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George Rollie Adams

Hello fellow readers and writers.

If you’re looking at this, then something or other about the previous page must have caused you to click over here, and I appreciate that. Whatever it was, I hope you keep reading—for a little while at least. You see, the fellow who runs this website keeps telling the members of LCRW to, “WRITE MORE CONTENT.” And he’s a big guy who always puts this to us in a big voice and all caps!

So, for whatever it may be worth, here’s a little about how I got into this racket. Well, it’s not a racket really, and I mean no offense to fellow authors, but it does have its complexities and twists and turns. In any case, whether you read on or whether you don’t for whatever reason, I hope you will check out my author’s website at georgerollieadamsbooks.com.  

By the way, I don’t know if that last sentence was a sales pitch or a pleading. But I do know this. Even though we writers are often told we should write solely for the pleasure we get out of it, anyone who says that writers don’t crave being read is either funning you or doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. But whichever thing that sentence was—sales pitch or pleading—here’s some of the what and why behind it.

From the time I was knee-high to nothing until well after television came to my remote neck of the woods in southern Arkansas in the mid-1950s, my paternal grandmother kept my brother and me entertained with stories of her childhood and the lives of our ancestors. And when I was old enough to work and hang around in my daddy’s Western Auto and hardware store, I listened to and laughed at all sorts of wild tales that he and his friends and customers spun about fishing, hunting, sports, politics, and just plain nonsense.

We didn’t have a public library in our small town, but my parents bought us a fair amount of books. Also, we had a pretty good school library, and a bookmobile came around from a larger town once a week in summers. One of my favorite things to do—when I wasn’t working in the store, playing baseball, or trying to figure out how to avoid practicing the piano lessons my mother made me take—was to a climb a tree, settle on a huge limb, and read baseball books, Zane Grey westerns, and Hardy Boys mysteries.

Despite all the storytelling and reading, I never thought much about becoming a writer until I went to college and ended up taking a bunch of literature courses. And that only happened because my advisor in the social science department at Louisiana Tech University told me I’d never make a decent living teaching history. He said I should go off by myself somewhere and consider a second major. When I did and came back and told him, “Okay, I’ll do English,” he said, “Boy, that’s not going to help you much either.”

I did it anyway, and all the English courses helped me when I decided to pursue a career as a historian—though not as much as the mentor I was lucky enough to get as my major professor and dissertation advisor at the University of Arizona. Someone close to me once described him as “the fastest red pen in the West.” When he marked up a page, it looked like someone had spilled a can of red paint on it, but he taught me more about writing than anyone else I’ve ever encountered. And he ensured that I got published while in graduate school. That started with a gig annotating every article in Minnesota History and the Annals of Wyoming for a bibliographic service for several years and ended with an opportunity to join him as the coeditor of an anthology about Native American history.

I got lucky again after graduate school, when I got a writing and editing job with the American Association for State and Local History in Nashville, Tennessee. It happened after one of that organization’s staff members sat down on a huge rock next to an editor from the Colorado Historical Society during a tour bus stop somewhere in the Canadian Rockies. Unaware that the editor from the historical society had considered me before picking a Colorado native for an editing job in Denver, the editor from the association asked her colleague if she knew of anyone who could fill an editing and writing vacancy in Nashville. The woman from the historical society recommended me, the woman from the association went home and told her boss about me, and he called me and asked me to meet him at a Western History conference in Fort Worth the following week. He hired me on the spot, during a long discussion over breakfast. I don’t remember what I had to eat, but I know I couldn’t have gotten that much good fortune from a dozen four-leaf clovers and a whole pocket full of rabbits’ feet.

In the unlikely event you care to know much of anything more about how I got from the chance conversation on the huge Canadian rock to here—by way of the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, board games, jigsaw puzzles, and video games at the Strong National Museum of Play—you can find it on my website and in my blog, “It Happened Like This and Other Stuff.” I post under the categories “Memories Are Where You Find Them,” “You Have to See the Humor in It,” and “Looking on the Good Side.” Some of the posts are “Chickens, Snakes, and Tight Places,” “What’s in an Empty Suitcase,” and “That Boy Has Torn His Britches with Me.”

For now, it’s enough to say that the association job brought me more good luck. It took me all over the United States doing contract work for the National Park Service then led me to a series of museum directorships, first at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society in Buffalo, then at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, and finally at the Strong museum in Rochester.

I’m writing historical fiction these days because all of that foregoing stuff—especially my growing up years, other stellar mentors in addition to my grad school prof, and great work colleagues with whom I learned to how to write and edit things like grant proposals, National Historic Landmark studies, and museum exhibit labels.  

My current novel, South of Little Rock, is a story of family, love, hate, fear, and courage, as people in a small town in southern Arkansas deal with social change during the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis of 1957.

In the story, Sam Tate is a white merchant, councilman, and widower who dotes on his two small children and has not given much thought to how black people live. He only wants to play baseball with them. Becky Reeves is an unmarried northerner who ignores a warning from her mother and comes south to teach. Ida Belle Tate is a strong-willed woman who loves quilting and helping raise her grandchildren and dislikes blacks and Yankees. And Leon Jackson is a black baseball player and businessman with whom Sam develops mutual respect.

Life changes for all of them when Governor Faubus resists the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School and President Eisenhower sends troops to ensure it. While national authority clashes with states’ rights in Little Rock, an ambitious newspaperman and others fan racial hatred in Unionville.

Amid cross burnings, White Citizens’ Council meetings, and all manner of ruminating and speculating among townsfolk, white and black—at home, work, church, and school—Sam questions old ways, Ida Belle clings to tradition, and Becky angers parents and school officials. The unrest brings Sam and Becky together then stands between them.

Here are the opening sentences:

Sam Tate and his son Billy were the only white faces among the ballplayers sweating in the July sun. Gran had warned Sam about coming here. “It ain’t right,” she said, “and people will talk.” He thought no one would notice, let along care. But someone did. As the sharp crack of bat against ball echoed across the weed-infested park, a lone figure watching from a pine thicket high up beyond right field shifted sideways to keep out of sight.

I’d be honored if you decided to read it.

A sequel, Found in Pieces, will appear by early 2020.

 

 

 

 

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