Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fortnightly Book, July 20

The next fortnightly book is Eugenia Price, The Beloved Invader.

Price was a notable radio scriptwriter; she had a major conversion in 1949 and as a result started writing for Unschackled! I hadn't realized that before I looked up additional background on Price, because I had very little prior knowledge of her, but it caught my eye: Unschackled! is the longest-running series in the history of radio, and the only series from the Golden Age of Radio that is still going -- it has been coming out with a new episode every week since 1950. It is also quite old-school; sound effects are an organ and voice effects, and the production is low-budget. It focuses on conversion stories, and thus is somewhat formulaic, but some of the stories are interesting, dealing with war, love, drugs, and the entire panoply of human failings, as conversion stories tend to do. In any case, Price used her work there as a beginning for a new career as an inspirational writer.

The Beloved Invader, however, is from the third phase of her writing career, and the one that made her most famous. She was returning home once from a bookseller's convention with a friend, Joyce Blackburn; they were driving along a state highway in Georgia and had some extra time, so they decided to explore a little, and visit a small island, St. Simons, noted on their map. And that, too, was a conversion of a sort: she fell in love with the place, its beauty and its history. She had already been thinking about trying her hand at a historical novel that would have more in common with biography than historical novels usually do, and as she wandered around the island, she came upon a cemetery, and, coming across the graves of Anson Dodge and his family, wondered if there was a story behind them. She came back again to research it -- and came back again -- and finally moved there.

This book, telling the tale of Reverend Anson Dodge, is the first and third novel in the St. Simons trilogy -- it was the first published, but as successive books explored backstory, it is the third in the chronology of the works. It was extraordinarily successful. I don't have the others, but we'll see how this one goes.

Eugenia Price is still there on St. Simons Island; in love with the place until the end, she died at age 79 in 1996 and was buried in the church there.

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