William Faulkner invented Yoknapatawpha County as a place for his imagination to live, and every Southern writer knew where it was, even if it wasn’t on any map. Ernest Hemingway loaded his readers onto a double-decker bus and transported them to a fiesta in Pamplona, Spain, with its wine skins and dusty plaza de toros. Allan Gurganus created the fictional small town of Falls, North Carolina. In the hands of a fine craftsman, a sense of place in a piece of fiction can be so compelling it almost becomes its own character in the narrative. In our Summer Reading Issue three of North Carolina’s greatest writers deliver on this promise, taking us to West Virginia coal country, the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and the bottom of a freshly dug grave. Our guides for these adventures are Lee Smith, Ron Rash and Clyde Edgerton.

— Jim Moriarty

Lee Smith is the author of 14 novels, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, Saving Grace and Guests on Earth, as well as four collections of short stories.  Her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as co-winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. A retired professor of English at North Carolina State University, she has received an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature,  and the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature. Her latest book, Silver Alert, will be available in the spring of 2023.


Ron Rash is the author of seven novels, seven collections of short stories and four volumes of poetry. He has been honored with The Sherwood Anderson Prize and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his collection Chemistry and Other Stories, and for his New York Times bestselling novel Serena. His other novels include Saints at the River, Above the Waterfall and The Risen. He is the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, where he teaches poetry and fiction writing.


Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels and two books of non-fiction. His novels include Raney, Walking Across Egypt, The Floatplane Notebooks, Killer Diller and Lunch at the Piccadilly. Both Walking Across Egypt and Killer Diller were adapted for the screen. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and has also received the North Carolina Award for Literature. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

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