The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival

A reading and talk with author Terry Roberts.

Jedidiah Robbins is a man on a crusade. From town to town, his gospel train rides the rails of 1920s Appalachia, spreading the good news with his daughter and a loyal group of roustabouts in tow. But Jedidiah’s traveling revival company has a secret: in addition to offering the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it also delivers spirits of another kind.

Prohibition is in full swing, but The Sword of the Lord train keeps the speakeasies in the towns it visits in business by providing the best that mountain stills have to offer. While operating beyond the gaze of federal agents, the speakeasy eventually runs afoul of an overzealous small-town sheriff and a corrupt judge, setting in motion a series of events that could land them all in chains.

Told with haunting lyricism, this is the story of a preacher full of contradictions, a man for whom the way is never straight and narrow. It bends like the river, a river that leads him in the paths of a different brand of righteousness—and perhaps even to salvation.

Author of The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival (Turner Publishing, 2018), Roberts’s direct ancestors have lived in the mountains of western North Carolina since the time of the Revolutionary War. His family farmed in the Big Pine section of Madison County for generations and is also prominent in the Madison County town of Hot Springs, a consistent setting in his novels. Among his forebears are prominent bootleggers and preachers but no one who, like Jedidiah Robbins, from The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival, combines both occupations.

His debut novel, A Short Time to Stay Here, won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, and his second, That Bright Land, won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award as well as the James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South. Both novels won the annual Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, given to the author of the best novel written by a North Carolinian.

Born and raised near Weaverville, Roberts is the Director of the National Paideia Center and lives in Asheville. He has three children: Jesse, Margaret, and Henry.

Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Risen, praised Roberts’s work. “In his latest novel, Terry Roberts has created an unforgettable character in Jedidiah Robbins, a reverend who delivers both sermons and whiskey to his followers, but his novel transcends mere satire to become much more. Ultimately, The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival contemplates complex questions of faith and morality in a world ripe with hypocrisy. Terry Roberts is an immensely gifted writer and he gets better with each book. Bravo!”

Appalachian Evenings will host Terry Roberts for a reading and discussion of The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 from 6-7 p.m. in the Ramsey Center, located inside Renfro Library on the campus of Mars Hill University. Appalachian Evenings are free of charge; all are welcome.

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