Throughout the writing of the early titles, this was
simply The Georgia Series. After publication of the second title, Sweet
Southern Boys, I chose the new name because I see fortitude as one of the
defining traits of the main characters in all three of the stories.
Although characteristic of Southerners throughout
the region, and for generations, fortitude is particularly characteristic
of the largely Scots-Irish denizens of the Southern highlands, where it
is also known as pure cussedness. It encompasses more than just mountaineer
stubbornness, though. It is the sheer determination to defy defeat, even
among the defeated -- or, at least, to refuse the behavior and demeanor
of the defeated.
Fortitude explains the refusal of Confederate soldiers
-- and their families -- to grovel after the Union's brutal victory and
even more brutal "re-unification." Popular culture and some scholarly works
(J.W. Cash's Mind of the South, for example) portray white Southerners,
especially men, who were not of the aristocracy (that is, poor, as in "poor
white"), as whining and shiftless and incessently blaming others for his
circumstances. While true in some individual instances, it is this stereotype
(and others) -- which I consider not merely unrealistic and largely untrue,
but malicious -- that I write to counter.
The primary reason it is untrue is because the "lazy
Southerner" was actually a condition resulting from widespread poverty
after the war. Many Southerner at that time could not afford shoes and
they contracted hookworm from walking barefoot in places where the organisms
lived. Hookworm infection resulted in catastrophic iron deficiency anemia,
rendering the victim basically incapable of doing much of anything physically.
Based upon my experience and observation growing
up in the last half of the 20th Century, in various places in the Deep
South, I believe white Southerners have gotten a bum rap for everything
from the civil war to the civil rights movement, from slavery and racism
to religious fanaticism. In general, the Southerners I've known are basically
hard-working and genial; they possess a healthy balance of contentedness
and ambition. They love to work and they love to play; they are no more judgmental and intolerant than folks from other regions, and they
have remarkably long fuses.
How this fortitude, and other regional characteristics,
manifest in individuals -- both men and women, but especially men -- is
one of the threads woven throughtout my writing, and particularly in this
series. How they respond to sudden adversity is at the heart of the stories
in the Legacy of Fortitude series.
A Sense of Place
The sense of place that pervades the South is much
more profound than these descriptions, but these might give readers some
insights into the way that awareness influenced these stories.
Verona, Georgia -- Verona was inspired
by Valdosta, Georgia, and sits in approximately the same location, in extreme
south Georgia, just a half-hour north of the Florida line. But the fictional
town is not Valdosta with the name changed. There are many similarities,
however. Incidentally, I have never been to Valdosta.
In both population and area, Verona is about half
the size of Valdosta. The fictional town's population is about 25,000.
It is the home of Verona State University. Downtown lies a few miles to
the west of Interstate 75. Because of its proximity to I-75's intersection
with Interstate 10 in northern Florida, Verona is a manufacturing and warehousing/distribution
Valdosta has nearby Moody Air Force Base; Verona
has nearby Martin Air Force Base. Valdosta has the Little River; Verona
the Oostachula River. And they both have the Okefenokee Swamp not far to
the east. Just a little further on, the Atlantic coast with Jacksonville,
Brunswick and Savannah lie within easy driving distance.
The Crow River in Chatahoula County. The
Crow is a fictional tributary of the very real Tombigbee River which is
part of the Tennesssee-Tombigbee Waterway. Prone to flooding in rainy seasons,
it is smallish and not commercially navigable, per the hero of Smallfoot
Alley, and is used exclusively by recreational craft. It runs somewhat parallel to the state highway where Smallfood sightings have become increasingly common. Chatahoula County
is fictional, as well, and located approximately in the same area as Clarke
County, Alabama, once known as The Canebrake, where native bamboo was prolific in the past, but now basically extinct.
Pensacola, Florida , Capital of L.A.
-- Lower Alabama, a nickname for the Florida panhandle, home of some of
Florida's most beautiful beaches and a periodic target of destructive
hurricanes. Pensacola sits atop the curving shoreline of the upper
coast of the Gulf of Mexico -- America's Mediterranean. The site
of Storm Surge, Pensacola is a marvelous setting for storytellers.
The first settlement by Europeans in the New World, though not the oldest
continuous settlement (that designation belongs to St. Augustine, on the
Atlantic coast), it is steeped in history. It is home to the Navy's Flight
Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, and lots of avid fishermen, beachgoers,
and sports fans.