Happy birthday John Ehle! The author’s renowned novel “The Land Breakers” is reprinted

No mere novelist, Asheville-born writer John Ehle is considered “a master of the American language.” Among his 17 books, including both fiction and nonfiction, seven works of historical fiction were set in the Appalachian mountains. From that collection, The Winter People was made into a film of the same name, staring Kurt Russell and Lloyd Bridges.

That was not Ehle’s only foray into film, and the connection to the big screen runs to his wife (Rosemary Harris) and daughter (Jennifer Ehle), both actresses. The Winter People is also not Ehle’s best-known work. That title is reserved for The Land Breakers, originally published in 1964. That book, recently reprinted by New York Review Books, tells the story of Scots-Irish couple Mooney and Imy Wright who struggle to make a life for themselves in the wilderness of Western N.C. during the late 1700s.Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 12.20.20 PM

Ehle, who still maintains a residence in Penland, N.C., “can trace his ancestors back to the area’s original settlers of the 18th century,” says a press release. The tale of the Wrights, recently freed from indentured servitude and hoping to buy land of their own, is penned in prose both crisp and picturesque, as much a story as it is a history lesson.

Ehle celebrates his 89th birthday on Saturday, Dec. 13. Commemorate the occasion by revisiting The Land Breakers or any of the author’s Appalachian series:

• The Journey of August King (1971)
• Time of Drums (1970)
• The Road (1967)
• The Winter People (1982)
• Lion on the Hearth (1961)
• Last One Home (1984)

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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3 thoughts on “Happy birthday John Ehle! The author’s renowned novel “The Land Breakers” is reprinted

  1. Big Al

    I purchased “The Land Breakers” at the Asheville Visitor’s Center in 2007. The book that needs to be reprinted (cuz I cain’t find it nowheres) is “Lion on the Hearth”.

  2. Ralph Holloway

    I am one of the more impoverished Stouffer graduates that you interviewed. I am 62 now and have found writing to be therapy for me. Let me know if I can send some of my amusements to you while I can. I currently work for DHS/FEMA.

    Thanks so much for the opportunity.

    Ralph Holloway

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