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Kentucky by Heart: Kentucky’s rich, and growing, selection of literary works a treat for any bibliophile

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune Columnist

As a genuine Kentucky bibliophile, I’m always ready to share books with my readers written by the state’s authors and/or about the state. Some books, for whatever reason, may have gone under the radar. Here are some, along with my synopses, that have been released in the last couple of years. I’ve used as a source some parts of my book reviews for Kentucky Monthly. See if any of these create an interest.

• Start Right. End Right: The Terry Forcht Story, by Gary P. West/Eddie Woodruff (Acclaim Press, 2020). Called by some “Kentucky’s foremost entrepreneur,” Corbin’s Terry Forcht came “from modest beginnings in Louisville, Kentucky… (and) built over 93 businesses, one on top of the other, into what is now Forcht Group of Kentucky.” It’s a story of how hard work, tenacity, and common sense can bring remarkable achievement, and it’s told in a folksy, fast-moving, easy-to-read style.

• Relic: A Folly Beach Mystery, by Bill Noel (Enigma House Press, 2020). Louisville resident Bill Noel’s second career, writing, continues to be productive. With his seventeenth novel, Relic: A Folly Beach Mystery, one must wonder if the former corporate administrator will ever slow down his unrelenting, creative, and character-driven work as an author. In Relic, the usual cast of characters around protagonist Chris Landrum appear where “lies, contradictions, stories of ghosts, pirates, Civil War relics, and buried treasure combine with no shortage of murder suspects to challenge Chris and his friends to solve the crime that’s stumped the police.” For more on Noel’s work, now nineteen novels, visit billnoel.com.

• The Lexington Six: Lesbian and Gay Resistance in 1970s America, by Josephine Donovan (U. of Massachusetts Press, 2020). A crime resulting in a policeman’s death committed in September 1970 saw three men arrested. Two women suspects, Katherine Power and Susan Saxe, escaped and eventually hid away in a Lexington, Kentucky, lesbian collective in 1974. The FBI left no stones unturned—and with some of their actions lawfully objectionable. A half dozen individuals, five lesbian women and one gay man, were interviewed by the FBI for information on the two. They ended up in jail for not fully cooperating, attracting national attention. The uncompliant individuals garnered a name, the “Lexington Six.”

• Where are You, Brother Daniel?, by Sharon B. Fields (Dorrance Publishing, 2020). A retired teacher and minister, as well as a part-time library clerk at the Paris-Bourbon County Library, has authored a beautifully illustrated 25-page children’s book for grades four through six. Told from the perspective of a small boy from a slave family in the Revolutionary era, he hears his father talk about “freedom,” something the child doesn’t understand, and wonders where his father’s brother has gone. Sadly, it is to join the British military forces, where the consequences are likely not good.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

• Butterfly Secrets, by G.L. Blackhouse (Independently published, 2020). The eastern Kentucky author’s debut novel is both a penetrating interior study and a work of intense character development, with some good, some bad, and all unforgettable. One of them is the protagonist, Amelia’s, deceased grandmother, who messages her from the grave. Amelia’s teenage crush, Jackson, holds the key to mitigating her haunting nightmares and emotional demons, but will she keep pushing him away to protect her frail ego?

• Mystery with a Splash of Bourbon, edited by Susan Bell and Elaine Munsch (Mystery and Horror, LLC, 2020). A Louisville-based writing group called the Derby Rotten Scoundrels has gotten the spirit(s) with an anthology of eighteen crime stories called Mystery with a Splash of Bourbon. Also interwoven in the collection are articles covering the history of bourbon, distillery profiles, product informational pieces, and bourbon recipes.

• Adventures of a Kentucky Girl, by Carla Lowery (Morris Publishing, 2018). The 100-page book reads like an autobiography, though is stated inside the cover to be fictitious. It details a woman’s life, named Carolyn Clark, starting as a three-year-old growing up in a rich Lexington family in the 1950s, and whose life changes with her parents’ divorce. She leaves her mother and family to strike out her own, finding severe obstacles for a young woman trying to make a living in business management.

• The Girl on the Beach, by Larry B. Gildersleeve (Adelaide Holdings, LLC, 2019). A book set in western Kentucky, in Bowling Green. It deals with a nineteen-year-old escapee from human trafficking. The title comes from a seemingly small occurrence, as “two strangers sat opposite each other on shiny black metal benches… and the lives of two people from vastly different worlds would be changed in ways neither of them could have managed.”

• Classic Restaurants of Louisville, by Stephen Hacker (Arcadia Publishing/History Press, 2020). The book is an entertaining guide around Kentucky’s largest city for those whose historical curiosity extends to restaurants they formerly knew. It’s billed as “Louisville nostalgia one serving at a time.” Ever wonder how Casa Grisanti got started? What about the crazy popular Lynn’s Paradise Café, with all its swirl… why did it leave? And where might one have found the hangouts of Harrods Creek?

A different kind of food and hospitality offering, Classic is 128 pages of “menus, memories and more of favorites across the Derby City through the decades,” complete with colored and black and white photography by Dan Dry and John Nation.

• The Moonlight School, by Suzanne Woods Fisher. In 1911, Cora Wilson Stewart became the first female education superintendent in Rowan County, where Morehead is located. Spurred to do something about a worrisome rate of illiteracy there, she, according to the book’s promotional literature, “devised a plan to open Rowan County’s rural schoolhouses on moonlit nights to illiterate and semi-literate adults. To her shock and delight, over 1,200 men and women, aged eighteen to eighty, made their way over the hills and hollows to learn how to read and write.” Award-winning author Fisher’s book is a fictitious retelling of Stewart’s story, told in 320 pages. It brings these discussion topics to fore: America’s literacy problem, how illiteracy impacts society, the importance of encouraging children to read, and what people can do to make a difference. In next week’s Kentucky by Heart, I’ll share more about the book and its relationship to the historical events long ago.

It’s a sure thing that there are a whole bunch of Kentucky books coming down the pike every year. The good thing is that they need not be considered interesting only because they are state-related. There are whole bunch of ‘em that would be considered good in any state!

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