Message From The Author

Cathy Holton

Book Title: SUMMER IN THE SOUTH
Genre: General Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream

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Author's Message

Twenty-five years ago I went with my friend, Randal, to spend the weekend with her great aunt Fanny in the sleepy little town of Franklin, Tennessee. Nothing in Randal’s demeanor had ever led me to believe that she was from an illustrious Southern family (like mine, her father was a college professor) but gazing at the imposing façade of great aunt Fanny’s “summer cottage”, I immediately realized Randal came from Old Money.

Fanny’s house was a veritable treasure trove of historical artifacts. There was a framed letter from Thomas Jefferson to Randal’s great-great-great-great Grandfather hanging on the dining room wall. A small table turned out to be a field medical kit carried by another of Randal’s ancestors, who was Nathan Bedford Forrest’s personal physician during the Nashville campaign. A floor to ceiling glass cabinet in the dining room housed the largest collection of antique sterling silver I’d ever seen. And everywhere in the large house there were oil portraits of dead ancestors, ornate Empire furniture, faded oriental rugs, and silver framed photographs showing family members with their arms entwined, standing on the steps of imposing white-columned houses. A sleepy suburb of Nashville, Franklin was where Randal’s large extended family had been building summer “cottages” for generations, trying to escape the heat and yellow fever of their plantations.

Fanny was lovely, much younger-looking than her seventy odd years would indicate, and she had a group of spry, lively friends who had all gone to college at Vanderbilt during the Roaring Twenties. These women were smart and witty and they talked with that deep, melodic accent so often attempted, yet so rarely achieved, by movie actors trying to capture the Old South.

On Friday, we went with Fanny to the cemetery to visit the dead. Watching as she knelt to gently place flowers on a grave, I said to Randal, “Who’s buried there?”

She hesitated long enough to make me curious. “Her husband.”

“The one in all the photographs?”

“No. That’s her second husband. That one over there is her first husband, Charlie.”

“What happened to him?”

‘He died sixty years ago. We don’t speak of him.”

I was instantly intrigued. Despite my subsequent questions, Randal maintained her stoic silence.

That night as I lay in my moonlit bedroom waiting for Charlie’s ghost to appear, I wondered what could have happened between Fanny and Charlie which would keep her family from ever mentioning him, from ever displaying a photograph of him in the house. And I wondered, too, at Fanny’s loving attention to his grave.

Twenty-five years later, I sat down and wrote Summer in the South. Was the love story between Fanny and Charlie truly as I imagined it? Were the things that happened to me there in that darkened bedroom real or imagined?

The answer to both questions, I suppose, lies clearly in the realm of fiction. 

- Cathy Holton


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