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Book review: Parlous Angels by Ed Southern

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Ed Southern's book of short stories, Parlous Angels, is enthralling, which, hopefully, means it will sell well. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. The Executive Director of the North Carolina Writers' Network, Southern is from Winston-Salem, and has written mostly historical books until now. This is his first foray into fiction, but it reads as if he's been doing it all his life. The stories in this collection recount incidents in the lives of several generations of a family in the North Carolina Piedmont. The characters live oftentimes hard lives, and deal with their hardships in often, um, unhealthy ways (i.e., drinking and fighting, etc.).

Southern tells a good story with great pacing and some of the best dialogue I've read lately, while dealing forthrightly with what Lee Smith calls "class -- that taboo subject in America." As the times progress and become more complicated, the characters reflect the region's new complexity, often filled with confusion mixed with grit. From moonshiners to urban intellectuals, Southern's characters reflect the rush of changes the Piedmont has gone through, as they keep on keeping on. Here's hoping this isn't his last book of fiction.

Ed Southern will read from one of his non-fiction books, Sports in the Carolinas, as part of the Novello Festival's Carolina Writers Night, Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. at ImaginOn. It's free, but seating is limited.

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