Pigs, Presidents, and Porn Stars

There’s a lesson you learn quickly and profoundly growing up on a farm: if you want to catch a pig, you better be willing to get dirty. That lesson runs counter to the media high-mindedness I read today after a Saturday night rally in Pennsylvania where President Donald Trump called journalist Chuck Todd a “sleepy […]

Solar Eclipse

Path of 1831 annular solar eclipse seen by Nat Turner. NASA, collection of  Michael Zeiler. Since ancient times we’ve viewed solar eclipses with foreboding. But they don’t affect our lives, do they? The most significant solar eclipse in American history happened in 1831. What made it important was a man who saw it. Nat Turner, […]


This Elizabeth Larson photo was made at our Greensboro, North Carolina, bungalow on September 25, 2010, our wedding day. My English cocker spaniel, Pinot Noir, wearing pearls, had waited for us to return from the church ceremony for our backyard reception. Less than two years’ time after, Pinot had given her heart to my wife […]

Florida Natives

(Large image) Back yard in Seagrove Beach, Florida. (Above) Mocking Bird by John James Audubon. Though my home’s in Greensboro, N.C., for a couple of years I’ve been working on a landscape project on the Florida Panhandle between Panama City and Destin, by the white beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. My wife […]

On Language

(Large photo) Emmett Till photographed with his mother in Chicago, Illinois, 1954. (Small photo) Representative Karl Oliver, Mississippi House, District 46. Mississippi state representative Karl Oliver recently lambasted the removal of Confederate memorials in Louisiana. “The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous […]

Character Flaw

After my father died, I was terrified of one day being left an orphan. I’m sure that fear influenced my depiction of Charlie Mears, the narrator of Forsaken. For the past few winter terms at Elon University I taught a course boldly entitled, “Write an American Best Seller.” I would tell students the name was […]

The Secret We Share

My dog Sam and I have lapsed into the familiar. These days I seem to frequent only restaurants I know, ordering the same menu items time after time. For his part Sam, whenever he senses I’m about to vary from a customary walking route, stubbornly plants four paws until I turn the way his snout […]

Bureau of Vital Statistics

The work of Dr. Walter Plecker’s Bureau of Vital Statistics would culminate in Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, which remained on the books until it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Plecker is depicted in the novel, Forsaken. Born into a slave-owning family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia just days before […]

A Day for Reflection

This morning, at the time of day Virginia Christian was pronounced dead and unstrapped from the electric chair at the state penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia, on August 16, 1912, I began working on this essay. Virgie was seventeen years old, an African American girl taken out of a Negro school at the age of thirteen because her […]

Reader’s Profile: Martha Green

(Large photo) Martha Green, photographed in Chicago, Ill., by Stephan Chodorov. (Small photo) George Washington Fields, lead defense attorney for Virginia Christian, at the time of his graduation from Cornell Law School. Fields was a very successful attorney, even though he lost his eyesight more than a decade before he represented Virgie. Martha Green recently […]