Books by Tim McLaurin

Released: Aug. 4, 1997

A band of misfits sets off across country with a traveling road show to take their dying leader home, in a disarmingly sweet tale of love and courage from McLaurin (Cured by Fire, 1995, etc.). When Wilmington, North Carolina, becomes a hot spot for movie- making, Darlene, a former bar girl and topless dancer, seizes the opportunity and is soon accruing a fortune at her House of Joy. There, she offers the kind of illegal extras—moonshine, girls, and a snake show—that the movie types are only too happy to pay big money for. The Captain (Cappy), dressed up in a Civil War uniform, acts as doorman; Darlene, aging but still a beauty, is hostess; Gloria is a dancer and provider of additional services in private; and Jubal Lee handles the poisonous snakes. Each is making the best of lives that haven't quite panned out as they'd been intended: Darlene wants to get back to the land she'd been saving to buy on the Oregon coast; Cappy is haunted by nightmares from his time in Vietnam; Gloria is studying to become a cosmetician; and Jubal, who had dreams of being an environmentalist, is haunted by his brother's death, for which he feels responsible. When a hurricane destroys the House of Joy's building and leaves a piece of glass embedded in Darlene's brain, the group, now homeless and jobless, decide to take the dying hostess back to Oregon. Setting off in an old bus, they're soon joined by wealthy runaway Kitty Monroe, who's fled Wilmington on the day of her wedding. As Darlene grows frailer and their money diminishes, the troupe holds shows along the way. They finally reach Oregon, where the now-blind Darlene dies; Cappy finds himself at last able to put Vietnam behind him; and Jubal, Kitty, and Gloria, surprised by hidden strengths, also find happiness. A southern Wizard of Oz, celebrating kindness and character and the way that—sometimes—they can be bonded together. Read full book review >
CURED BY FIRE by Tim McLaurin
Released: Jan. 25, 1995

Once again, McLaurin (Keeper of the Moon: A Southern Boyhood, 1991, etc.) plows the fertile ground of the poor, rural South. This time he shows how two men with similar beginnings who take different paths that lead to seemingly opposite lives can still end up in much the same place. The story opens on a cold night as Lewis carries a sick Elbridge, wrapped tight in a blanket and held close to his chest, to a clearing on a mountain where he's hoping doves will come before Elbridge dies. As Lewis fights off the chill and hankers for a swig of the vodka in his duffel, he recalls a past full of pain and prays that ``somehow between now and the morning, some of it begins to start making sense.'' Meanwhile, a silent Elbridge slips in and out of his body, waiting for the transcendent release he's ``been wanting since I was born.'' As dawn approaches, each reflects separately on his respective life. Lewis grew up in North Carolina with a hard-drinking father and very little money. Fortunately, his football talent won him a scholarship to U.N.C., where he met his future wife, the beautiful and rich Beverly. But even with the success of his own contracting business and the birth of a daughter, Lewis still felt empty. Elbridge also grew up poor in the South, but he suffered the added insult of discrimination because he's a ``half-breed nigger.'' When the grandfather who raised him passed away, he became a migrant worker, discovered faith in God, married, had two daughters, and settled down to try to provide for his family in Tennessee. After tragedy ripped both families apart, each man headed to Seattle where their paths crossed and their lives were irreversibly changed. While not much is new in the story (alcoholism, neglect, and abuse), the seductive passions of these two men keep the reader engaged. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 11, 1991

A brush with death causes southern novelist McLaurin (Woodrow's Trumpet, 1989; The Acorn Plan, 1988) to reflect, with unflinching honesty and seductive, unsentimental passion, on what his North Carolina heritage has meant to him. Forget those treasured images of mint juleps and magnolia blossoms. McLaurin's Cape Fear River Valley in rural North Carolina is a land where young boys take part in breech-birthing hogs, dance excitedly around dead-drunk daddies passed out in their own vomit, refuse to eat food touched by black hands—and end up in jail, church, the military, or, most likely, dead by age 35. Raised in a two-bedroom farmhouse with four brothers, a sister, a dad who worked in a bakery and tried to raise a little money off the land, and without an indoor bathroom, McLaurin met a different fate for no better reason, he claims, than an inexplicable need to challenge himself with the unfamiliar. While his younger brothers seemed content to accept the working-class lives that awaited them, McLaurin escaped by becoming a basketball hero in high school, a Marine after graduation, a collector of poisonous snakes while working as a Pepsi salesman, and a Peace Corps volunteer after he married his second, upper-middle-class wife. Still, McLaurin remained much more a part of the rural South than apart from it, as he realized at age 36 when he was diagnosed with cancer and his family gathered around to donate the bone marrow that would save him and to offer commiseration and comfort. His gratitude is mirrored here in these unsanitized recollections of the schoolhouse cruelties, bloody cockfights, drunken brawls, gruesome deaths and suicides, and moments of beauty that make up the life he nearly lost. A powerful work—and a welcome record of a rapidly fading way of life. Read full book review >