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AJC: Bookshelf: ‘Reunion Beach’ honors the late Dorothea Benton Frank

Updated: 2 days ago


BOOKSHELF | May 4, 2021

By Suzanne Van Atten, For the AJC

By all accounts, Dorothea Benton Frank had a personality so big and a life force so strong that her death following a short illness in fall 2019 left many of her friends and fans reeling.

A New York Times bestselling author of 20 novels, Frank was South Carolina’s reigning queen of the beach read. Every spring she released a new novel, many named after the state’s coastal communities: “Shem Creek.” “Folly Beach.” “Sullivan’s Island.” “Isle of Palms.” And every year she went on an epic book tour across the South, which she called the “Perspiration Tour.” Swarms of fans would greet her along the way, some bearing gifts, like the one who always brought her tomatoes from Johns Creek, which Frank said were the best she’d ever tasted.

“She just loved meeting people,” said Carrie Feron, her longtime editor at Harper Collins. “She had endless patience for taking photographs with each and every one.”

Frank’s fans were legion, but so were her friends. Many of them are writers who adored Dottie, as they called her, for her gregarious nature, her witty humor and her warm, Southern hospitality.

“Dottie, when she loves, she didn’t love you a little bit,” said Patti Callahan, author of “Surviving Savannah.” “If she loved you, she loved you big. You were part of her family. She checked on you. She helped your kids. She gave you advice, even if you didn’t want it. She was such a big spirit.”

Frank’s last book was “Queen Bee,” published in 2019. But according to Feron, Frank already had her next book planned out. She was going to call it “Reunion Beach,” and it was inspired by her 50th high school reunion, which she had recently attended.

“There was going to be a reunion with people from high school, and she was going to compare a lot of the high school characters to various kinds of birds of prey that are found in South Carolina, which I thought was a hilarious idea,” said Feron.