Archive for the ‘Book Characters, Mandolin Case’ category

A Circle be Unbroken Moment with The Tar River Boys at the Kinston Neuse Regional Library

November 13, 2011

        This weekend was my first book signing/bluegrass picking gig since I got sick. I don’t see how it could have been a more appropriate venue. It was an “old home week/Circle Be Unbroken moment” as I got to visit with my daughter then be on the stage with Dr. Peter Temple and the Tar River Boys for the gig. Peter was my first community medicine mentor and the man who showed me how to combine medicine and music and not compromise the quality of my work as a doctor. He always said I was his only student who made an “A” in both medicine and bluegrass. Back then he had a front porch jam session with guys like Greek, Junior, and George every Wednesday night. As you can imagine, I was never late for class!

        Neuse Regional Library in Kinston is a library with a plan. Young David Miller has regular programs and gets the word out. It was well attended and the crowd was enthusiastic; just the kind of book signing any author hopes they will have. We had a retired English teacher and the long-time promoter of the Kinston Winter Bluegrass festival. (She saw the review of the book in N.C. Our State magazine and recommended the library get in touch with me) There were several musicians, friends of the library, and a number of docs. Several of the doctors were my classmates. There was a neurosurgeon, a pediatrician, and OB/Gyn, an interventional radiologist and  two Family docs.  

        The gig was just the kind I like, very informal and interactive. I’d read a passage from the book, then we’d do a few tunes and I’d explain how the music was connected to the story. Who knows, maybe “The Cherokee Shuffle” will wind up on a movie soundtrack before it is all over.

        So, special thanks to David Miller at the library, and also to the Tar River Boys. Dr. Temple was a life changing mentor for me way back when. As far as I know, Dr. Temple and I are the only two doctor/bluegrass pickers ever featured in N.C. “Our State” magazine.He invited two of the Tar River Boys, witty song-writer/mando picker Roger Sauerborne and precision banjo man Buddy Zincone, who also picks with Greenville Grass to join us. It was a fine session. Most of all I send thanks to my wife who makes all these gigs work these days. I could not manage it alone.

       We tied this show in with a library card drive. If your hometown library wants to get new people interested in the library in a public awareness campaign, esp if you’d like to join me for an impromptu jam session, let me know. I am limited to about one show every other month for now, and need to stay within a hundred fifty miles or so of central N.C. but I’d love to do  more gigs like this one. As Dr. Temple would say it was a large time.

Dr. B


The Mandolin Case Cover- A Mystery

May 27, 2010

        I had planned another post about my agent today, but I’ve put if off a day or two. I have breaking news. Last night I got an e-mail from my publisher and they asked me to go ahead and release the cover of my book.

        Okay folks here it is, and also here’s the story behind it.

        Long before anyone had heard of a carbon fiber mandolin, Indie predicted they would one day be an item. “Bibey,” he said. “If we can put a man on the moon, someday they’re gonna make guitars and mandolins out of this space age stuff. You wait and see. They’ll be indestructible. They won’t warp even if you leave ’em in the trunk of the car.”

        Several years before “The Mandolin Case” a man came through Harvey County and showed Indie a synthetic prototype mandolin made out of carbon fiber. He claimed it sounded as good as a mandolin made of spruce and maple tonewoods, but was impervious to the elements. The man wanted Indie to invest in his company. Indie liked the mandolin but was a conservative investor. (Colorful as Indie was, he always said a good investment was a boring mutual fund.) He declined to buy any stock in the man’s company, but didn’t forget the mandolin.

        I didn’t see this mandolin when the man came through, but Indie described it to me. Years went by and I forgot about it. However, when I began to research the back story of “The Mandolin Case,” discussion of the prototype synthetic mandolin resurfaced. Indie would say, “Son, that carbon fiber mandolin was the clue wasn’t it? I’m not sure we’d have found out without it.” Then he’d take a sip of Jim Beam and drop the subject.

          All I knew was it was a carbon gray “F” style mandolin. Indie said at that time it was the only one he’d ever seen that didn’t have the traditional F holes. After the publisher read the story they decided this mandolin was so significant it needed to be on the cover. They asked me to forward a picture.

         I had a dilemma. I not only didn’t have a photograph, I’d never even seen it. All I could do was describe it to the best of my ability. It was somewhat like those composite sketches the police do when they search for a suspect.

        What to do? Indie was gone and I couldn’t ask him. Dang, I should have done the cover first. The publisher sent dozens of drawings. One morning I sipped my coffee and opened my e-mail. I jumped up to call. “That’s it, that’s it! I’m sure that’s the one; well at least as sure as I can be given I never laid eyes in  it myself. Where did you find it?”

        “We tracked it back. The e-mail was bogus. The trail went cold. Address unknown. We don’t know.”

         So there you are. All this research, countless hours of interviews with everyone who would talk, and I still have one last mystery on my hands. Indie knew the synthetic mandolin was a player in the case; he told me so many times. 

        Someone out there knows another clue about ‘The Mandolin Case.” Hm. Maybe they know the Navajo or perhaps it was the Navajo who sent it in. 

        I know the truth about “The Mandolin Case,” but of all the ironies I don’t know where the mandolin on the cover came from. All I can tell you is I am sure whoever sent it in has to be someone on the inside, and I won’t rest until I get to talk to them. If you run into them let me know.

       Dang that Indie. He had a great memory and didn’t bother to document much. Why didn’t he take a picture? It woulda saved me a lot of trouble. Oh well, we’ll find out.

Dr. B

No Announcements Yet and a Good Cause

March 22, 2010

        No announcements yet, but the team is at work on the graphic art for the book cover.  It won’t be long.

        I guess you might wonder why an old doctor would be so driven to tell this story. I suppose the main reason is that I gave my word to Indie. A promise is a promise.

        A risk management man told me my radar for trouble detection and how to avoid it was as good as anyone he’d even known. I learned a lot of it from Indie, and felt obligated to pass it on.

         Don’t worry.  It ain’t the end. I’m not a horse headed for the barn, but one pawing at the starting gate. I am gonna continue my quest to help people as a doc, but part of me is gonna do it by writing.  The “Mandolin Case” is only the start. They can’t make me go away.

        I’m gonna help people with my music too. Tonight I’m playing to raise awareness for the Abuse Prevention Council.  I am sad to tell you that even in wonderful Harvey County we have these problems.  If don’t know if I can stop some of that with a song, but I’m sure gonna try.

        Tell you what. Wherever you live, look up the folks who support these ladies and give a couple bucks to the cause. They often live in desperate circumstances and need our help to escape to a better life; one of grace and dignity every human being deserves. 

        Tell ’em some crazy mandolin picking country doctor sent you. If all us good folks stick together we might keep the bad guys at bay yet.

Dr. B

1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ and “Cool Whip, Indie!”

December 9, 2009

        Every time I hear the Del McCoury song ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ I think of my old pal Indie.  He loved motorcycles.  His favorite was a ’47 Indian Chief former Nevada Highway Patrol bike that he and his buddy Blinky restored one winter.

        When Indie was a young doc there was a little French foreign exchange student in town who loved that bike, and was enthralled with Indie too.  She’d hop on the back, grab Indie by the waist, and sing some French song as they buzzed down the back roads.  She wasn’t much of a student.  The whole time she was here she only learned two American phrases.  “Motorcycle ride” was one and “Cool whip, Indie!” was the other. 

        Mrs. Jenkins was not amused.  Indie might have gotten into the Jim Beam too much at times, and he could fiddle all night long, but he was harmless.  Other than what happened in ‘The Mandolin Case’ that girl was the only time Indie ever got in any real trouble. 

        I hate it happened, but in a way you could see how it might.  Even though I was just a boy at the time, you couldn’t miss the fact this was some kinda good-looking woman.  That girl wore a sweater in a quite memorable way; she had better curves than a slope shoulder guitar.  No man in town ever forgot her, and I’m sure Mrs. Jenkins didn’t either.

        ‘The Mandolin Case’ was quite an ordeal, and put a hurting on Indie, but I always thought that one mistake with the French foreign exchange student weighed much heavier on him.  When he got old he told me it was the one thing he wished he could change in his life.  Mrs. Jenkins forgave him, and Indie finally made peace with it before he went to his maker, but it was hard on him.

        I forgave him too.  None of us are perfect, but at least Indie was truly sorry, and he was faithful to Mrs. Jenkins the rest of the way.  All we can do is our best, and after that girl I always thought Indie did that. 

Dr. B

Book Cover Contest ‘The Mandolin Case’

December 7, 2009

        As the book draws closer, we have begun to think about a cover for ‘The Mandolin Case.’  I have ideas, and my agent and editor also have theirs.  I’m certain the publisher will have yet another vision in mind.  Before all that gets too far, I thought it would be fun to get your input, too. 

        I guess it isn’t fair to call it a contest per se,  ’cause I have been around editors and agents enough to know it is unlikely anyone will take a concept and apply it without some revision.  Still, if someone goes up with an idea that dominates the theme for the cover I’ll credit that on the jacket.  If there is more than one we will acknowledge that, too.

        Of all you who’ve read my blog a while are pretty far inside my head, but I thought it might be a good idea to stimulate your imagination.  To do so, I need to let you in on the major symbols in the story.  First off, the cover design obviously has to involve mandolins.  The instrument is credited in the title because the mandolin stands for the truth.  Also, my editor wanted to include some roses, as they are important in the story.

        There are other symbols with significant meaning, too.  The river is a major one.  While the novel is not strictly a religious book, that symbolism runs through it.  The river is quite redemptive.  Indie loved the river. 

        Native American themes are prominent too.  Like Marty Stuart and Tony Williamson, I have a deep respect for our Native Americans.  I never thought they were done right, and part of the symbolism speaks to those injustices.  Besides, Indie was part Choctaw, and he was the best friend I ever had in the doctor world.  And of course there was the Navajo, and…well…. uh, …I guess you’ll have to read the book for that part.

        You remember the mandolin case I had Marty Stuart sign?  It now has the signatures not only of Marty Stuart, but my old pal and mandolin young’un Darin Aldridge, my mandolin brother Wayne Benson, and Rebecca Lovell.  I don’t know Rebecca near as well as Darin and Wayne, but I’m as proud of her as if she was my mandolin granddaughter; the young woman is already a very fine professional.

        Folks like Alan Bibey (Cuz), Tony Williamson, and Mike Marshall know about the book, and I’m sure they will sign the case next time I see them.  I plan to secure the signatures of as many great players as I can.  There are some, like Norman Blake, who I have heard play but never met, and I hope to get them to sign it someday. That way as I travel around I can tell my readers why our music is so important; it is about our people who play it. 

        Anyway, I’ve saved one spot on the ‘Mandolin Case’ case where my friends know not to sign.  Whatever we come up for a book cover with will grace the headstock area as a decal right above the IBMA logo.   Wherever I go it will not only represent the book, but all my friends who have contributed in some way. 

        After all, not only is Ranger Dog is still in the mix, but there’s a beauty operator named after a Missouri bluegrass girl, a lawyer who goes by Ted Davidson, and a number of other characters who were inspired by my electronic friends. I hope the publisher will see fit to leave ’em all in, ’cause they are all important.  Someday I’m gonna see all of y’all in my book store travels and thank you in person.

        So let me know what you think.  The greatest pleasure of this journey has been all the friends I have made, so I might as well continue to involve you in each step of the process. 

        If by chance the publisher decided to use a cover design exactly as submitted, my agent said he would insist on compensation in line with industry standards.  If I believe any submission was influential in the thought process but not used exactly as submitted, I’ll at least be sure the artist is credited.

        I know this:  I appreciate all of you.  It takes a community to raise a doctor and my art friends in the bluegrass and writer worlds deserve a lot of credit.  After all, my wife couldn’t be expected to do it all alone, and this overgrown boy was quite a project.  

Dr. B

Message in a Blog Bottle

November 9, 2009

        I sit here at the Deep River Blues Coffee Cafe and I’m in awe.  When I was growing up here we only had the Billiard and Bowl until Hardees came in, and pizza was an exotic international food.  I can’t believe Harvey county has come far enough to have our version of Starbucks. They got all kinda coffee in this place, and I can’t pronounce the names of any of ’em.  Usually I just get the house black but every so often I’ll order a new fangled one.  “How ’bout one of those high-test hoop-tee-do cold caramel ones with the crushed up ice?”  I asked.

         “Tough day, Doc?”  The kid at the counter is a blonde haired girl, but she acts about like a bartender.  “You mean the frappacino?”

        “Uh yeah. That’s fine. Make it a double shot of that espresso jazz and put some whipped cream on it.”

        “Yes sir.  Coming right up.”

        I slumped into the corner easy chair and tapped into the Wi-Fi.  When I was a kid Hi-Fi was fancy.  We’ve come a long way.

        I e-mailed a friend in Australia.  I’m about like Jimmy Stewart.  I love the old hometown, but there was also a part of me that wanted to fling responsibility to the wind and see the world.  In a way the Internet has allowed me that without leaving home, but has also whetted my appetite. 

        But as my daughter always said, “Daddy, there’s not a frivolous bone in your body.”  I never would have gone without  a reason for the trip.  That reason is the reader, and we want to meet all these new people I have met in my writer journey.  My book is my travel ticket.

        Not that I want to give up my day job.  I still love it and the interaction with the patients.  But as the book draws nigh, I’m also gonna have to see the world before I get too old to  go.  Then I’ll come back home, check into Harvey Nursing Home without complaint, play bingo every Monday and teach mandolin lessons to anyone who’ll visit, ’cause I got to do it all.

          When I started my blog it was like a message in a bottle.  I tossed it out from our little desert island here, watched it bob away and drift off into the distance, and waited to see if anyone would respond.  One day someone far across the ocean found it on an isolated beach where it had washed ashore.  They popped the cork and fished out the message.  

        “My wife and I love home but we also want to see the world.  We love bluegrass music, writing, and art.  We only want to go where we already know folks of like mind.  To tell you the truth, Harvey County is a small place.  We’re a little scared of strangers.  When I finish my book can we come visit a bookstore near you?”

         The answer was yes, and to a degree I never dreamed of.  I have already learned a bunch from you guys and look forward to plotting my course over the next few years to get everywhere I want to go.

        All that is gonna take a lot of time.  As the publishers look at ‘The Mandolin Case’ some have already inquired about an outline for a sequel.  (Thank goodness I have one)  I work steady as a Doc every day and it is hard to fit it all in.

           I hope you guys will bear with me.  Today I want to tell you of a slight change in my publication schedule.  In some ways it will be more; in some ways it is less.  I plan to post a brief  ‘Thought of the Day.’ (at least most days)  Often it might dove-tail with my ‘Song of the Day’ on FaceBook.

         Instead of three long posts a week I’ll do one long one on Mondays.  I’m gonna call the ‘Monday Morning Post.’

        I hope this change will allow me to commit to the support of ‘The Mandolin Case’ I will have to give it, and also the time to write the sequel I have started.

        At the same time, I admit I fear the thought of the loss of even one reader.  I have come to enjoy your regular input.  Like a doc without patients a writer with no readers might as well call it a day.  I have learned much from you and hope you will all continue the journey with me even though my format will have to change a bit to get it all done.

        So I send another message in a bottle from Harvey County and float it out to you again.  I hope you’ll stick with me.  The total time I give to the blog might be cut in half, but I hope the books will make it up to you.  Hey, at this point y’all about gotta read them ’cause some of you made it in the story by virtue of your visits to Harvey County.

        As Tim O’Brien would say I won’t say so long ’cause I ain’t going anywhere. (or something like that)  So I’ll be in touch and see ya soon. 

Dr. B

The Imagination Will Set You Free

September 26, 2009

        I had a patient who was confined to home her entire adult life.  Before the Internet she had a good life and many friends from all over the County, but after the Internet came in, she extended her connections around the world.  She could describe Australia better than many people who had been there.

       She was an early book editor for me and even inspired the character Mason Marley.  I would send her chapters by e-mail and she would read them and send back suggestions.  She once told me the installments reminded her of the eager anticipation of the “Saturday Evening Post’ as a child.  

         She especially loved to help embellish Mason Marley.  “Oh, have her smoke a cigar here, Bibey.” 

        “C’mon Mason, you don’t smoke.”

        “I can’t in real life ’cause of my lungs but I can in fiction.” 

        She wrote a book herself and had a lot of good advice on agents, editors, and lawyers that I follow to this day.  My only regret is the process is so long.  I would have given anything to be able to hand her a signed copy.

          I used to ask her about confidentiality.  “You know, as your doc, I’m supposed to protect your privacy.  I worry a little about this.  I’m afraid people will figure out who you are, or least who inspired the character.”

        “Oh Bibey, you are such a silly boy.  I hope you tell the whole world.”

        When I finally get around to that, I’m gonna tell you about her book too. She was one of the most special human beings I’ve ever known.  She knew the imagination had no limits to unlock a life of grace and dignity.  She showed me how every time I visited her. 

         Before she died I had not only permission but her encouragement to tell her story.  Mason understood with literature we can have a bit of immortality, and she cheered me on towards the finish line at every visit.   When I get there, much of the credit is to her.  

Dr. B

My Editor is a Genius

August 19, 2009

        Jenny Lynn has now outlined the first major edit of  ‘The Mandolin Case.’  I like this lady.  She took her time and asked a lot of questions.  We began to work on a few minor things while she got her thoughts together.  Now we are ready to dig in.  I have much work to do but she is convinced my draft will be ready for consideration in the meetings we have scheduled this fall.  After that, she plans one more start to finish tune-up, then it should be ready for 2010.

       Jenny is a genius.  She has been in and out of Harvey Country several times, and has been able to get some things done even Dr. Bibey could not do.

        What I’m getting ready to tell you is what we call ‘graveyard talk’ around here.  You will know things few outside of Harvey County know.  It is only fitting.  If you have read this far you deserve a leg up on the general public.  When you read ‘The Mandolin Case’ you will understand some things the naive reader will have to guess about.

        Somehow Jenny Lynn figured out how to get people to talk.  Maybe it was that fiddle.  I sent her some old tapes of Indie’s and she did some serious woodshedding.  Anything that reminds people of Indie tends to open them up a bit.  She negotiated at length with a major player in ‘The Mandolin Case,’ and has now secured his permission.  His name is Bones.

        Bones no longer lives in Harvey County but his heart is still here.  I knew him as kid.  He will not allow me to disclose his current location.  I was aware of his role in the case, but he would never agree to let me discuss it until Jenny talked him into it.  In a way I was willing to take the hit for him;  I thought his part of the story needed to be told.   After Jenny talked it over with him he decided that wouldn’t be fair and gave in.

       You may wonder about all this secrecy.  There are many reasons.  The most important is patient privacy.  It is imperative,  but there are are other reasons too.  With ‘The Mandolin Case’ I’m gonna take you deep into a world of money and power, a world few folks know about, and one the players would rather I not discuss.  I can promise you the money crowd would prefer I not talk.  Therefore the story either has to be encrypted or it can’t be told.

          As I have said before, there is a Lit Professor quote I love.  “For it to be good fiction, it need not necessarily have happened but it must be true.”  To that end, I have been careful not tell tell any facts, but still show the truth.

        After Jenny Lynn discussed it with Bones he was O.K. with it, but he still won’t let me give him up.   And I always keep my promises.    His whereabouts, his career plans, and his deepest secrets are safe with me.

Dr. B

A Swimming Pool of Lemonade

March 31, 2009

        I went to visit Indie last night.  He is near the end.  I hate to see him that way, but as always he is unconcerned.

       “Bibey old boy, I saw a lot of hard times.  I appreciate you seeing me through.”

       “You always stuck by me too man.”

        “You know, we saw a lot of tragedy, but I had a blessed life.  If there was ever a Doc who played more music and had more fun than me, I’m happy for ’em.”

        “I don’t think there was, Indie.  That’s why I had to write the book.  I wanted to show people how you dealt with adversity.”

        “Yeah well I didn’t drink that much.”

         “I didn’t mean that.”

         Indie motioned towards Barney the skeleton. “Check his brain, Bibey.”

        I opened the skull cap.  “No Jim Beam?”

       “Ran out.  Just wanted to prove to you I could get by without him here at the end.  How bout pouring me up an Arnold Palmer?”

       “Half sweet tea, half lemonade?”


         I poured him a cup and he sipped a bit.  “Damn, Bibey.  Almost as good a friend as Jimmy Beam.”

        “Just like you Indie.  You were dealt some bad luck at time. You always did make lemons out of lemonade.”

       “Hell Bibey.  I’m doing the backstroke in a swimming pool of it.”

         “You’re right.  You’re the best at I ever saw.  Hey just in case, though, I’m gonna restock Barney.”

        “Son, you always were my favorite.  I’ll never forget you.”

        “I ain’t ever gonna forget you either Indie.  Matter of fact, I’m gonna be sure no one does.”

        He laughed.  “You keep splashing in the lemonade swimming pool after I’m gone, boy.”

       “Yes sir.”

        Somehow I went to work today.  It’s what Indie woulda done.

        Dr. B

Indie’s Struggles

March 17, 2009

        Poor Indie is not doing well.  He is back in Hospice now.  I hadn’t been by in a month, and I was shocked at his condition yesterday.  Bless his heart, all he wanted to know about was how I was doing.

        “Tommy, how’s life treating you?”

        “For goodness sake, Indie.  I’m fine.  How are you man?”

        “Great.  This place is like a candy store.  They’ll give you all the Morphine you want.”

        “You pretty comfortable?”

        “Yeah, they see to it.  Besides if I’m not I tell ’em I’m gonna let you know.  They know you’ll raise hell.  I get what I need.”

        “Good.  Let me know if you don’t.”   I was sure he would.  Our Hospice is great.

        He rolled over in the bed, fluffed his pillow and tried to sit up.   “How’s the book coming?”

        “Fine.  At least the powers that be are reading it.  We’ll see.”

       “I don’t think I am going to make it to the finish line.”

        “Sure you are, Indie.  Of course you will.”

        He smiled.  “Tommy, you have the brain of a grown man, but the heart of a child.  You’ve a doctor.  You’ve seen my x-ray.  I cough up more blood every day.  Hell, I’m short of breath just to turn over.”

        I smoothed back his hair.  “You’re gonna make it.  I know you are….”

        “You’re a good boy.  I want you to make sure to play a song at the funeral.  I want “You go to Your Church and I’ll go to Mine.”

        “Dang it Indie.  Don’t talk that way.  You’ve got to keep going.”

         “Hell, I’ve read the manuscript.  It’ll see the light of day one way or another.  As far as I am concerned I get to live forever ’cause of you.  Damn boy, you immortalized me.  I won’t forget it.”

        “No one could ever forget you, Indie.”

        He rolled over and began to snore.  I pulled his covers up and tucked him in.

        He looked up.  “Don’t forget the tune.  Promise?”

        “Anything you want, pal.”

        “Good.”  He drifted off.

        When you have friends as brave as Indie how can you ever worry over trivia again?

Dr. B