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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

Media: By the book: Authors bring naval, African-American history into focus

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Karin Gillespie Columnist Feb 27, 2021

"By the book: Authors bring naval, African-American history into focus."

You’ve likely heard of the RMS Lusitania and the Titanic, but you might not be familiar with the luxury steamship Pulaski, which sunk on a trip from Baltimore to Savannah in 1838. There were 200 souls aboard, mostly wealthy Savannah residents, and 100 perished, some scalded by steam from exploding boilers.

The wreckage of the Pulaski wasn’t discovered until 2018, when divers off the coast of North Carolina came across a candlestick stamped with the ship’s name.

"Surviving Savannah"

by Patti Callahan

Alabama author Patti Callahan has fictionalized the sinking of the “Pulaski” in her novel “Surviving Savannah.” The main character is Everly Winthrop, a history professor, who is curating artifacts from the Pulaski. She learns about a family of 11 who boarded the doomed ship, including two women who were part of Savannah's society. Everly also unearths unexpected secrets while researching the historical tragedy. On Sale March 9, 2021. Website

"The story is told through a dual timeline, and Callahan smoothly uses the past to illuminate the present-day narrative and deftly and empathetically re-creates a harrowing disaster that too many have forgotten."


An explosive trial awaits

If you liked “The Lincoln Lawyer,” you may enjoy “Rascal on the Run” by Athens author Howard Tate Scott. The novel, which is set in the late '80s, tells the tale of attorney August “Critter” Stillwell, who dreams of a life on the open sea but is stuck juggling a crushing caseload after the sudden departure of his defense attorney father.

Rascal on the Run

Critter starts working on a case that has some commonalities with an explosive 1963 trial his father participated in involving the murder of a KKK thug by a Black woman. The past collides with the present, and Critter must choose between his duty to the law and his loyalty to his father.


90 perspectives

“Four Hundred Souls” is a history of African Americans, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. It began in 1619 when the ship White Lion arrived on the eastern coast of what would one day be the United States. Its passengers included 20 Blacks from Africa. In this work, 90 writers explore a 400-year span of history through essays and short stories. Some contributors include Isabel Wilkerson, Hannah P. Jones and poet Jericho Brown.

This involving volume offers 90 starkly different perspectives on African-American history and demonstrates that the Black experience in this country is not one story but millions of stories, intensely varied and rich.

A need for change

Lucky Celia Fairchild. Her aunt Calpurnia has left her a house in Charleston. Although, Celia doesn’t feel so lucky when she discovers that her dear departed auntie was a hoarder and her house is a disaster.

“The Restoration of Celia Fairchild” by Marie Bostick is about much more than restoring a run-down home; it’s also about Celia’s own need for a head-to-toe rehab. Her marriage has failed, and she’s lost her job as an advice columnist.

Happily, new friends give Celia a fresh perspective on not just her inherited house, but also her way of looking at life. Bostick’s cozy novel is a wonderful, uplifting cure for anyone suffering from cabin fever.


A Southern voice

“Do you need to have been born in the South to write about things Southern?” That’s the question Augusta author and former Midwesterner Lawrence Daniel Devoe posed to the late renowned poet Starkey Flythe.

“No, but it certainly does help a good bit,” Flythe replied.

Devoe decided to write from his own experience, and, thus, the title of his book is “Yankee by Birth, Southern By Choice.

The author offers advice to Yankees who are considering a move to the South, which includes how to survive the sultry summers and how to speak like the natives. The book is full of witticisms and engaging stories. I feel certain Flythe would have approved.

Do you have local literary news? Email it to By the Book is published monthly on last Sundays.


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Dec 21, 2022
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