Sweet Souls and Other Stories by Charles Blackburn, Jr.
"Sweet Souls and Other Stories is full of surprises: a character named Goody Koonce had 'a Gibson Hummingbird guitar with cigarette burns on the head stops from wedging them between the strings, a basset hound named Merle, his father's looks and his mother's sense.' Prose often becomes poetry: the 'migraine heat of August beat the fairground to dust.' Blackburn changes into marvelous and believable stories the things he no doubt has seen and heard."
—Shelby Stephenson, Professor Emeritus of English, UNC-Pembroke, and Editor Emeritus, Pembroke Magazine
"Charles Blackburn's stories simmer in the imagination long after the first reading. His ironic gaze ranges broadly embracing the pseudo-historical, the fantastic, and even the outlandish. A story might start in recognizable down home Carolina, maybe on the road to Morehead City, but in the turning of a page, you get dropped into a world you never imagined with hilarious characters you don't want to leave. Some of these natives may be 'quaint beyond reason,' or even wanderers adrift from some other literary stream, but whatever their distinctive voice or voyage, they are always entertaining and their surprising fates totally satisfying."
—Katherine James, Associate Editor, Crucible
"Where 'Golf in Pakistan' came from in Blackburn's creative mind, I can't say, but the reader is in for a hair-raising bus trip careening backward over a cliff, passengers falling out along the way; a sweltering train ride with stops for communal showers; and finally a game of extreme golf on a 'sporty little course' hacked out of the jungle, with an army of 100 ragged caddies who carry a single club, or carry the sedan chairs (and a case of single malt scotch), or retrieve balls, or who beat the bush 'never know what might be lurking about.' Did I mention the dead body on Number Eight?"
—Marsha Warren, Executive Director, Paul Green Foundation; former Director, North Carolina Writers' Network
These stories range from the rural South to the Middle East. Their subjects include the home front in World War II, the dangers of unexploded Confederate ordinance, a small-town lawyer's encounter with the supernatural, and a modern-day outlaw whose exploits breathe life into a dying newspaper. In "Borer Bees," a lonely recluse's unusual method of bee control robs him of a gabfest with two visiting missionaries, and in "Ghost of a Scientist," babysitting an elderly gentleman in a spooky old house leads to an unexpected revelation. "Sweet Souls," "The Golden Pine Cone," and "Golf in Pakistan" all won Crucible magazine's annual fiction contest, and "Sweet Souls" won a literary fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council.
Charles Blackburn, Jr. grew up in Henderson, NC, attended Barton College and UNC-Chapel Hill and now lives in Raleigh with his wife and daughter. Early in his career he roamed the state as a reporter and editor for four small-town newspapers. He has been part owner of a Chapel Hill used and rare bookshop, for which customers were even rarer. His stories, feature articles, and poems have appeared in many regional and national publications. He has written about NC history, people, and places for Our State magazine. Charles is a past president of the North Carolina Writers' Network and the North Carolina Writers Conference. In 2008, St. Andrews Presbyterian College presented him the Sam Ragan Award for Literature.