- The Redneck Poacher’s Son
- In The Shadow Of the Wind
- The Ceremony Of the Panther
- The Slavery Ghosts (for readers 9-12)
- Blue Wings (for readers 12-15)
- The Workshop
- Conservation Writing: Creativity at the Crossroads of Nature and Culture (to be published)
- When you try to Steal the Blues: Stories and Songs by Luke Wallin (CD)
- The Deer in the Sea (a collection of short stories )
- The Philosopher’s Feast ( a novel to be published)
and a Science Fiction Trilogy under the name John Forrester:
- Bestiary Mountain
- The Secret Of The Round Beast
- The Forbidden Beast
Songs by Luke Wallin
- When You Try to Steal the Blues
- This Good Life
- Red Dog Moon
- Workin’ Woman
- Half of Life is Dreams
by Jason Read (SHS)
Luther Wallin, III, was born in 1943 in Columbus, Mississippi. Wallin was particularly curious about nature and religion when he was young. His father owned a sawmill in Columbus, and Wallin gathered many stories from storytellers around his father’s sawmill (Wallin Interview).
Wallin attended Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, and Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, but he received his B. A. in philosophy from Mississippi State University in 1965. He obtained his M. A. in philosophy from the University of Alabama and taught there for one year (Abbott 780). Later he enrolled in the University of Iowa. There were many protesters against the Vietnam War attending Iowa at that time. Wallin describes the instances in a book called The Workshop. Wallin also started to write fiction novels while he was attending the University of Iowa. He studied with Richard Yates, William Price Fox, and Seymore Krimm. At the same university he began his lifetime friendship with Sena Jeter Naslund. Naslund wrote the novel Ahab’s Wife ,which was a big success this year. Thereafter he completed his M. F. A. in creative writing from the Writer’s Workshop of the University of Iowa in 1971 (Wallin Interview).
Luke Wallin’s first novel, The Redneck Poacher’s Son, is his best-selling novel under his own name (Abbott 780). This book was made into a soft cover and has a Danish translation. This science fiction trilogy was sold to Bradbury Press and took the longest amount of time to write. It was awarded the 1981 Best Book for Young Adults. In Wallin’s viewpoint The Redneck Poacher’s Son has made the biggest impression out of all of his novels (Wallin Interview).
Wallin’s most current fiction book is titled The Deer In the Sea. In addition, Wallin has written nearly thirty-five pages of a Mississippi book about the blues, and he has published three stories about philosophers in a novel called The Philosopher’s Feast. Wallin decided to write about Kant, Wittgenstein, and John Muir in The Philosopher’s Feast (Wallin Interview).
Wallin’s book In the Shadow of the Wind tells the story of the Creek Indian’s Trail of Tears in the 1830’s. This work has been supported by the United States National History Standards as a reference for students studying this time period. Another novel Wallin wrote is called Ceremony of the Panther. This novel depicts the life of a Native American of the Miccosukee Tribe in south Florida. As a religious ceremony, a shaman kills a panther, and he is indicted by the state of Florida. The shaman’s son is trapped between his father’s traditional world and a coexistent emptiness (Wallin Interview).
Luke Wallin is creating a CD which consists of stories and songs that he has written. One of Wallin’s lyrics was used by the Canadian Film Board in a production called Temples of Time. Wallin also has written songs for his children’s show The Enchanted Swamp on Alabama ETV. Wallin’s songs also were sung in concert by the Forester Sisters and Texas Annie Freeman (Wallin Interview).
In 1978 Luke Wallin went to work with his father at the sawmill in Columbus, Mississippi. Wallin wrote The Redneck Poacher’s Son while working in Columbus. He then moved to New York with Smoke, Clay, and Rain, his children, and his first wife. He taught nursery school, refinished floors, wrote scripts for television, and taught Humanities and Philosophy at the School of Visual Arts for five years (Wallin Interview). Afterward Wallin moved to Chattanooga to teach fiction writing at the University of Tennessee (Abbott 780). Later, Wallin departed to Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1985, and there wrote a novel each year. Finally, Wallin relocated to Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to teach in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts in 1988. This year Wallin finishes his eleventh year of teaching at the University of Massachusetts (Wallin Interview).
In 1997 Luke Wallin won the Fulbright Scholarship Prize to the University of Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. The Fulbright program was set up in 1946 by Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas. The program was created to expand common understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries (Wallin n.p.). Wallin taught the M. A. in American Literature at the University of Dublin and his children, Patrick and Eva, were enrolled in Irish schools while his wife Mary, an artist, painted in Ireland. Wallin taught four courses at the university, and he continued writing his book Strategies for Conservation Writing: A Critical and Creative Guide (Wallin Interview).
In 1994 Wallin was a participant in the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, an annual October event at Mississippi University for Women, which was established in 1989 to honor Welty. Wallin continues to write with many works about to be published. He currently lives, writes, sings and teaches in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
Wallin’s eight novels for children and young adults have been selected Best Books by the American Library Association’s Booklist, the New York Public Library, Voya, and others. Ceremony of the Panther is recommended for K-12 on the Smithsonian Institute’s Anthropology Outreach website, in its Critical Bibliography on North American Indians; it has been recorded for the blind by the Library of Congress. In the Shadow of the Wind is recommended for high school history classes by the Committee on U.S. History Standards. While teaching as a Visiting Fulbright Professor at University College Dublin, Luke contributed to and co-edited the book Nature and Identity in Cross-Cultural Perspective. His poems can be found online at various places.
Luke is currently Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he was also Senior Research Associate at the Center for Policy Analysis. He holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, and graduate degrees in Philosophy and Regional Planning. His conservation work has included land preservation in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, consulting on an organic farm in France, and farm and forest management in the American Southeast.
A Review of The Redneck Poacher’s Son
by Jason Read (SHS)
In The Redneck Poacher’s Son by Luke Wallin, Jesse Watersmith, the protagonist, was sixteen when he stood up to his father Twaint Watersmith. Jesse and his older brothers, Robert Elmer and Bean, grew up in the swamps of Alabama. The Watersmiths lived off the woods. Also Twaint Watersmith illegally made and sold moonshine, and he caught and sold rotten fish. Jesse was different from the rest of his family. He showed pity and sorrow for the animals his father killed. Also he disagreed with the selling of moonshine and rotten fish. Jesse displayed a lot of hatred toward his father. Throughout the novel Jesse is searching for the truth about his mother’s death. He thought his father murdered his mother, but he did not have any proof. Jesse became very stubborn and decided to kill his father to avenge his mother’s death. Although he did not have any proof of his accusation, he believed his mother was murdered.
In the spring Jesse took a job at a near by sawmill, and he lived with his Aunt May’s friend Mrs. Elmilly. Aunt May was Jesse’s mother’s sister, and Jesse loved her like his own mother. Jesse met a young girl named Ren. Ren was the daughter of Mr. Evans, the owner of the sawmill. Jesse and Ren became very close friends, and they cared deeply for each other. One day Jesse’s father cut down a tree that damaged the sawmill. Twaint was fired earlier that day by Mr. Evans because of other actions he committed against the sheriff’s mother. This gave Jesse more reasons to kill his father. Jesse thought all the things bad in his life were in result of his father. Jesse placed a trap for his father to walk into as he waited in a tree above the trap. Mistakenly his Aunt May walked into the trap, and he quickly realized it was aunt. His aunt convinced him not to murder his father. Jesse then decided to turn his father and brother Bean into the highway patrol. Instead of the highway patrol, the sheriff came, and Jesse released his father and brother at the last moment. Jesse knew the sheriff would kill his father and brother because of the information Twaint had against the sheriff. I enjoyed the adventure in this novel, but I did not care for the killing of the bobcat. I did not want Jesse to be forced to kill the animal. I did like the capture of the huge turtle, but I wished the Watersmiths would have returned the turtle to the creek. Also, I had hoped Jesse would have turned his father and brother into the sheriff, yet I like the way the novel ended.
by Jason Read (SHS)
1. What is the title of your current or most recent novel?
My eight young adult novels were published between 1981 and 1988. All are out of print at the minute, but at least some should be back in print later this year, under the auspices of The Author’s Guild, and a publisher called iuniverse.com. This publisher stores books on disk in a computer/printing press, so that a single book can be printed out in one minute, including cover and sewing!
My current fiction book in the works is a short story collection, THE DEER IN THE SEA. It was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize, won a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts award, and currently is under consideration by a literary press. Many of the stories have been published in literary magazines, and I have read them around the country. I’m recording some of them, and some of my songs, on a CD. (More on this below.)
2. (I am doing a book review of one of your novels.) Which novel would you like me to do a book review on? What is your favorite novel that you have written?
I’d like you to review THE REDNECK POACHER’S SON. I think it has the strongest impact of my books. (By the way, I’m thinking of bringing it back this year as simply THE POACHER’S SON — it seems to me that the word “redneck” has been devalued in the 20 years since the book appeared. What do you think about this?)
My supply is getting short, but it should be easy to find through interlibrary loan, as many high school libraries have copies. There are copies in the public library in Columbus, Mississippi, my hometown.
3. I would like to know about your career as a writer. For example, how many novels have you written in your lifetime? How many novels did you put on the market? What is your highest selling novel?
My best-selling book as Luke Wallin is POACHER’S SON. The science fiction trilogy made the most money, as it went into soft cover and Danish translation. It has a growing following now among sci fans, and has been recommended by sci fi writers at their conventions. Some internet used book dealers list these books with high prices.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a favorite of mine as well. It tells the story of the Creek Indians’ Trail of Tears in the 1830s, and has been recommended by the U.S. National History Standards as a good way for students to learn that period.
CEREMONY is also about Native Americans. The Native American novels drew upon a lot of study of anthropology and philosophy, in terms of ideas, but in terms of craft they flowed from the work done for POACHER’S SON.
5. Please tell me anything exciting about your career that you would like me to write about. How did you get interested in writing?
I’ve had many fine adventures as a writer. It began with my family of storytellers, and my community– Columbus in the 50s was full of great talkers. My dad had a sawmill, and that was a center for characters. As a boy I was intensely interested in two things: Nature and Religion. In college (I attended Mississippi College, Tulane, and graduated from Mississippi State ’65) I studied Philosophy, then took an MA in Philosophy at the University of Alabama (’67). I taught there for a year, then went to the University of Iowa. Iowa was a wild place in those days, with national upheavals over the Vietnam War. I wrote about this recently in a book called THE WORKSHOP, ed. by Tom Grimes, Hyperion Books 1999.
I’d gone to Iowa to continue Philosophy, but while there I began to write fiction, and it seized me like a calling. I studied with Richard Yates, William Price Fox and Seymore Krimm, and graduated from the Writers’ Workshop with an MFA in ’71. One of the best things about Iowa was the beginning of my lifelong friendship with Sena Jeter Naslund, whose novel AHAB’S WIFE was a big hit this year.
Then I moved to New York with my first wife and kids (Smoke, Clay and Rain–now fabulous adults). For a few years I did anything and everything to survive while working at my craft. I taught nursery school, refinished floors, wrote scripts for television. I taught Humanities and Philosophy at the School of Visual Arts for five years.
Then in ’78 my dad invited me back to Mississippi to work in a wholesale lumber business with him. It was great to be reimbursed in family stories, and reconnected with my parents. In that environment I wrote POACHER’S SON. It was sold to Bradbury Press, later part of Macmillan, Inc., and that led to the other novels, all published by
In ’83 I got a job teaching Fiction Writing at UT Chattanooga, and lived in a log cabin on Lookout Mountain. During this time I wrote YA novels which explored environmental issues, and that led to a strong desire to understand these issues in a systematic way. In ’85 I moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where I continued to write a novel every year, taught at UMass part time, edited a community newspaper, and in ’88 earned a Master of Regional Planning degree.
In ’88 I began teaching in the English Department at UMass Dartmouth, and I’m just completing my 11th year in the job. I couldn’t ask for more supportive colleagues or more enthusiastic students. I combine Philosophy, Conservation, and Writing interests in a variety of courses, such as Writing about Nature and Society, Community and Environmental Journalism, Advanced Thinking and Writing, The Literature of Nature, and Literature of the American South. We have a unique MA in Professional Writing, and in that program I teach Documentary Writing, Science Journalism, the Research course for the MA thesis, and Ethics in Professional Writing.
Since ’88 I have published essays which deal with the language of nature– how the ways we conceptualize and discuss nature influence our treatment of the natural world. With Irish geographer Anne Buttimer, of University College Dublin, I co-edited a ’99 book called NATURE AND IDENTITY IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE, Kluwer Academic Publishers. In that anthology I have an essay on the great conservation writer John Muir.
6. Could you tell me about winning the Fulbright Scholarship and the trip to Ireland?
What an adventure. In ’97 there was an opening in Ireland for an American Writer, someone whose work would address American culture, and who could contribute to the MA in American literature at University College Dublin. I applied with an essay, “Science and the Paradox of Harmony,” (UnderCurrents ’96), and a story, “The Horse Who Killed Men,” (Temper ’94).
I loved every minute of my time there. We lived in Bray, the last stop on the local train line south of Dublin, and we put the kids, Patrick and Eva, into Irish schools. My wife, Mary Elizabeth Gordon, taught short courses in Botanical Drawing at Trinity College, and we hiked the hills, and made many friends. The country had its first booming economy in 800 years, the peace process was getting underway, devolution votes in Scotland and Wales were bringing independence closer, and there was just great spirit in the land. One of my Irish students, Marianne O’Kane, began a project in my Southern Lit class which led to her MA project, and now she’s doing a PhD at Trinity, partly focusing on my novels.
7. Are you currently working on a book? What is it called?
I have completed and published three stories for a new collection about philosophers, called THE PHILOSOPHER’S FEAST. So far I’ve done Kant, Wittgenstein and John Muir (broad definition of “philosophers”). At the minute I’m working on Socrates and his wife, Xanthippe.
I also have about 35 pages of a new Mississippi novel about the Blues.
I’ve completed a book called CONSERVATION WRITING: CREATIVITY AT THE CROSSROADS OF NATURE AND CULTURE, which I hope will bring writers and conservationists closer together. I’m just about to look for a publisher.
And the thing I’m working on today is my CD of stories and songs. I’ve been writing songs since college days. A lyric of mine appeared in a Canadian Film Board production called TEMPLES OF TIME, and I wrote songs for my own children’s show on Alabama ETV, THE ENCHANTED SWAMP (’79). My songs have been performed in concert by The Forester Sisters and Texas Annie Freeman. But mainly I’ve been writing and singing around the kitchen table, and for my friends and students. I’m excited about the new technologies for sharing my music with a wider audience.
8. What advice would you give to a young person today–either about writing or life in general?
As Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” I would add: travel, explore all avenues of your interest and creativity, study the traditions in which you wish to participate, learn to take and appreciate editing/criticism, and don’t quit your day job. Hemingway said, “If they catch you off base they’ll kill you.” You must protect yourself financially and personally while you nurture your talent. But don’t get so overwhelmed with job, career, family, mortgage dog and cat that you give up writing. It’s a delicate balance, between creativity and career. Your satisfaction in life may depend on good planning: develop your talent while you’re young, before too many responsibilities multiply. Try to reach a point of confidence and skill so that you can continue to develop your creative side during the busy years of child raising and professionalism. But don’t expect to make money or achieve stability through writing–very few do that, and almost nobody for their whole working life. Faulkner wrote for the movies, Hemingway for newspapers, Flannery O’Connor lived simply on a family place, and many writers teach. If I were starting out today I’d consider a PhD in Cultural Geography, a field I discovered later in life. Jobs teaching Writing are very hard to find, and competition is fierce. Find a path doing something you’re good at, don’t mind too much, and that will allow you time and cultural breathing space to develop creative interests.
9. Tell me about your music–your songwriting.
Let me say just a word about my music: I’ve been song writing all my life. In ’71 my lyric “There is no Silence Like the Snow” appeared in the Canadian Film Board’s movie TEMPLES OF TIME. In ’79 I wrote & performed children’s songs for my show The Enchanted Swamp, on ETV in Tuscaloosa. The Forester Sisters sang one of my songs, “Calling it Falling,” in ’84 on the demo which got them a contract with MCA, and in their concerts.
Song writing is deeply integrated with fiction writing, for me. My first novel, The Redneck Poacher’s Son, was a song first, and it inspired the book. My story “Collecting Butterfish,” which is on my CD, contains a blues song “I Lef’ Mississippi.” I wrote the song first, and it inspired the story. When I read it, I sing it a capella and try to suggest how it sounded when my character, Butterfish Brown, sang it that night in the swamp with the bullfrogs and the cicadas. I’m working on a version in my studio, but I can’t play it the way Butterfish did (in the fiction world). The other story on my CD, “Salvation,” contains a hymn.
As to the songs on the CD:
1. When You Try to Steal the Blues, I wrote in 1999, and recorded in my home studio. It deals with the theme of one group stealing the stories and songs — cultural productions — of another. It takes a very strong point of view, not necessarily my own, but an interesting one. I have a novel in progress by the same name, exploring the theme.
2. This Good Life, I wrote in ’78. I once walked in on a Don William’s recording session and pitched it to him, to no avail. The recording on the CD is from ’80, on a little 4 track with no effects. I’ve always loved the guitar part, played by my friend Denis Colby, and I rescued the tracks from the old falling-apart tape just in time. It sounds a little like something from the ’20s, but my son Patrick (17) convinced me to include it on the CD.
3. Red Dog Moon, I wrote about ’74, and it’s an old family favorite in my family. The recording is another rescued gem from ’80, with DC
playing, and my wife Mary Elizabeth Gordon singing harmony.
4. Workin’ Woman I wrote in ’80, and it again comes from the DC days, with Nancy (the singing nurse) Roach singing harmony.
5. Half of Life is Dreams, the last song, I wrote a few years ago. The recording is from ’95 in the home studio of Rick Britto, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Rick is a multi-talented guy, a great sax player, and except for my rhythm guitar part he plays all the instruments on the cut through his keyboard.
I have many more stories and songs, and I believe the format of CDs with a couple of stories (about 25-30 minutes) and about 5 songs (about 20 minutes) is a good one for me.
10. What about your interest in philosophy?
I received a BA in Philosophy from MSU in 1965. My first 2 1/2 years of college were at Mississippi College (ministerial beginning, with a dynamic Philosophy teacher named Dr. Cooper), then I attended Tulane for a semester (dull Philosophy courses, and the grad students wouldn’t deign to speak with a mere undergrad), after which I transferred ‘back home’ to state. During that year I studied with Dr. Bear (sp?), who was rather elderly. The most interesting thing I remember was writing a senior thesis on Whitehead’s Metaphysics, and taking a genetics course which improved my understanding of evolution. Then I earned an MA in Philosophy at Alabama, working with a number of good people and getting a grounding in Analytic Philosophy.
I’ve enjoyed integrating Philosophy into my writing on nature during the past decade. In ’99 I co-edited a book with an Irish Geographer who has a strong background in Philosophy, and we brought together lots of interesting writers and perspectives. I’m writing a series of short stories about Philosophers. Thus far I’ve published pieces on Wittgenstein, Kant and John Muir (loose definition, I know). I’m just finishing one on Socrates called “Xanthippe’s Revenge.”
- Abbott, Dorothy, ed. “Luke Wallin.” Mississippi Writers Reflections of Childhood and Youth Volume I: Fiction. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985. 780-81.
- Wallin, Luke. “Columbus native wins Fulbright Scholarship.” The Commercial Dispatch. 1 June. 1997: n. p.
- Wallin, Luke. “From ‘The Redneck Poacher’s Son.'” Mississippi Writers Reflections of Childhood and Youth Volume I: Fiction. Ed. Abbott, Dorothy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985. 615-621.
- Wallin, Luke. “Memories of my father-Luther Wallin Jr.” The Commercial Dispatch. 13 Dec. 1998: 6A.
- Wallin, Luke. Mississippi Writers Project of Starkville High School. (Online) Available email: [email protected] from [email protected], Sat, 15 Apr 2000 14:32:15-0400.
- Wallin, Luke. Pictures and Texts Experiment. (Online) Available email: [email protected] from [email protected], Fri, 28 Apr 2000 12:41: 51-0400.