Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Other Stories

BOOK: Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Other Stories
12.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Selected by the Mystery Guild

“Reading McCrumb’s short stories is like opening a box of fine chocolates. You want to taste and savor each one singly, saving the rest for later, but they are so good you must devour all of them at once, stuffing yourself with irresistible treats.”

—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“McCrumb’s sassy humor, sharp eye for human behavior, and respectful portrayal of American country are as strong here as ever.”

—Detroit Free Press

“Sharyn McCrumb has few equals and no superiors among today’s novelists.”

—San Diego Union-Tribune

“For Sharyn McCrumb, just telling a riveting tale of intrigue is not enough. Her books transcend the boundaries of a good read.”

—N
IKKI
G
IOVANNI

“Whimsically diverse.… A revealing sketchbook of two dozen tales exploring the quicksilver border between mystery and magic.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“DELIGHTFULLY UNIQUE AND ENTERTAINING …

McCrumb has an uncanny knack for picking up the subtle nuances of dialogue, place, and personality that make her characters and settings sparkle with life. She can perfectly mimic the hillbilly twang of an Appalachian healer or the dulcet, pear-shaped tones of an upper-class Briton; she can create the excitement of teenagers in lust, mirror the evil that lurks in a serial killer’s heart, or convey the quiet desperation of a woman trapped in a miserable marriage. But most of all, McCrumb can make her readers believe what she writes.… McCrumb is one of America’s premier storytellers, and this extraordinary collection of her stories makes a perfect addition to every library’s shelves.”

—Booklist
(starred review)

“Reading this book, I could seem to hear wispy echoes of old folk songs telling of romance blighted, love won and lost, battles fought, and ghosts walking uneasily along lonely country paths.… Sample these stories as you would a box of special candies—one at a time as you need or deserve a treat.”

—The Washington Times

“REMINISCENT OF O. HENRY AT HIS BEST … A REAL TREASURE TROVE …

Her short stories sound almost as though you’re hearing them—rather than reading them.”

—Southbridge Evening News
(MA)

“A literary as well as a mystery event … These twenty-four stories take place, for the most part, in Sharyn McCrumb’s beloved Appalachia and Scotland, and run the emotional gamut from laughter to sorrow. The tales are intriguing and involving and will serve as a fine introduction to one of the world’s most acclaimed authors.”

—Romantic Times
magazine

“McCrumb is a writer of national prominence … She writes books that both entertain and enlighten. Her stories make connections between cultures and continents, past and present, life and death, comedy and tragedy.”

—The Free Lance-Star
(Fredericksburg, VA)

By Sharyn McCrumb

The Elizabeth MacPherson Novels

SICK OF SHADOWS
*

LOVELY IN HER BONES
*

HIGHLAND LADDIE GONE
*

PAYING THE PIPER
*

THE WINDSOR KNOT
*

MISSING SUSAN
*

MacPHERSON’S LAMENT
*

IF I’D KILLED HIM WHEN I MET HIM …
*

THE PMS OUTLAWS
*

IF EVER I RETURN, PRETTY PEGGY-O
*

THE HANGMAN’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER

SHE WALKS THESE HILLS

THE ROSEWOOD CASKET

BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN
*

ZOMBIES OF THE GENE POOL
*

FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN and Other Stories
*

ST. DALE

*
Published by The Random House Publishing Group

A Ballantine Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 1997 by Sharyn McCrumb

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Most of the stories in this collection were originally published in the following magazines:
Applachian Heritage, Crescent Review, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
, and
York Magazine
; and in the following anthologies:
Cat Crimes II
(Donald I. Fine, Inc.),
Crimes of the Heart
(Berkley),
Fairy Tale Mysteries
(Berkley),
Great Writers & Kids Write Mystery Stories
(Random House, Inc.),
Harverst From the Hills
(Seven Buffaloes Press),
Malice Domestic Anthology
(Pocket Books),
Malice Domestic III
(Pocket Books),
Mistletoe Mysteries
(Mysterious Press),
Mummy Stories
(Ballantine Books),
Our Separate Days
(Rowan Mountain Press),
Penguin 50th Anniversary Anthology
(Penguin),
Partners In Crime
, (New American Library),
Royal Crimes
(New American Library),
Sisters in Crime
, Vol. II (Berkley),
Sisters In Crime
, Vol. IV (Berkley), and
Vengeance Is Hers
(Signet).

eISBN: 978-0-307-75725-8

www.ballantinebooks.com

v3.1

To Mary Frances Amick Hinte,
wherever she is

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION

I
COME FROM
a race of storytellers.

My father’s family—the Arrowoods and the McCourys—settled in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina in 1790, when the wilderness was still Indian country. They came from the north of England and from Scotland, and they seemed to want mountains, land, and as few neighbors as possible.

The first of the McCourys to settle in America was my great-great-great-grandfather Malcolm McCoury, a Scot who was kidnapped as a child from the island of Islay in the Hebrides in 1750, and made to serve as a cabin boy on a sailing ship. He later became an attorney in Morristown, New Jersey; fought with the Morris Militia in the American Revolution; and finally settled in what is now Mitchell County, western North Carolina, in 1794. Yet another “connection” (a distant cousin) is the convicted murderess Frankie Silver (1813–1833), who was the first woman hanged for murder in the state of North Carolina.

I grew up listening to my father’s tales of World War II in the Pacific, and to older family stories of duels and of escapades in Model T Fords. With such adventurers in my background, I grew up seeing the world as a wild and exciting place; the quiet tales of suburban angst so popular in modern fiction are Martian to me.

Storytelling is an art form that I learned early on. When I was a little girl, my father would come in to tell me a bedtime story, which usually began with a phrase like “Once there was a prince named Paris, whose father was Priam, the king of Troy.…” Thus I got
The Iliad
in nightly installments, geared to the level of a four-year-old’s understanding. I grew up in a swirl of tales: the classics retold; ballads or country songs, each having a melody, but above all a
plot;
and family stories about Civil War soldiers, train wrecks, and lost silver mines.

My mother contributed stories of her grandfather, John Burdette Taylor, who had been a sixteen-year-old private in the 68th North Carolina Rangers (CSA). His regiment had walked in ragbound boots, following the railroad tracks, from Virginia to Fort Fisher, site of a decisive North Carolina battle. All his life he would remember leaving footprints of blood in the snow as he marched. When John Taylor returned home to Carteret County, southeastern North Carolina, at the end of the war, his mother, who was recovering from typhoid, got up out of her sickbed to attend the welcome home party for her son. She died that night.

My father’s family fund of Civil War stories involved great-great-uncles in western North Carolina who had discovered a silver mine or a valley of ginseng while roaming the hills, trying to escape conscription into one marauding army or the other. There were the two sides of the South embodied in my parents’ oral histories: Mother’s family represented the flatland South, steeped in its magnolia myths, replete with Gorham sterling silver and Wedgwood china. My father’s kinfolks spoke for the Appalachian South, where the pioneer spirit took root. In their War between the States, the Cause was somebody else’s business, and the war was a deadly struggle between neighbors. I could not belong completely to either of these Souths because I am inextricably a part of both.

This duality of my childhood, a sense of having a foot
in two cultures, gave me that sense of
otherness
that one often finds in writers: the feeling of being an outsider, observing one’s surroundings, and looking even at personal events at one remove.

So much conflict; so much drama; and two sides to everything. Stories, I learned, involved character, and drama, and they always centered around irrevocable events that mattered.

This book is a collection of almost all the short stories I have ever written. Some of them are serious character studies (“A Predatory Woman,” “Among My Souvenirs,” “The Matchmaker”); some are sad stories set in the Southern mountains (“Precious Jewel,” “Telling the Bees,” “Old Rattler”); and some are whimsical tales of fantasy and humor (“An Autumn Migration,” “Remains to Be Seen,” “Nine Lives to Live”). The difference in styles reflects the duality in my nature: Mountain versus Southern, Daddy’s side versus Mother’s side. I like to think that both of them win.

The earliest story in the collection, “Love on First Bounce,” is a semidocumentary of my adolescence in a small Southern town, and the first draft was written when I was in high school. It marks the first appearance of Elizabeth MacPherson, the heroine of many of my novels. I hear her voice, too, in the narrator of “Southern Comfort.” Compare the sunny life of that suburban child to the dark, spartan boyhood described in “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” which is a portrait of my father’s youth in the Tennessee mountains.

BOOK: Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Other Stories
12.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Arrow of Time by Andersson, Lina
Cat on the Scent by Rita Mae Brown
The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff
Always A Bride by Henderson, Darlene
The Gatecrasher by Sophie Kinsella
The Curse of Naar by Joe Dever