Hear author Kurt Corriher talk about ‘Salvation’ Thursday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 22, 2013

SALISBURY — Fall begins today, and it’s a sign of the final event of the Summer Reading Challenge.
Three books were chosen, and we were lucky enough to be able to arrange to talk to two of the authors face-to-face.
Holly Goddard Jones, author of “The Next Time You See Me,” came to Trinity Oaks Retirement Community back in June to talk about the lost child and unhappy adults in her book. It was a tale of loneliness and sadness.
Bonnie Jo Campbell was in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when we were supposed to talk to her via Skype. The author of “Once Upon a River” was unreachable, but Catawba College assistant professor Dr. Forest Anderson broke readers into groups to answer questions about the book and its young and lost heroine, Maggie.
That discussion revealed many insights on the Eve-like protagonist and her struggles to not just survive, but to become her own person and an independent woman. In that book, the river became a character, much as it does in the final book, “Salvation: A Story of Survival.”
Its author, Dr. Kurt Corriher, the newly appointed director of the Glenn and Addie Ketner Center for International Studies at Catawba College, creates a world where justice is homemade and survival is a battle. Again in this book is a child in danger, but we don’t really get to know the boy. It’s his father, Junie, whose mission is to protect and save him, even to the point of sacrificing himself, that we come to know and care about.
Corriher peoples the book with a variety of characters, from the kind-hearted Dr. Cunningham who gives Junie a respite before revenge catches up, to the selfish Rosetta, the doctor’s unhappy wife, to Henry, the doctor’s faithful farmhand, who is willing to give up much to help his friend, Junie, escape from a vengeance-driven former neighbor.
That neighber, Chess Taggert, must take revenge on Junie because Junie killed his brother, Paul. Junie only did that because Paul set his cabin on fire, with Junie and Trey, the boy, inside. Chess is prompted by his Mama Taggert to “become a man” and kill Junie in revenge. Chess doesn’t want to, but he does want to prove he’s a man and get away from his awful, overbearing mother.
Junie sets out to walk from the mountains to Wilmington, to leave Trey with his sister, where the boy will be safe, and Junie can disappear. It’s a long journey, and some of it is on the river, where they travel by night and hide during the day. They depend upon the kindness and understanding of strangers, but when threatened, Junie does not hesitate to defend his friend and his son.
That doctor’s wife, Rosetta, can’t forget Junie, imagines he’s in love with her, and she gets tied up in the breathtaking climax, which includes gunfire, a car accident and a hurricane that nearly kills them all.
Corriher recently spoke to my book club, About the Book, about his creative process.
He did not outline the book, but he “had an idea of where I wanted it to go.” If the characters started to stray off the path, he said, he had to decide if he’d let them go or make them come back.
The Rosetta character surprised him. He meant for her to be minor, but then she was very pushy, and when it came to some sensitive scenes with her, “I kept saying, no, no, don’t go there,” but she did anyway.
He grew to like the spoiled city girl who cannot love her very generous and caring country doctor husband.
Corriher still thinks a great deal about Junie, the man running from revenge. In the writing process, Corriher realized Junie would have to die for the life-saving killings he’s done.
It is a salvation, Corriher said, because Junie has to die for someone else — for his young son. He almost called the book “Redemption,” because that’s a big part, too, with Chess taking revenge for his brother and breaking away from his mother.
It’s also redemption for Rosetta who learns about sacrifice for the sake of others.
Corriher originally wrote it with a lot of Southern dialect, but his agent in New York told him to take it out: “No one could read that redneck talk,” she told him, so he revised it, but she didn’t try very hard to sell it and finally gave it back to him.
That’s when he chose the path of self-publication, and he’s happy with the results, although it would be nice to have publicity that would take the book further than North Carolina. Corriher works full time and though he loves writing, he’s realistic, too. Corriher is also a fine actor, having made memorable appearances with Piedmont Players, St. Thomas Players and Lee Street Theater, but that, too, is an avocation.
This summer’s challenge had no common theme, but the books shared a theme of children in jeopardy. Corriher’s is perhaps the most memorable for people in the area, with its realistic Southern characters and its deep questions of love and faith.
He will speak on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Trinity Oaks Retirement Center, talking about his process and the craft, and is sure to offer insights and prompt further discussion of his affecting novel.
The Summer Reading Challenge is sponsored by Trinity Oaks Retirement Community, Salisbury Post, Catawba College, Livingstone College, F&M Bank, Dr. Sheila Brownlow and Deal Safrit, Barbara and David Setzer, Darlene L. Ball, J.C. Ritchie and a friend.
The event is free and will be followed by refreshments.