piece, set in Queen Victoria’s fifth decade of rule, as the opening chapter reveals. The set-up is that medical students Edward and Jean-Claude must come up with their own cadavers if they are to learn the ins and outs of the human body. This nasty little task is accomplished with the help of a grave digger. However, when the students set to work on their male corpse, they discover the deceased died not of natural causes but of a stab wound. They confront the grave digger, who takes them to the funeral plot — only to discover it’s that of a woman. So how did the murdered man end up there, and what happened to the remains of the grave’s proper tenant? This is the mystery The Anatomists sets out to solve.
• Local author John Spitzberg recently completed the book Tsunami, No Good (Grateful Steps, 2008), an account of his travels to Thailand to provide humanitarian relief following the devastating 2004 tsunami. The book is slim, but heartfelt and fortified with photos from Spitzberg’s trip.
“Vichet said he returned home more aware of the transience of life,” Spitzberg writes of a fellow volunteer. “The corpses filled him with deep sympathy and the desire to help them return to their families.” Tsunami isn’t an easy book, but it is a personal account of one man’s efforts to assist during a most difficult time.
• Also out on the local imprint Grateful Steps is Look Homeward Asheville by retired librarian Peter Olevnik. The book is a collection of poems, stories and sketches inspired to an extent by the author’s adopted hometown, but also by his life experiences and travels.
“During one of our lunches, Joe told me the story of his growing up in a home across the street from the Old Kentucky Home, the boarding house at 48 Spruce Street,” Olevnik writes in the title essay. He’s referencing Thomas Wolfe’s home, a fact sure to delight an Asheville-centric fan base.
Look doesn’t reveal any new history or startling revelations about Asheville, but it is a cozy read with sweetly personal touches.
Other literary news:
• Newly formed Asheville writers’ group Asheville Writing Enthusiasts will hold its inaugural meeting on Saturday, April 12, at 10:30 a.m. in the board room at Pack Place, 2 South Pack Square. The group’s guest speaker is Daniel Griffith, president of the Florida Writers Association.
AWE’s objectives include: (1) to encourage and educate Asheville area writers through a diverse slate of speakers and monthly critique sessions, (2) to establish and develop contacts with authors, editors, agents and publishers, and (3) to foster a community of support among writers who endeavor to improve their craft. Gatherings will be held the first Saturday of the month and critique meetings are slated for the third Saturday of each month. Info: David Pereda at (786) 417-2769 or email@example.com, or Ron English at 225-5677 or THEEMACO@aol.com.
• The North Carolina Writers’ Network has announced its Spring Conference 2008, which will be held at the Elliott University Center in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, April 26, from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Author Linda Gregg is the keynote speaker. Registration is $110 for NCWN members and $145 for nonmembers prior to Thursday, April 17; $135 and $165 day of event. Info: click here.
— Alli Marshall, A&E reporter