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Virginia Fiction

The first American best-sellers set in Appalachia were The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903) and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908). Their author, John Fox, Jr. (1862-1919) lived  in Big Stone Gap most of his adult life. Earl Hamner (1923-2016) achieved national success first with Spencer’s Mountain (1961) which became the basis for his much-loved television series, The Waltons, which ran from 1972 until 1981 and continues to re-run to this day. Nops Trials (1984) tells the story of a sheep-herding dog like those that Donald McCaig (1940-2018) trained on his Highland County farm. Lee Smith, a native of Buckhannon County, is one of America’s most distinguished contemporary novelists. Fair and Tender Ladies (1988) is arguably her best-loved Appalachian novel. Sharyn McCrumb embarked in 1984 on her Ballad Series of novels that share titles with old mountain ballads and are set all over Appalachia. At this point they number thirteen. The Devil Among the Lawyers (2010) was her first set in Virginia where she has lived in Craig County for decades. Adriana Trigiani titled her first book after her hometown – Big Stone Gap (2000), but has recently preferred Italian settings. Barbara Kingsolver’s crowning achievement was the Orange Prize given to the best novel in the English Language for the year 2010. Her first mountain novel was Prodigal Summer (2000). She moved to Washington County in 2004. Robert Goolrick also sets his novels in different places, his best-seller in Wisconsin, but he set Heading Out to Wonderful (2012) in Rockbridge County where he grew up.

-- George Brosi