Book Notes: Get a double dose of football and a murder mystery

Carolyn Newton Curry is the author of "Sudden Death." 
Courtesy of Mercer University Press

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Carolyn Newton Curry is the author of "Sudden Death." Courtesy of Mercer University Press

Plus, Andalusia in Milledgeville is proclaimed a national historical landmark.

In this week’s Book Notes, a college football coach is murdered on the field after a game, Flannery O’Connor’s home place becomes official and a new entry in the genre of Grit Lit prepares for debut.

Murder on the gridiron: Carolyn Newton Curry is a historian and a winner of the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her biography of the daughter of one of Georgia’s richest plantation owners who kept meticulous journals of her life before, during and after the Civil War. “Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas 1834-1907″ was published by Mercer University Press in 2014.

Last week Curry made her fiction debut with “Sudden Death” (Mercer University Press, $27). It’s a mystery (and also a romance) surrounding the murder of the head football coach for a high-profile college in the South. The book kicks off with the killing, then flashes back to tell the story of how Kendall Harris and Duke Astin met and fell in love, Duke’s climb up the coaching ladder of college football, and the quest to find out who killed him. Along the way, her characters encounter the shady side of life, including spousal abuse and the vices of gambling and addiction.

Curry knows a little something about football. She’s the wife of Bill Curry, who was head football coach for Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama. In a note to the reader that precedes the book, she explains that her characters and the events that occur are purely fiction, but her husband did receive multiple death threats during his career, so the specter of death was not foreign to her.

Curry has a number of public appearances coming up including at Peachtree City Library Aug. 9, Georgia Writers Museum in Eatonton Sept. 6 and Agnes Scott College Sept. 15. For details go to carolyncurry.com.

We have a winner: Hub City Press, the nonprofit book publisher in Spartanburg, South Carolina, devoted to Southern authors, has announced that Robert Maynor is the 2022 winner of its biennial South Carolina Novel Prize.

His debut novel, “The Big Game is Every Night,” will publish in fall 2023, and football also figures prominently. According to a statement from Hub City Press, the book is “told in the keen, honest voice of a young high school football player growing up in rural South Carolina Lowcountry and gives readers a glimpse into the cultural forces that shape contemporary blue-collar America.”

To get a taste of what to expect, readers can check out Maynor’s short story “Those That Dig, Those That Break” in Pithead Chapel, a Michigan-based online literary journal. It’s a powerful story about the father of a young girl whose wife has been gone for three days. It captures all the blue-collar grittiness and male ennui one might expect from a Larry Brown story, which makes sense because it won the Larry Brown Short Story Award in 2018. Give it a read at pitheadchapel.com.

The South Carolina Novel Series is open to writers of all levels who have lived in South Carolina for at least one year prior to submission of their manuscript.

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The main house on the Andalusia property where Flannery O’Connor resided with her mother.

Credit: Anagha Ramakrishnan

The main house on the Andalusia property where Flannery O’Connor resided with her mother.

Credit: Anagha Ramakrishnan

Combined ShapeCaption
The main house on the Andalusia property where Flannery O’Connor resided with her mother.

Credit: Anagha Ramakrishnan

Credit: Anagha Ramakrishnan

Wise move: Andalusia, the Milledgeville farm where Flannery O’Connor wrote the majority of her books and stories including “The Violent Bear It Away” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” had a ceremony last month to celebrate its receipt of the official bronze plaque formalizing its designation as a national historical landmark by the National Park Service.

The 544-acre farm encompasses a number of buildings including the two-story frame house built in 1855 where O’Connor lived with her mother from 1951 until her death from lupus in 1964.

Recognized for its significance to the nation’s history and culture, the property now qualifies for federal, state and local grants earmarked for historic preservation.

Currently under construction is a new interpretive center featuring gallery space, a gift shop, bathrooms, staff offices and storage, as well as a new driveway and parking area. It’s expected to be complete in 2023.

After the author’s death, the farm remained in the O’Connor family until 2003, when it was given to a private foundation and made into a museum. In 2017, it was given to Georgia College & State University, O’Connor’s alma mater.

Hourly tours are available every hour from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7. For details go to www.gcsu.edu/andalusia.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at svanatten@ajc.com and follow her on Twitter at @svanatten.