Books that take place in Knoxville/East Tennessee?
June 6, 2008 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books, either fiction or non-fiction, that take place in Knoxville, Tennessee or other nearby places in East Tennessee.

As happens every summer, I am missing my Southern homeland something fierce, and I would like to pepper my reading list with books that are set in Tennessee, preferably in Knoxville.

Some notes:

-I read A Death in the Family in high school, and Suttree is already on the list.
-I have no preference in genre, but I especially like memoirs, travel literature, and creative nonfiction (of the John McPhee variety).
-Since my tastes run more to non-fiction these days, some more fiction would be lovely.

Any recommendations?
posted by timetoevolve to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
American Killings by Calvin Trillin, a collection of his long-form reporting about crime for the New Yorker, has a chapter set in Cleveland, TN. It's a great book.

Sharon McCrumb's mysteries are set in East TN (although closer to the Johnson City area). I've only read one, and it was not all that great, but it was fun and she definitely works the local color hard (and gets a lot of it right).
posted by OmieWise at 9:56 AM on June 6, 2008

Ely: an Autobiography

Not Knoxville, but east Tennessee. It's the autobiography of a black man growing up in East Tennessee at the turn of the 20th century.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:58 AM on June 6, 2008

Adriana Trigiani has several books that take place in southwest Virginia and upper east TN. I think they may road trip to Knoxville in one of theme.

Sharyn McCrumb has many books that take place in east TN. I specifically remember the ones in the Tri-Cities (which is my home town), but I think one of them take place around Knoxville.

( I know what you mean about missing TN. I am heading to Bristol next week, and can't wait!)
posted by kimdog at 10:08 AM on June 6, 2008

Kinflicks is partly set in east Tennessee, in a fictional town. The author was born in Kingsport. It's a good read, but a little dated these days. Her second novel, Original Sins, is also partly set in the area.
posted by essexjan at 10:11 AM on June 6, 2008

One more, which I have, but haven't read yet, Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan takes place in East TN, around the Smokies.
posted by kimdog at 10:12 AM on June 6, 2008

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
posted by nameless.k at 10:20 AM on June 6, 2008

Cherie Priest has three southern gothic ghost novels set in and around Chattanooga. They're pretty good reads.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:04 AM on June 6, 2008

Bill Bryson briefly visits Knoxville in "A Walk in the Woods" his book about walking the Appalachian Trail.

Also check out your local author David Hunter. I really liked "The Night Is Mine" which is either non-fiction or a barely fictionalized account of his days as a beat cop in Knoxville. I knew exactly what stretch of Clinton Highway he was talking about. His mystery novels are decent too.

Adrienne Martini used to write for Metropulse and her first book, a memoir is set there. Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood.

For further recommendations, you might consider emailing the Knox County Public Library. I think they still have a Readers Advisory Librarian on staff, and this is the kind of question they might already have a handy list to give you in answer. KCPL

Oh, and not that you asked, but if you want Knoxville-centric movies, Thunder Road was filmed partially on Kingston Pike back in the day, October Sky was filmed all around Knoxville (The Tennessee Theater became the Enness Theatre, and they used my middle school, Gresham, as the high school in some scenes), Box of Moonlight was filmed in Knoxville and Maryville, Evil Dead was filmed in Morristown and Knoxville, and UT and Knoxivlle are supposedly some of the locations in Road Trip (can't vouch for that as I haven't seen it).
posted by 100watts at 11:55 AM on June 6, 2008

Open up a book that is already on your list. On one of the pages you always skip before getting to the text (usually opposite the contents or title page), there is all sorts of publishing information. At the bottom there will be a Library of Congress number and subjects. Something like "Stories in Knoxville" "Adultery", etc... Look up the exact spec that it gives you for Knoxville.

Also, your local librarian at the reference desk LOVES questions like these.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:49 PM on June 6, 2008

This might be a long shot, depending on how much you actually mean "I have no preference in genre", but one of my favorite novels is Christy, by Catherine Marshall. It's set in 1912 in fictional Cutter Gap, TN, which in real life is Cocke County, TN, which is as far east as you can go and still be in Tennessee.

It also spawned a decent CBS television series in 1994-95, an absolutely awful made-for-TV miniseries in 2000-01, and has a 10-year-running annual fan convention (ChristyFest) in Townsend, TN, which I have been to twice.
posted by Quidam at 5:39 PM on June 6, 2008

Brilliant answers - thanks, everybody!
posted by timetoevolve at 9:54 AM on June 7, 2008

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