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Scuppernong, Weldon Payne’s new novel, focuses on a rural fictional community by that name almost hidden in the Appalachian foothills of north Alabama.
In Fayetteville, the book is available at the Book Inn, 105 Market Street.
His main character, a former hard drinking philanderer until almost dying one night when a speeding train struck his carousing pal inches from where they crouched on a rickety trestle. After that midnight experience, he changed, drastically, and took to preaching in an abandoned schoolhouse.
Shack, the only name the author gives him, was devoutly honest in his dealings with his largely superstitious and poorly educated neighbors, and even more fervently bordering on fanatical in dealing with his wife and children. He was, above all else, sincere and eager to accommodate his neighbors while striving mightily to diligently obey his interpretation of the Scriptures.
“He also is something of a psychic,” the author says, “and his neighbors come to respect his predictions, whether in his search for underground water or warning of future disasters. Whatever else, Shack is not a charlatan, and when he speaks, his neighbors tend to listen.”
Scuppernong, Weldon says, might prompt some readers to ponder: “How far one should go to ensure the salvation of another?”
The latest novel by the Manchester author, like his “Mister Malone” that was set in the Great Depression or “Alone,” about a paraplegic who awoke one snowy morning to find himself abandoned by family and neighbors, is being published by Florida Academic Press in Gainesville, Fla.
“There is humor as well as pathos in his novel,’ Weldon says. “But I also see Scuppernong as a serious commentary on the human race, our failures, and our striving to do better.”