Brewer, Sonny 1949-
Brewer, Sonny 1949-
Born July 28, 1949; married; children: two boys.
Office—Over the Transom Bookstore, 9 N. Church St., Fairhope, AL 36532. Agent—The Amy Rennert Agency, Inc., 98 Main St., Ste. 302, Tiburon, CA 94920. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and editor. Over the Transom Bookstore, Fairhope, AL, owner, 1997—. Mobile Bay Monthly, Mobile, AL, former editor-in-chief; Eastern Shore Quarterly, former publisher and editor; Red Bluff Review, former editor; Southern Bard (literary magazine), University of South Alabama, Mobile, coeditor; has also worked at a variety of odd jobs, including construction company owner; Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts (not-for-profit group), chairperson.
(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café: Anthology of Southern Writers, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café II: Anthology of Southern Writers, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café III: Anthology of Southern Writers, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2004.
The Poet of Tolstoy Park (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.
(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café IV, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
(Editor) A Cast of Characters and Other Stories, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2006.
A Sound Like Thunder (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Cormac: The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2007.
Also author of Like Light around a Bend in the River, Rembrandt the Rocker, A Yin for Change, and a ghostwritten biography of Clarence Darrow.
Sonny Brewer is well known on the Alabama cultural scene. Not only does he own the Over the Transom Bookstore, help to run the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, and promote up-and-coming young writers, he also helps to organize the annual Southern Writers Reading conference every November. This last activity led to Brewer's first published book, Stories from the Blue Moon Café: Anthology of Southern Writers. Three years after Brewer began the Southern Writers Reading conference in 1998, he had the idea of creating a chapbook containing stories submitted by the writers at the 2001 conference. "There was a publisher … in the audience when I spoke the idea," he explained to Southern Scribe Web site interviewer Pam Kingsbury. "He came up to me afterwards and told me to save my money, he'd like to publish the story collection. That was easy."
The first volume of Stories from the Blue Moon Café contains pieces by thirty writers, including best-selling authors W.E.B. Griffin and Pat Conroy and several lesser-known names. Among the works are stories set during the U.S. Civil War, such as "Final Spring" by Marlin Barton and "Killing Stonewall Jackson" by Michael Knight, and tales that take place in the present day, including C. Terry Cline, Jr.'s "S. Trident," a humorous story-in-letters about a man who wins an auction for an abandoned army base and gets more than he bargained for. In addition to the fiction pieces, there are essays by Conroy, who writes about the Citadel military academy, which he attended, and by Rick Bragg, who discusses the "delta blues" music genre; and the prose poem "I Would Like to Go Back as I Am, Now, to You as You Were, Then," by Beth Ann Fennelly. "This is an uncommonly even and rewarding collection," concluded a Kirkus Reviews critic, while a Publishers Weekly contributor described it as "quixotic and eclectic."
Since the success of the first volume of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, Brewer has put together a volume every year. Stories from the Blue Moon Café II: Anthol-ogy of Southern Writers features the comic tale "Rome, Italy," by well-known author Fannie Flagg; two stories about failing marriages, "Choose Your Travel Partner Wisely," by Michelle Richmond, and "Orphans," by Donald Hays; and "Homecoming," a story by William Gay about a man of moderate means and his rich relatives. Gay returns in Stories from the Blue Moon Café III: Anthology of Southern Writers with "Charting the Territories of the Red," a blood-soaked tale about a riverside battle. Previous Stories from the Blue Moon Café contributor Bragg is also featured in this volume, this time with an essay about Mississippi State University head football coach Sylvester Croom, the first African American coach in the Southeastern Conference. Stories from the Blue Moon Café II and Stories from the Blue Moon Café III also met with positive reviews. Booklist contributor Karen Jenkins Holt, writing about the second volume, thought that "readers should find their visit to the Blue Moon Cafe more than satisfying," while John Green, also writing in Booklist, praised the "delightful mix" of pieces in the third volume.
Brewer is also the author of the novel The Poet of Tolstoy Park, which was described by Library Journal contributor Beth E. Andersen as "a powerful prayer to a less complicated way of being in the world." The story begins in 1925, when widower Henry Stuart (an actual, historical figure) is told that he will die of consumption within a year. Henry decides that he does not want to die in Idaho, where he has been living; instead, he packs up his life and moves to Fairhope, Alabama. This town has a reputation for progressiveness, and Henry hopes to spend his time there living in solitude, studying great literature—particularly the works of his favorite author, the nineteenth-century Russian writer Leo Tolstoy—and finding inner peace. His two sons and his best friend, Preacher Will Webb, protest this plan, but Henry will not be dissuaded. He gives away his possessions right down to his shoes and sets out to live the most simple life possible in Fairhope, building his own house (a round concrete-walled cottage that can still be found in the modern-day town) and growing his own food. Two people whom Henry meets along the way, however, pose a serious threat to his solitude, and as much as he tries to push them away, he eventually finds that he needs them. The Poet of Tolstoy Park was praised by critics. A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that Brewer's "heady blend of literary and philosophical references and some fine character writing make this a noteworthy debut," and Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley wrote that "fans of quiet, philosophical novels will find much to enjoy in Henry's musings and revelations."
A Sound Like Thunder is also set in Fairhope, Alabama, this time in 1941. It weaves together the coming-of-age story of Rove McNee, a sixteen-year-old whose father, a boat captain who does commercial work in the Delta, has recently morphed into a mean drunk, and Rove's relationship with the family's German neighbor, Josef Unruh, whose recent strange behavior has Rove's father suspecting him of being a spy. In a contribution for Kirkus Reviews, one writer commented: "There's not much meat in this carefully garnished offering." However, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: "Though the story can buckle beneath the weight of its sentimentality, Brewer's fans will enjoy his graceful crafting of characters." Michael Cart, writing for Booklist, observed: "Brewer is at his eloquent best when he's writing with obvious affection about his setting and about sailing."
Brewer's next book, Cormac: The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing, tells the story of his golden retriever who, while Brewer was away touring the country to promote his book, went missing. The book includes a description of Brewer's hometown in Alabama and a discussion of typical daily life there, including the running of his bookshop and tiny details such as what type of coffee he stocks there. Brewer also introduces readers to Cormac, a loveable but unremarkable pet, who shares his primary characteristics with most other dogs, including loyalty and a fear of thunder. Most reviewers found this early section of the book to be slow moving and to lack any real originality. However, once Brewer receives the phone call letting him know that Cormac has vanished, the story picks up both its pace and its emotional intensity. Brewer spends three weeks searching for his dog, and it is this search that brings the book to life. Dan Forrest, writing for Library Journal, concluded that "surprises and twists pile up as the book comes to a mostly happy ending." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked of the last section of the book that "the amiable, talky style gains a welcome clarity and momentum, leading to a satisfying denouement."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2003, Karen Jenkins Holt, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café II: Anthology of Southern Writers, p. 212; October 15, 2004, John Green, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café III: Anthology of Southern Writers, p. 380; February 15, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park, p. 1058; May 15, 2006, Michael Cart, review of A Sound Like Thunder, p. 21.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café: Anthology of Southern Writers, p. 971; May 15, 2006, review of A Sound Like Thunder, p. 478.
Library Journal, August, 2002, Pam Kingsbury, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, p. 96; December 1, 2004, Beth E. Andersen, review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park, p. 97; September 1, 2007, Dan Forrest, review of Cormac: The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing, p. 124.
Publishers Weekly, July 22, 2002, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, p. 158; September 9, 2002, Bob Summer, "Over the Moon Gathering," p. 20; July 28, 2003, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café II, p. 80; February 14, 2005, review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park, p. 53; May 22, 2006, review of A Sound Like Thunder, p. 27; July 30, 2007, review of Cormac, p. 54.
Bookbrowse,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (February 28, 2005), "Sonny Brewer," biography of and interview with the author.
Over the Transom,http://www.overthetransom.com (May 27, 2005), author Home Page.
Southern Scribe Online,http://www.southernscribe.com/ (May 27, 2005), Pam Kingsbury, "Literature as a Spectator Sport: An Interview with Sonny Brewer."