Two local authors weave stories from history in their latest releases, while another has had a screenplay optioned.
The pandemic has put the brakes on Larry Richardson's screenplay, but the Cleveland, Tennessee, resident expects "The Penny" to turn up on a theater screen once moviemaking returns to full form.
"COVID slowed everything down," he says. "Movies can't be made. Movies can hardly be watched in theaters."
"The Penny" was optioned last summer by Goodwest Productions, a film and television production company in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to be developed into a theatrical motion picture.
"We have a great script that weaves a deep and colorful New Mexico tale with diverse characters and strong storytelling," says Goodwest Productions co-founder Steve Graham. "We're ready to get started as soon as the state is opened up and it's safe to move forward."
Richardson co-wrote "The Penny" with longtime friend and collaborator Donald Davenport, who lives in Sante Fe. It's the story of a struggling single mother who discovers a rare penny in the cash register of the convenience store where she works. When she swaps it out for a penny of her own, she sets off a firestorm of controversy over who rightfully owns the valuable collectible.
The screenplay is one of several writing credits for Richardson. He and his brother, Tom Richardson, have written four novels in the Mason & Thorn Western Adventure Series. Independently, he has written two contemporary novels, "Desert Heights" and "The Sanctuary." A sequel to "The Sanctuary" is underway.
His first published effort was a book called "The Cure for the Common Sermon." Richardson has a doctorate in communication arts and sciences from the University of Southern California and taught communication classes at USC and Pacific Union College. "One of my burdens was teaching how to make sermons interesting," he says. Lessons from his classes led to the book.
Originally from Los Angeles, Richardson moved to Cleveland to accept a job with Life Care Centers of America. He was running the company's retirement center division when he left to open his own company, Senior Market Research Associates, which conducts feasibility market studies for clients.
If his creative pursuits seem far removed from his work responsibilities, Richardson says that's not necessarily the case. When producing a feasibility market study, he is tasked with composing a narrative that can help developers and financiers make multimillion-dollar decisions on whether they will pursue a development project or pass.
"It's not necessarily like a novel," he says, "but it does call for a certain command of the English language."
Richardson expects "The Penny" to get a production greenlight later this year. He's confident the feel-good story will find an audience.
"It's got a lot of heart to it," he says. "I know Shakespeare got away with writing tragedies, but I always love stories with happy endings."
Find out more at lkrichardson.com.
'An Excursion to the Past'
The interest in Curtis N. Coulter's latest book may well be hyperlocal, but "An Excursion to the Past: A History of Sale Creek and Coulterville, Tennessee" helps put the overall history of Hamilton County in context. And the effort that went into the book offers lessons for any family historian.
After writing four previous books about his hometown, Coulter is back with his most comprehensive take yet of white settlement in the area. The latest begins in 1775 with the sale of 20 million acres of land to the Transylvania Co. by the Cherokee Indian Nation, an event that contributed to the Great Indian Wars of East Tennessee, his research shows. Those battles resulted in an auction, on April 29, 1779, of confiscated goods and arms that gave Sale Creek its name.
The story progresses through the overlapping history of the two unincorporated areas, barely minutes apart, about 30 miles north of Chattanooga.
"I wanted to do something to attempt to bring the entire history of the community together from start to finish, from the auction in 1779 unto the present day," Coulter says. "All my other books, with the exception of the peach book ("When Peaches Were King"), were more or less snatches of things here and there. I wanted to write a more comprehensive history and attempt to tie everything together."
Retired after 40 years as a Hamilton County educator, Coulter is a sixth-generation native of Sale Creek. His great-great-great-grandparents were original settlers in 1819 (hence his interest in the Coulterville community as a separate topic). He says he has been accumulating information for more than 25 years.
He describes "An Excursion to the Past" as "basically a compilation of everything I had in my possession that I could use. I relied on a lot of new material, but also used a lot of my research from my previous books as well in order to make the book as seamless as possible."
Coulter says people often relate town or family memories triggered by a previous book "and that adds new material going forward."
Sometimes people are just looking for help when their own family stories have been lost.
"Quite often people come up to me and ask about the history of the area, or they might ask if I know where an ancestor might be buried or what they did for a living," he says.
As readers of the Times Free Press historical feature "Remember When, Chattanooga?," have learned, documenting daily life and everyday landmarks may seem mundane in the moment, but the generations that follow may be fascinated when they look back at the history.
"I would encourage people to keep diaries of family gatherings and special events," Coulter advises. "Record important things that happen in the area. Write down personal accounts and feelings about things so that their children and grandchildren will be able to understand what life was like for them at that given time."
And never forget the value of identifying the faces in photographs "so that succeeding generations will know who they are," he says.
Both Sale Creek and Coulterville predate Hamilton County, which was established in 1819. Coulter says he hopes his book helps the communities' 2,800 or so residents "feel a sense of pride" about their history.
"No matter how seemingly small or insignificant a little town is, it has a history that needs to be preserved and illuminated for future generations to enjoy and appreciate," he says.
The book is a product of Foresight Book Publishing. Find out more at www.coulterpublications.com.
'Justified by Her Children'
In his new book, the Rev Roy G. Pollina of Trenton, Georgia, examines the story of segregation within a Virginia church in 1958.
Pollina retired as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Martinsville, Virginia. During his installation service in 1986, the bishop told the story of a crozier he carried. The stylized staff had been gifted to the diocese, he told the parishioners, when Christ Church "was going through some very difficult times," Pollina says.
Pollina was so intrigued by the oral history, especially the turbulent times the bishop's story recalled, that he wanted to write it down for possible use as a children's sermon. But the details were too dark and complicated for a short homily.
"I was going to do a couple of paragraphs," he says. "It turned into a book."
The result is "Justified by Her Children: Deeds of Courage Confronting a Tradition of Racism." In it he recounts how "the evils of racial segregation masqueraded as the accepted way of doing things" and how confronting such evil is often seen as opposing "the good order of society."
He says he hopes readers "will gain a better understanding of 'how it was' and, from that understanding, know better how to deal with 'how it is' today."
The book is built around a young white priest, the Rev. Philip Gresham, who served as rector of Christ Church between 1956 and 1960. Just 29 when he accepted the appointment, he was thrust into controversy when the diocese, the denomination's governing body, announced that a church-run summer youth camp would be integrated. In response, Christ Church's congregational leaders, who included a Virginia Supreme Court justice, prominent business leaders and several of the town's former mayors, declared the plan "both illegal and ill-advised" and that they would oppose any "intermingling of the races."
"It was a tumultuous time, and many people at that time believed that racial equality was a sociopolitical problem and churches had nothing to do with it," Pollina explains.
While the adults in the parish were vehemently opposed to the bishop's declaration, a quiet revolution was stirring among the congregation's young people, as they heeded the message of love and inclusion from their priest.
When these brave young people stood with their bishop in favor of an integrated youth camp, their opinion was derided as youthful naïveté, Pollina says. They were told to focus on their studies and leave such problems to the adults. Rather than discouraging them, their humiliating dismissal inspired the young people to devise a more tangible expression of their position. They presented the crozier as a token of their solidarity with their bishop.
Gresham resigned his post as rector in 1960. "He was trying very hard to love the people God had given him to pastor," Pollina says. "But he reached a point where, with his beliefs about the commonality of God's children and [the congregation's] belief in segregation, he couldn't pastor them any longer."
A plaque is posted in the back of the Virginia church attesting to his godly influence, Pollina says. Members of the youth group, most in their late 70s now, told the author that Gresham was "the greatest priest they ever knew."
"Justified by Her Children" will be released next week by Whaler Books, an imprint of Marina Publishing. It includes a discussion guide with each chapter. Find out more at https://marinermedia.com/shop.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.