Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Margaret Maron offers a lesson in being Southern

Want to read about the South without feeling like it’s homework? I suggest Margaret Maron’s books.

The eastern N.C. native has written a series of mysteries featuring Judge Deborah Knott, a N.C. district court judge who presides in both the fictional Colleton County, near Raleigh, and as a fill-in judge around the state.

During her travels and her sleuthing, she explores N.C. institutions including tobacco, furniture, pottery, fisheries and even race relations.

I heard Maron speak Tuesday night at ImaginOn as part of the Novello Festival of Reading, and she gave her take on what distinguishes Southern writing. Some of her themes echoed some things author Michael Parker of Greensboro said during a recent visit to the Museum of the New South, which I chronicled earlier on this blog.

Among the influences Maron cited are the evangelical Protestantism that gives many Southerners the feeling they are personally acquainted with Jesus; the fact that we were both battlefield and conquered nation in the Civil War; our historically rural agrarian economy; deep-felt family ties, and even the pervasive heat and humidity.

So far I’ve only read “Killer Market,” an entry from the middle of her series, but it taught me a lot about the High Point Furniture Market and the Triad community. I plan to put the rest of her works on my reading list.


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