Wild, sometimes erotic episodes enliven Ring Jaw, the small West Florida town in Chipola River Country in seven fictional stories crafted by Pensacola writer Jesse Earle Bowden in Chipola Moon Rising.
Subtitled a Landscape in Narrative, Bowden's 12th book and fifth in the West Florida Heritage Series is being released in March, 2009 by Father & Son Publishing, Inc., Tallahassee, Florida.
Jesse Earle Bowden, editor emeritus of the Pensacola News Journal and author of the novel Look and Tremble
and story collections Embrace an Autumnal Heart
and When You Reach September,
continues his fictional portrait by painting a dynamic mosaic of forbidden passionate love, murder, family tragedy and the enslaving brutality of the sun-baked turpentine woods.
"These stories are seven splendidly told narratives leavened with pathos, wit and sardonic wisdom," says Lance Coalson, president of Father & Son, publisher of Bowden's last six books.
"Even though these are separate stories, the characters, locale and the austere time of the 1930s, wartime'40s and early '50s tie the events into what I call a landscape in narrative," Bowden says. "The stories capture the spirit and language of the Smalltown South as I remembered growing up in Chipola River Country."
Bowden brings back characters from his classic novel, Look and Tremble,
and published short stories and creates new ones in vivid, powerful prose reverberating and resonating with mystery and delight and resurrected from the reality of vanished time in the Florida Panhandle.
Evil Clint Hardlee frightens the town's mayor who desperately plots a "Blood in the Sand" execution; a wily Texas evangelist explores the Garden of Eden edging the Apalachicola River, discovers his redheaded Eve called Amazing Gracey during a Ring Jaw revival and their earthly passions reap devilishly embarrassing misbehavior.
Bowden brings back Prohibition officer Pistol Pete Bowdoin from "Choctawhatchee Spirits" in Embrace an Autumnal Heart in "White Lightning" for a hunt for Ring Jaw moonshiners. The fabled lawmen who had killed six men encounters his Alabama-born cousin who predicts the dreaded lawman's death two weeks before his 1925 slaying on the Choctawhatchee River.
Jookkeeper Mamie Love Sooky unites with whiskeymaker Marven Rivers to find their own brand of religion in a clandestine liquor operation in "Love in a Dry County."
A scarred woodsrider reveals his turpentine camp life in Bearthick Swamp that triggered a lynching of two men who maimed him. "Burn in Turpentine Hell" is a fictionized account drawn from a real murderous West Florida story from the 1920s.
Aging washerwoman Hattie Santee laments her whiskeymaker husband's shotgun death in the river swamps and the widow still talks to Willie Santee in the Chipola woods. She's saddened by losing two sons in World War II and the strange accidental killing of her granddaughter by Hasty Ponds, who said he loved her. This is a story of the survival of a strong woman to wishes to join her husband down by the riverside.
In the title story "Chipola Moon Rising, " the scandalous romance between a Ring Jaw high school student and his beautiful teacher Raven Rubaker in 1945 is the theme of the lovers' long, lingering memories for 50 years apart and the fiftieth school class reunion hastens J. J. Holneck's anticipation of re-igniting the love affair.
Coalson says he is pleased to offer Bowden's books. "Earle Bowden wrote the Florida Classic memoir, Always the Rivers Flow,
in 1979, which was released in Florida Classic Edition in 2002 and has continued the Heritage Series with When You Reach September, Look and Tremble and Embrace an Autumnal Heart." Chipola Moon Rising
reflects his deep love for the Florida Panhandle, region of his birth. Another of his books is his cartoon collection, Drawing from an Editor's Life,
is a graphic presentation of his long career as a newspaper editor who drew his editorial cartoons for more than 50 years.
Carl Wernicke, opinion editor of the Pensacola News Journal says, "J. Earle Bowden has distilled the history of Northwest Florida that is his first love into the kind of fiction that is history's first cousin. Good historical fiction tells more about the people and their lives than any academic history. This volume is a shot of straight Chipola River Valley history. Drink deep."
"Bowden's a Southern writer with Faulknerian style," says Pensacola writer Seldon Pierce. "He has mastered the short story and keeps the reader spellbound as he sketches stories of the Real South, using true-to-life happenings that he fictionalizes so perfectly."
Pierce says, "You are there, reliving the 1930s and forties that Bowden remembers so brilliantly and so clearly. His mastery of the language of the thirties is on target. I recommend this master craftsman's novel Look and Tremble, Embrace an Autumnal Heart
and When You Reach September.
His Chipola Moon Rising