From John F.

Blair, Publisher


ince 1954, John F. Blair, Publisher, has worked hard to bring entertaining and inspiring books about the southeastern United States to readers across the country.

Especially for BookMarks’ book club social, we’ve handpicked some of our favorite titles for book club discussions. From mythological creatures to history, government conspiracy to the music industry, our books offer universal entertainment with a southern spin.

We love publishing fiction and nonfiction that focuses on North Carolina and the South, and we take joy in seeing our neighbors embrace those same titles. These books are for you. Always keep reading, Blair Publisher staff

The Minotaur takes a cigarette break
Steven Sherrill
Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth that held him captive, the Minotaur finds himself struggling to negotiate rural North Carolina with the body of a man and the head of a bull. Over the duration of his life, the Minotaur has roamed the earth and seen much, yet he has reaped little wisdom to help him navigate the complex geography of human relationships. Inarticulate, socially inept, tolerated at best by modern folk, he has been reduced from a monster with an appetite for human flesh to a broken creature with very human needs. During the two weeks covered by the novel, the delicate balance tips, and the Minotaur finds his life dissolving into chaos while he simultaneously awakens to the possibility of love. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is an effortless blend of the mundane and the mythic, a unique world in which kitchen work becomes high drama and meetings between legendary creatures almost pass notice. But strangest of all in Steven Sherrill’s debut novel, everything seems to make perfect sense.

Discussion Topics » Rejection and acceptance » The past vs. the future » Mythology with a twist Fiction | $19.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-197-8

Now available as an audio book from Neil Gaiman Presents, an production.

“Sherrill skillfully creates a world in which the reader is more than willing to suspend disbelief to see the man in the monster and the monstrous in all of us. Library Journal

Read an interview with the author at

Winner of the 2010 IBPA Ben Franklin Award Gold Medal for Best Regional nonFiction (SouthEast)

The Education of Mr. Mayfield
David Magee
In 1949, University of Mississippi Art Department chairman Stuart Purser was driving through the nearby countryside when he spied some interesting sculptures on the front porch of a small farmhouse. When Purser stopped to speak with the African-American artist, his longtime friendship with M. B. Mayfield began. That fall, when the University of Mississippi was completely segregated, Purser offered Mayfield a job as custodian for the Art Department and caretaker for the student art gallery. What few outside the Art Department knew was that Purser also gave Mayfield one-on-one instruction and arranged for classroom doors to be open so Mayfield could listen to lectures while sitting in the nearby broom closet. Later, Purser took Mayfield on his lecture trips, passing Mayfield off as an assistant who carted equipment. The Education of Mr. Mayfield tells the story of how M. B. Mayfield overcame many of the obstacles placed in his way due to racism, but it also tells of the quiet acts of courage displayed by some white Southerners—including William Faulkner—who found ways to defy the injustices of that time and place.

Discussion Topics » Race and segregation » Defying social norms » Ability of art to cross racial barriers Nonfiction | $19.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-366-8

The Education of Mr. Mayfield is a wonderful tale of the triumph of goodness.” Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South

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Sea-Born Women
bj Mountford

On North Carolina’s Outer Banks, there is a legend about the Sea-born Woman, whose timely birth saved her Irish emigrant ship from being destroyed by pirates nearly 300 years ago. The ghost of the Sea-born Woman is said to give aid to sailors around Portsmouth Island even today. Roberta “Bert” Lenehan is a latter-day seaborn woman who comes to the island as a National Park Service volunteer. But soon one of the previous caretakers dies under mysterious circumstances, and another woman turns up dead on the island shortly after her arrival. From park ranger Hunter Discussion Topics O’Hagan, Bert hears rumors of artifact hunters » Local legends » Family ties digging illegally on Portsmouth and learns the story of Hunter’s distant ancestor Jerushia Spriggs O’Hagan, the original Sea-born Fiction | $14.95 paperback Woman. ISBN 978-0-89587-265-4 Who is the killer stalking the island? And what bearing do a murdered pirate and centuries-old legend have on the crimes? Those are the questions Bert is pressured to answer as a hurricane bears down on the island and she “Mountford’s descriptions . . . finds herself the target of a killer. may have readers longing to
“Sea-born Women is a terrific debut!” Margaret Maron, awardwinning author of Bootlegger’s Daughter pack their bags (don’t forget the bug spray) for the Outer Banks.” Orlando Sentinel

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Murder on Music Row
Stuart Dill
Judd Nix, a 23-year-old unpaid intern at Elite Management, welcomes the chance to become the assistant of Simon Stills, one of country’s biggest managers, but he soon finds himself a witness to an assassination attempt. When a gunman takes aim at megastar Ripley Graham, Stills’s most important client and the last hope for the troubled recording industry, on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, the shooter misses and wounds Stills instead. Nix and his co-worker, Megan Olsen, decide to investigate on their own, but with music executives plotting a major merger, they can’t be sure whom to trust. Murder on Music Row leads readers through a maze of twists and turns that connect Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and London in a behind-the-scenes look at an industry where there are no limits in the pursuit of money, power, and fame.
Library Journal listed Murder on Music Row as one of the “forthcoming first novels that promise good reading” for Fall 2011. “Remember your first John Grisham? Country music veteran Dill…doesn’t miss a beat in this debut high-adrenaline thriller full of twists and turns.” Library Journal, starred review “Murder on Music Row has more twists and turns than a spring tornado in Tennessee. This book will have you diving under the covers—with a flashlight, of course. A terrific read.” Marshall Chapman

Discussion Topics » Fame & celebrity » Music business » Good & evil Nonfiction | $24.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-565-5

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Fiddle Dee Death
Caroline Cousins

It’s the end of December and frost silvers South Carolina’s Low Country. But Pinckney Plantation is still open for visitors who want to see the pride of Indigo Island. The old house claims a long history—or so say the tour guides. What the guides leave out are the doors that apparently unlock themselves, the flickering lights, the sound of ghostly footsteps. And the dead body. The corpse is a new addition. Who is he? And what was he doing at Pinckney? And did he fall, or was he pushed? These are among the questions that puzzle the self-appointed detective trio of cousins thrown together for the holidays. Revelations about ruthless developers, secretive landowners, and family scandals are interspersed with hilarious samples of Southern manners before the cousins finally piece together the puzzle.

Discussion Topics » Families » Amateur sleuths » Southern humor Fiction | $14.95 paperback ISBN 978-0-89587-275-3

“Tart as buttermilk, sweet as pecan pie, Fiddle Dee Death manages to make murder in the Low Country good old-fashioned fun.” Mary Kay Andrews, author of Savannah Blues

“The humorous banter among the three cousins, the quaint island locale and a surprise ending lift this light-hearted romp.” Publisher’s Weekly

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Winner of the 2006 IPPY Award for General Fiction

Rocks that Float
Kathy B. Steele

Discussion Topics » Morality and ethics » Sense of community » Dying way of life Fiction | $22.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-318-7

When geologist Jimmy Steverson buys a tiny mill house on Randleman Road, his real-estate agent is disgusted, his father says he’s reliving summer camp, and his coworkers think it’s a weekend fishing cabin. The nine houses left on the block are the remnants of a 19-century mill village, and the people living in them are remnants, too. As one neighbor, Karen, rebuilds her house and her life, she anchors Jimmy to the block. But the world Jimmy’s moved into has its own rules, its own language. And just as Jimmy becomes comfortable in the web of neighbor helping neighbor, he’s asked to breach his own personal code. He waits to see what rules Karen lives by. Randleman Road is a forgotten block of unforgettable people, their lives linked like beads on a string. Jimmy’s story is the string.

“Steele is a modern-day Erskine Caldwell, capturing the deep wisdom, raw pain, sly nuances, and earthy joy of the mill people and the lives they touch.” Louise Shivers, author of Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail

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Cape Fear Rising
Philip Gerard

In August 1898, Wilmington, N.C., was a Mecca for middle-class African-Americans, who outnumbered whites by more than two to one. But the white civic leaders did not consider this progress. They looked around and saw working class whites out of jobs. They hated that local government was run by Republican “Fusionists” sympathetic to the black majority. Rumors began to fly as the situation became more hostile. One morning in November, the almost inevitable gunfire began. By the time order was restored, many of the city’s most visible black leaders had been literally put on trains and told to leave town, hundreds of blacks were forced to hide out in the city’s cemetery or the nearby swamps to avoid massacre, and dozens of victims lay dead. Based on actual events, Cape Fear Rising tells a story of one city’s racial nightmare—a nightmare that was repeated throughout the South at the turn of the century. Although told as fiction, the core of this novel strikes at the heart of racial strife in America.

Discussion Topics » Racial strife in America » Right vs. wrong » Historical subject matter Fiction | $18.95 paperback ISBN 978-0-89587-165-7

“Gerard’s well-researched story smartly limns the tangled combination of economic, social and visceral elements that…would lead North Carolina to adopt constitutional amendments that virtually disenfranchised blacks.” Publishers Weekly

Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence
Emily Herring WIlson
Ann Preston Bridgers was the pride of Raleigh, North Carolina, where she founded the Little Theatre. Elizabeth Lawrence, the first female to graduate from the landscape design program at what is now North Carolina State University, was struggling to make a career for herself at a time when there was little work for landscape designers, especially women. In the 1930s, the two women struck up a friendship that endured until Ann’s death in 1967. They were two women of different generations who valued their opinions and did not conform to images of the so-called Southern lady. Ann encouraged Elizabeth to find a way to live as she wished and guided her to write articles for some of the new women’s magazines. By 1942, she was so successful that her book, A Southern Garden, was published. It is still considered a classic. Through the letters they wrote to each other, readers can glimpse what life in a Southern town was like for women during the 1930s and 1940s. Elizabeth discusses family, friends, books, plays, travels, ideas, and, of course, writing. In 2004, Elizabeth (who died in 1984) was featured as one of the 25 greatest gardeners in the world by Horticulture magazine. That acclaim would never have come her way without her friendship with Ann Preston Bridgers.

Discussion Topics » Women and friendship » The South in the 1940s and 1950s » Dying art of letter writing Nonfiction | $19.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-375-0 “Elizabeth Lawrence flowers here from Southern girl to famous gardener. So does the friendship that helped her grow and flourish. We seem to be seated with her friend Ann, reading over her shoulder, smiling.” Doris Betts, author of The Sharp Teeth of Love

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Look for Melinda’s new book I’ve had it Up to Here with Teenagers, coming april 2012

SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully

Melinda Rainey Thompson
SWAG started as a lark when Melinda Rainey Thompson began a monthly mailing of her humorous essays about ordinary events from a Southern woman’s perspective. Over several years, her subscription list grew to nearly 5,000 people in 28 states. Ranging from swimsuit shopping to squirrel battling, from magnolia theft to cemetery etiquette, Melinda Rainey Thompson’s delightful essays and clever lists reflect the everyday peculiarities of life in the South.

“Reading Melinda Rainey Thompson’s SWAG is like sitting on Granny’s porch swing eating a piece of pound cake with a sleeping cat wrapped around your ankles. You feel full, warm, and most of all, grateful to be a Southerner.” Celia Rivenbark, author of We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier

Discussion Topics » Growing up Southern » Families & relationships » Women and home Nonfiction | $14.95 paperback ISBN 978-0-89587-329-3

“Thompson…has a knack for finding the Southern heart in ordinary life.” Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.

“The author definitely hits a nerve—and tickles the funny bone—with this essay collection.” Southern Living

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Winner of the 2010 IBPA Ben Franklin Award Bronze Medal for Best Regional Fiction (SouthEast)

The middle of the air
kenneth butcher
A plot hatched in a chocolate shop. Paranoid quasi-government stooges. A major archaeological find in the heart of Appalachia. A clairvoyant girl who speaks truth to power. A hunt for terrorists. An Ecuadorian biophysicist who translates animal thoughts into human speech. The Sisterhood of the Ancient Mountains. An elusive nuclear truck cast in bronze and poured into candy molds. In Kenneth Butcher’s rollicking literary techno-mystery, it all makes perfect sense.

Discussion Topics » Government conspiracy » Nuclear waste & environmentalism » Art and controversy Fiction | $22.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-371-2 “Fresh as the morning news, The Middle of the Air is a story of intrigue, state-of-the-art technology, and global economics and politics. Kenneth Butcher’s narrative has the sweep and verve of a superhighway and the intimate detail of a fine photograph. You will not be able to put it down.” Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

“Immensely and admirably enjoyable!” Fred Chappell, North Carolina Poet Laureate Emeritus and author of Midquest and The Kirkman Cycle

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Debbie Lee Wesselmann

Dana Armstrong, the director of a chimpanzee sanctuary in South Carolina, arrives at work one morning to discover that the worst has happened: someone has vandalized the buildings, setting loose a group of particularly dangerous chimpanzees. She mobilizes her staff to capture the missing chimps before they can injure the local citizens or be killed themselves. As Dana scrambles to determine who was responsible, pressure mounts from all sides. As political and personal tensions rise in the human world, the chimpanzees have their own crises, events that Dana, more than ever, cannot afford to ignore. Captivity is a unique, surprising world unto itself—a high literary work, a page-turner, and an issues novel all at once.

Discussion Topics » The treatment of animals » Psychology of animals & humans » The influence of politics Fiction | $22.95 hardcover ISBN 978-0-89587-353-8

“With empathetic insight, the author precisely observes both human and animal behavior.” Publishers Weekly

“Wesselmann tells the truth about what it means to be human.” Robert Bausch, author of A Hole in the Earth

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