The Roanoker - January/February 2017 - 35
Hey, How Does Our Little City Suddenly Have
5 NATIONAL BEST-SELLING
STORY BY DAN SMITH * PHOTOS BY DAVID HUNGATE
The Roanoke Valley has a history of being writerfriendly, primarily because of the presence of
Hollins University, which has been called "Pulitzer
U." Annie Dillard, Henry Taylor and, most recently,
U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey have won
the U.S.'s top writing prize. They join luminaries
like Margaret Wise Brown ("Goodnight Moon"), Lee
Smith and Jill McCorkle in the Hollins inner circle.
In recent days, however, the literary line around
Hollins has been breached. Major national books
by Roanoke Valley-based authors Roland Lazenby,
Sharyn McCrumb, Rod Belcher, Cece Bell and
Beth Macy were published in 2016. Roanoke has
produced moderately successful authors in the past,
but never the quality and quantity that now exists.
Lazenby followed his red hot "Michael Jordan:
The Life" with "Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant,"
published in October, the same month Beth Macy
marched on from her recent debut New York Times
bestseller "Factory Man" with "Truevine," another
monster book, movie rights for which were gobbled up
the day it came out by no less than Leonardo DiCaprio.
Lazenby has written more than five dozen
books, mostly sports-related and many have been
successful, but his national fame has grown since
his book "Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a
Basketball Icon" in 2010.
Macy, a noted reporter for The Roanoke Times
for more than two decades, accepted Lazenby's
advice (and help finding an agent and publisher)
in turning a newspaper story into "Factory Man,"
which became a NYTimes bestseller and has been
purchased by Tom Hanks to be turned into an HBO
movie. Their conversation during a break at the
Roanoke Regional Writers Conference resulted in
McCrumb's latest novel, "Prayers the Devil
Answers," came out in April. She has been a popular
national writing figure since 1984, producing 26
novels, the first "Sick of Shadows." Her "Bimbos of the
Death Sun" won a prestigious Edgar Award and in
2008 the Library of Virginia named her to the list of
Virginia Women in History.
Belcher, who has almost quietly taken over the
world of fantasy publishing, saw "Brotherhood of
the Wheel" in stores in March and has a new threebook contract (one finished, another nearly so) due
by the middle of 2017. Belcher, a former private eye
and comic book store owner, spent years toiling as a
freelance writer and little-noticed short-story writer
before his breakout novel "Six-Gun Tarot" in 2013.
Children's book author Cece Bell produced three
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 | 35