Friday, April 1, 2011

Truth is Stranger than Fiction...

but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.

Mark Twain made this comment over a hundred years ago, and last night it was the title used to lure my good friend Marilyn and me to another author meet and greet at the Book Exchange.

Again, I was not disappointed as these three ranged from an attorney from Macon, Georgia, to a former felon from Oxford, Mississippi. I can't possibly capture all that they said, but I did a lot of laughing and a little "hush, your mouth, that totally didn't happen" comments to myself.

Based on true stories, Richard Jay Hutto's A Peculiar Tribe of People, Genie Helderman's As the Sycamore Grows, and Neal White's In the Sanctuary of Outcasts revolve around true incidents in history.

Hutto and Helderman listen as White reads from "In the Sanctuary of the Outcasts."

Hutto, an attorney from Macon, Georgia, spoke first about the convoluted and tawdry history of the Dunlap family, who at one time were the richest family in Georgia. As he noted, the story itself is "bizarre," but the people are real and the historical anecdotes and side stories he tells apparently as fascinating as the murder mystery that the book features. As Hutto talked about his work, his articulate nature and ability to spin a tale made me want to buy A Peculiar Tribe of People. I didn't; I'm too cheap, but I did add it to my list of books to read later. :)

Helderman, a diminutive woman with bright eyes, stood up next to champion her book about poverty in Alabama and the main character who spurred Helderman to write this true story. Her central character, Ginger, escaped not only poverty but spousal abuse by the husband she married when she was 21. Helderman had full access to Ginger's story as well as Mike's, the abusive husband, who wished to have his say. As Helderman informed the audience, As the Sycamore Grows is not about "abuse but about loss and alienation and the courage and resiliency of the human spirit."

The last writer was the hilarious Neil White, a man who went to prison for eighteen months for bank fraud. The catch -- the prison where he was incarcerated in Carville, Louisiana --- was the last operational leper colony in the United States in the 20th century.

Say what?

Yep, according to White, when he was imprisoned in 1992, all the "outcasts" of the federal prison system were put behind bars here. He told of the disfigured, the overweight, as well as the last of the lepers who had no where else to go, who made up this camp of people with whom he spent 18 months. He thought he was going to "gad about like George Plimpton and take notes and be consumed with his own image, but
[he] soon discovered that with all of these characters dropped in his lap, [he] was only [going] to screw it up." He abandoned the idea, but once out of the prison system and back at work, as he said, "not handling any money that was not his," {LOL} he ran into an literary agent who heard of his time there and encouraged him to tell the story which became In the Sanctuary of the Outcasts.

White read two pages from his work that had the whole audience giggling and snorting.

At the Questions and Answers session at the end of their talks, there wasn't anyone too feisty or too aggressive -- since we had some serious guide [guard] dogs [see below] --- but one lady cracked me up when she said, "I"m originally from Cincinnati, and I have to say that in the South, you can't turn a corner without running into a screwball."

The whole audience laughed, but White said, "Do I need to channel Flannery O'Connor here who noted that
--- 'Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.'"

I don't know how the lady from Cinacinnati responded, but we Southerners applauded and laughed and appreciated that O'Connor [and White] set that Yankee straight.


Ally and Austin, dogs in training to be guide dogs :)
Austin's trainer told Marilyn and me that she "knew Austin is a good Methodist cause he always falls asleep in church."

*snicker, snicker*

Austin poses for me.

Coming up on April 19 -- Terry Kay


  1. I can't believe the pups. They are called several things, one of which is British Creams. What great looking dogs. Thanks for writing but thanks a whole lot for the pictures.

  2. you had me at "former felon." ;)

    Also, your comment about my mini skirts in high school cracked me up. I still wear skirts & dresses every single day--haven't worn pants (except to work out) in years!

  3. Oh my gosh, my neighbor could have been there, he is a former trial attorney who went to jail for killing his mother. (He did kill her) but it was self defense. Check his website out if you feel inclined....He would have LOVED hanging with this group. He is from Oklahoma.

  4. Ummm... I got distracted by the crazy, insane, adorably cute puppies. I want one. Would it be incredibly selfish to claim vertically challenged as a disability?

    Yeah, I thought so. Guess I'll just have to assauge the canine desire with the neighbors dogs. Works out well for both of us- my floors stay clean (well, relatively with three kids) and his girls get some extra nuzzles and chuckies under the chin.

  5. Had a nice time reading this. Quite informative too. Car Accident Lawyer Macon