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Writer-in-Residence Reading Features R.T. Smith

The annual Writer-in-Residence Reading by R.T. Smith, editor of Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review, will be held at W&L on Wednesday, March 21, at 4:30 p.m. in the Hillel Multipurpose Room. The reading is free and open to the public.

Smith will be reading from his new book of Lexington outlaw stories, Sherburne, and from a suite of poems about the trials that Mary Todd Lincoln endured both in and beyond the White House. The program will feature séances, insanity, crime and pursuit.

Sherburne is about members of the same family spanning over a century, with all but one story set primarily in Rockbridge County. According to Smith, “the serious tone of the book is set by the subjects in the first story in Sherburne, pursuit, rape, murder, the friction between the townspeople and the woods dwellers in a rough mountain county, the question of who really knows the truth.”

All the characters work in some form of law enforcement, and, Smith continued, “they all are devoted to the letter of the law. But they all feel their own impulses toward attribution and setting things right according to a personal code.”

Some of the stories in Sherburne won national prizes and most have been published in magazines such as Virginia Quarterly Review, Missouri Review and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Originally, Smith didn’t link the stories. They concerned the same family, however, so he grouped them to allow readers to see what Sherburne is like, that he has been shaped by his father’s wartime experience. “And the people who follow him are shaped very much by him. Much of this is influenced by the fact that my father was in law enforcement all his working life, and that’s where he wanted me to go. I grew up seeing policemen come in on Friday night and leave their guns in a basket to play poker.”

“Ranging through time from the Civil War to the present, this intricate and exquisitely written collection further confirms that R.T. Smith is one of America’s best writers. Sherburne is a magnificent achievement,” said Ron Rash, an Appalachian poet, short story writer, novelist and writer.

Smith has been on the W&L faculty and the editor of Shenandoah for 16 years and writer-in-residence for three years. His previous books of fiction are Faith, Uke Rivers Delivers and The Calaboose Epistles. His stories have appeared in the Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories and five volumes of New Stories from the South. Outlaw Style, the most recent of Smith’s dozen collections of poetry, received the Library of Virginia Book of the Year Award in 2008.

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