August 2001's Author of the Month
Patrick Bone
(Chosen by reviewer, Sue Johnson)
Writer, Actor & Storyteller



Book Reviews

Writer, Actor, & Storyteller

Patrick Bone is a resident and native of Kingsport, Tennessee. After retiring from a job as a Colorado Marshall he began to pursue a writing career. He has written fiction for both children and adults. This has resulted in published short stories, a picture book, novels, skits and plays. Mr. Bone is not only an accomplished writer but also an actor and storyteller. He also conducts writing and drama workshops,

I chose Patrick Bone after reading his latest work “A Melungeon Winter.” Seldom does a book touch a chord inside my soul like this one did.  I realize as a child of the sixties I did not witness a big part of the racial strife that struck our nation.

As a young adolescent in the sixth grade, I was to have my first black friend. None had ever attended our little country school until that time. My father was horrified at the time and tried to dissuade me. I stood up for my new friend only to have her turn her back on me the following year. When we attended a larger junior high there were more black students. My father felt he was vindicated but I will never forget the strength it took to stand up for what I felt was right.

Mr. Bone captures this feeling so well with his words. I loved the story of Jubalee and Robert. I felt the pain of these two boys and their families. I was there. To me a book that takes you to a different time and place deserves special recognition.



Sue Johnson: First, Patrick, could you give us a little background information about yourself?

Patrick Bone: Natives of San Antonio, my brother, my sisters and I traveled around the country following a couple of gypsies we called Momma and Daddy.  Yes, my parents modeled for the parents in A MELUNGEON WINTER.  Also my brother and sisters.  My father was...well, we never knew exactly what he did.  My grandmother said he was a cowboy.  I didn't argue with her.  We never starved, but we were hungry often.  Little schooled themselves, my parents insisted we take the matter seriously.  I can't begin to count the number of different schools we attended.  We were never bored.

SJ: You became a writer after another career. What career was this and what inspired you to become a writer?

PB: First things first.  My Grandma Bone told stories that held my attention like a vice  She told true tales of the Wild West, Civil War, Great grandpa Duffy, who fought with Jubal Early at First Manassas.  (That's where my protagonist, Jubalee, got his name:  Jubal for Jubal Early, and Lee for R.E. Lee.)  On my Mother's side, Grandpa Shaffer lied like a poker player in two languages.  He introduced me to fiction.  I credit my uncles for the stories they made up to torture my brother and me.  All that considered, I don't suppose I chose to become a writer.  I think, rather, it sort of chose me.

You're not going to believe this, but I've had more careers than sense.  I was a priest, rancher, teacher, policeman, deputy sheriff, Telluride, Colorado marshal, prison captain, and parole agent.  Now, I'm seriously considering part-time work as an Episcopal priest.  And, of course, I write.

SJ: I see that you have written several children's book also. How do you make the transition from one genre to another?

PB:  For me there is no transition.  My first experience with children's writing came at a workshop with Bruce Coville, a successful children's novelist who taught me not to write down to kids.  When I write a novel, I expect the kid in us might like to read it.  I have written books I would never give to a child, but when an adult experiences the book, it is the kid in that grownup for whom I write.  Conversely, my children's novel, BLOODY MARY, THE MYSTERY OF AMANDA'S MAGIC MIRROR, has been read and enjoyed by adults.  I know this because they write and tell me how good it felt to be a kid again.  We never get over that feeling.

SJ:   What is your reading taste and favorite authors?  Was there any one author  that inspired you?

PB:I read fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, and cereal boxes.  As a child I read adult books as well as books for young readers.  Twain always stood out in my mind.  Henty wrote great boys' books.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on the magazines "Boy's Life" or "Field and Stream."  I ate up modern classics and loved plays.  Now, I prefer eccentric and literary:  James Lee Burke's books are a dissertation on texture and characterization;   Carl Hiaasen effectively combines cynicism and humor with reality and indignation.  But it was horror writer Robert McCammon's BOY'S LIFE that kept me believing in the direction I took with A MELUNGEON WINTER.  I struggled with it for a long time and felt it was too oddball a kind of book for someone to publish.  McCammon's book changed my mind.

SJ: Do you have a writing schedule that you follow each day or do you just write when the spirit moves you?  How long did it take you to research and write "Melungeon Winter.”

PB:   Good question.  Everyone is different.  I do the research up-front.  I have a general idea, and I may even write a rough first-draft, but I prefer to read about and visit the places in my story until the book has pretty much decided it's time for me to write it.  Then, I stay with the project until it's finished.  The less distractions the better.  I have an office away from the house, dog, birds, and neighbors.  No phone, no email.  Of course,
I do revise and revise.

SJ: I  loved the Melungeon mystery. How much research did you do into these mysterious people and what is your opinion of their heritage and origin?

PB: I read as many books on the subject as I could find.  Then, I researched the subplots--moonshine, old cars, locations.  At the same time, I talked to anyone who would tell me about Melungeons.  What a hoot.  Everyone had stories.  Everyone had stories contradicting everyone else's stories.  I used so many tidbits of this story and that in the book that I wouldn't be able to tell you where they came from.  But everything I read and heard and saw influenced what I wrote.  Who do I believe?

Contemporary evidence points to a cultural coalition of people from mixed old country and new country ancestries who banded together before early colonization of the New World.  There seems to be a strong Moorish influence as well as Turkish, Portuguese, Native American, Acadians and....  You can see where this is going.  I recommended several books in the acknowledgement section of my novel.  Once I got started I couldn't stop.  I'm still reading new material.  This weekend, I'll attend a Melungeon gathering near Sneedville, TN.  Try running the word, Melungeon, on web search.  You could spend the rest of the week there.

SJ:  Do any of your books have characters that you have drawn on your "real"  life to create?

PB: Most of them are real-life.  I once read an article in a writer's magazine that said writers shouldn't write about themselves because they're boring.  I don't agree.  My friend and fellow writer, Denvil Mullins, is Denny Mullins, the Melungeon hermit in my book.  Old George is my uncle George.  I simply translated his life to my book.  All the uncles in my book are my uncles.  Of course, there are composite characters as well.  I wouldn't want to use my daddy as a serial killer.  On other hand, in another book I'm developing,  I base a killer on one I knew too well while working in law enforcement.  We all report our experiences in what we write to some degree or another.  The more we know our cast of characters, the more believable they come alive in print.

SJ: Do you have a favorite in your own books? Why?

PB: The youngest child always gets the most attention.  Right now, A MELUNGEON WINTER is my baby.  It's the story of my life in a sense.  When BLOODY MARY came out, I had another reason to dote on it.  It was based on my stepdaughter and adopted daughter.  There are times, when I read from that book at a seminar or such, I have a hard time keeping the tears back.  How can I not react to a passage about those grown women who used to be the children I loved?

SJ: Do you think you will write more mysteries?

PB: Stay balanced.  Don't put all your writing into one genre.  Credits are credits, paid or not.  Don't expect to become famous with your first book or second or maybe even ever.  Unlike plays and screenplays, books are written (usually) by one person and intended to be read by one other person at a time.  They are, therefore, infinitely personal and if only one person tells you she likes your book, you may as well call it a successful career.  I know you've heard this before.  Write bad so you can learn how to write good.  Books are sculptures of the mind and they can be refined time and again until they come out the way you--and your editor--want them.  Finally, don't give up when someone, who has the power to crush you, tells you you're a lousy writer.  Just before BLOODY MARY found a home, I received an email from a publisher who said the book was so bad he felt a compulsion to rewrite it for me so he could show me how it should be done.  Fortunately, he also declined, saying it would take too much time, the book was so bad.  My first reaction to this email was to tell myself, "Now, I know it's going to be published soon."

SJ: Is there anything else that you would like to add?  Perhaps upcoming book  releases, book signings or speaking arrangements?

PB: In December, ALIENS OF TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY (a North Carolina county)
will come out with Silver Dagger Mysteries. Also set in the 50's, the book takes advantage of the old B-movies genre that created a sort of science fiction/noir, which influenced the lives of those of us who grew up in those times.

I'm in the process of developing a mystery/adventure series with a North Carolina publisher that will feature a contemporary Colorado investigator.  The action will take place in Colorado and will be based on my law enforcement experiences.

I will participate in panels at ClueFest in Dallas, July 13, 14, 15.  On July 20, and 21, I will be on a panel with Mystery Writers of America members at the Harriet Austin Writers Conference in Athens, Georgia.

SJ:  Patrick, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for my interview. You were most gracious.

PB: Your questions were quite good and provoked me to do the serious thinking about what I'm doing with my writing.  Thank you for selecting me for this column.



Melungeon Winter
Bloody Mary,The Mystery in Amanda's Magic Mirror
There is a Dead Body in the Attic
The Aliens of Transylvania County (Dec. 2001)
Bookworld ,A Play to be presented by Kingsport Theatre Guild (May 2002)



A Melungeon Winter by Patrick Bone
Silver Dagger Mysteries
ISBN: 1-57072-143-2    Hardcover
ISBN: 1-57072-144-0     Trade Paperback
Reviewed by Sue Johnson

When Jubal and Robert meet as young boys, they form a friendship that was to last them a lifetime. They spent their summer days playing by the river in their secret place they had dubbed “Sherwood Forest”.  As the boys got older, they ventured deeper into the woods and discovered an ancient old house and a fearsome hermit known as “the man who eats children”. The hermit is part of a mysterious race of people known as Melungeons. The people in the community had told stories about him to the children to make them behave. After recovering form their terrible, but hilarious, scare the boys befriend the old hermit.

Denny, as the hermit is known, tells them wonderful stories about his youth and what it was like to be looked on as different from his fellow man. He tells them of “the Melungeon Winter” when his people were forced from their homes and land. Many died simply because they were seen as different.

Little do Jubal and Robert realize how close this story would reflect on their own lives. Jubal is white and Robert is black, a difference to which the boys had never paid attention. But the time is now the 1950's when racial violence has become an evil presence.

At one point the boys are caught very nearly killed by Klansmen. Another time, Jubal is so badly beaten by the school bully that he nearly dies. His only saving grace was that he finally concedes to call his friend the vilest word he knows -  “nigger.” Jubal survives the attack but the guilt of that terrible word he was forced to utter is overwhelming. Only a trip to Denny can repair the pain in his heart.

During this time, Jubal's Daddy goes to the home of the boy who administered the beating. He tells the boy's father if Jubal survives nothing more will be said, but if Jubal dies the boy will go to jail. Heated words are spoken but Jubal's father walks away.

 A short timer later, the man is murdered and Jubal's father is convicted of the crime. Shortly after, the two boys are once more the subjects of the Klan's wrath. Denny takes the boys deep into the Appalachian Mountains. They seek the council of a mysterious old woman named Mama Opalona. She is purported to be 127 years old. She is also known as a seer, a holy woman or possibly a witch. Mama Opalona gives the boys a cryptic message.” The answer to your sorrows lies in the very image of the murdered man” The boys then feel they must return and find the true killer and free Jubal's father.

 The story takes many twists and turn, never allowing the reader to discover the fate of Jubal's father and the boy's friendship until the very last page.
2001's Honorary List


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