A Writer’s Writer: Doug Marlette

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“Sydney and Carter took separate cars to the ramshackle honkey-tonk on Highway 17 south of town; it was nestled in the kudzu and scrub pines just beyond the county fairgrounds. They were the only linen jackets–his wheat-colored, hers celadon–in the fashion show of Diesel caps and Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts.”  Magic Time

Doug Marlette, Pulitzer Prize cartoonist, wrote two novels before he died in a truck accident, which made the last page of Magic Time a sad experience… there is no ‘next book’ to look forward to. Here are a few lines from the book blurb to give you a sense of what the story is about.

Marlette’s new novel, Magic Time, is a spellbinding stew of history, murder, courtroom drama, humor, love, betrayal, and justice. Moving between New York City and the New South of the early 1990s, with flashbacks to Mississippi’s cataclysmic Freedom Summer of 1964, Magic Time tells the story of New York newspaper columnist Carter Ransom, a son of Mississippi, who had the great fortune and terrible luck of falling in love that summer of ’64 with a New York-born civil rights worker… 

I am late to the Doug Marlette fan club, but have elbowed myself to the front of the line when it comes to touting his writing. Magic Time is a flawless read, one that can’t be put down. The following paragraph tells you everything you need to know about this Writer’s Writer. I rest my case.

“That’s what we do in the South,” said Carter, hoisting his glass to put Lester at ease. “Write and drink.”

Jim drawled. “We go out on the front porch on those warm Mississippi evening’s at the end of a sweltering’ summer day and just sit and rock and listen to the crickets chirping’, and the pickup truck idling’, and the coon dogs bayin’ off in the distance, and we sip sweet tea and chew tobacco and dip snuff and eat MoonPies and shuck corn and shell peas. And we make biscuits and corn bread and sing hymns and strum banjos and catch fireflies as the sun sets behind the wisteria, and we drink moonshine and tell lies and speak in tongues and handle snakes, and we bury Mama and hide from Daddy and integrate the schools and look after the idiot man-child next door, and just do all the things we Southerners do whenever two or more are gathered–you know, contemplate the hold of the land over us and our abiding sense of place and the awful responsibility of Time.”

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Please read my earlier post: A Writer’s Writer: Doug Marlette-The Bridge

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About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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One Response to A Writer’s Writer: Doug Marlette

  1. pbmgarden says:

    I need to track down this book, love the selection you quoted. Heard him speak at Carolina once where he discussed his cartoons–thoroughly entertaining and nice guy.

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