"The Front Porch Prophet is a fine piece of southern fiction—by turns poignant and hilarious. Atkins knows his front porches; the rustics who inhabit his novel are real people who walk right off the page, but he's also had some book learning...in the rich, lucid prose, one finds moments of breathtaking elegance.
With a knack for storytelling, a sly sense of humor, and a Faulkneresque sensibility, Ray Atkins enters the literary scene with aplomb, and he plans to stay."
~ Melanie Sumner, Author of The School Of Beauty And Charm & Polite Society.
“Raymond Atkins tells a story at once comic and deeply tender, a story of friendship, love, unexpected brotherhood, and redemption. The world he paints is so full of wonderful eccentrics you’ll wish you could stop off for a cup of bad coffee at The Wages of Sin Are Fried Chicken Diner. I don’t have to be a prophet to predict you’ll adore this book.”
~ Man Martin, Author of Days Of The Endless Corvette
“Atkins is the new Twain… This is what you get when you blend the best sense of humor in the world and the biggest heart: The Front Porch Prophet.”
~ Ken Anderson, Author of Someone Bought The House On The Island and The Statue Of Pan
“In The Front Porch Prophet, Raymond L. Atkins whisks the reader into a world of Southern quirkiness, a world that is well-populated by many novelists and story-tellers from the Deep South. The novel is reminiscent of the longtime favorites coming from such Georgia penners as Erskine Caldwell and Flannery O’Connor but with Atkins’ unique voice leading the way into and through the tradition of quirky characters doing quirky things in quirky ways.”
~ Kenneth Robbins, Author of The City Of Churches and Buttermilk Bottoms
“It’s creative and clever beyond comment. I’m simply blown away. I laughed out loud, chuckled, grinned, felt sad, found hope, and burst into tears. That’s pretty powerful writing to my way of thinking.”
~ Terre Gorham, Editor, Memphis Downtowner Magazine
“The Front Porch Prophet is a deep poignant look at friendship in a small Georgia town… Fans will appreciate this insightful glimpse at life in the south where sipping Georgia ice tea on a cabin’s porch might be dangerous as anything can fall from the sky; just ask the cops.”
~ Harriet Klausner, Gotta Write Network
“The Front Porch Prophet is an intriguing and clever tale, highly recommended for community library fiction collections.”
~ Midwest Book Review
“Atkin’s writing is impeccable, and he is clearly in his element with this wonderful piece of Southern fiction.”
“I really enjoyed this book, and I hated to reach the last page.”
~ Ferris Yawn, North Georgia Living Magazine
“There is much to enjoy in this wonderful book. . . The characters are fascinating, quirky, and they come in and out of the story with ease. The dialogue is some of the best ever written. It is natural, true to character, and so funny in places readers will be hard pressed to stifle their laughter when finishing the book at work because they couldn’t bear to leave the story at home.”
~Maryann Miller, Blogger News Network
“This is an absolutely wonderful novel. . . It is so wildly humorous, so unrealistic, and so down-to-earth at the same time, so gosh darn in-your-face enjoyable.”
~ Brad, B&B Ex Libris
“. . . the funniest book centering on the inevitable death of one of the central characters you will read in a long time. Yes, it’s a book about death, but it’s also about life.”
~ Michael Scott Cain, Rambles.net
“This may very well be my favorite novel of 2008. I can’t recommend it enough.”
~ The Literate Housewife Review (December 2008)
“. . . no one should miss out on this touching tale of friendship, family, and Southern culture.”
~ Brooke Carleton, Apex Reviews
“Atkins writes with a sly wink . . . a wonderful story of friendship, personal growth, sacrifice, and love . . . made me both laugh and cry. . .”
~ Dawn, She Is Too Fond of Books (November 2008)
“Once I was drawn in I had trouble putting The Front Porch Prophet down. I loved the characters; I loved the town . . . I was sad that it was over.”
~ Cam Robbins, NovelSpot
“Mr. Atkins has written a heartwarming, witty, Southern tale with likeable characters that will stay with the reader long after turning the last page of this wonderful debut novel.”
~ Kimberly E. Logan, Portland Book Review
THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS MEANDER FROM the flatlands of the South to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They were ancient when first discovered by the human species—venerable even as age is measured in geologic time—and have endured with injured grace the attentions of that destructive race.
In its impetuous youth, the range was formidable. Now, wind and water have brought the mountains low, although they are, in their fashion, still as wild as their larger western cousins. Lookout Mountain originates in south-central Tennessee, wanders west across northwest Georgia, and terminates in the farmlands of northeast Alabama. It is considered by some to be the southernmost principal mass of the Appalachian chain. To others, it is home.
A thousand souls reside in the town of Sequoyah, Georgia, sixty miles southwest of Chattanooga. Located in a mountain valley surrounded by peaks, Sequoyah does not differ significantly from countless other small communities dotting the Southern landscape.
It has a store and a gas station, a diner and four churches. It boasts a school, a post office, a traffic light, and a town hall. There is a doctor, a lawyer, and an Indian chief—or at least, that is what he claims.
Over the years, however, the settlement has developed a character unique to itself. The whole has exceeded the sum of the parts. The individuals who resided there have left traces, pieces of the patchworks of their lives. A child’s name. A house. The lay of a fencerow. A snowball bush. This is the way of towns and of those who people them. These are the relics of security, for it is not human nature to live alone. One such memento of Sequoyah’s living past is A.J. Longstreet. His mother, Rose, succumbed to a venomous cancer when he was an infant. She was in hideous pain through much of her pregnancy but staved off the inevitable until her child was born. Her husband, John Robert Longstreet, was desolate. He paid the heavy price of sentience with his sorrow.
Time heals most wounds, but by no means all. On the day after Rose was laid to rest, John Robert quietly rocked his son. Rose had named the baby Arthur John after her father and her husband. It was a warm evening early in the spring, and the scent of wisteria pervaded the air. That aroma would sadden John Robert for the remainder of his days, the lying smell of illusory hope, the cloying sweetness forever tied to memories of the funeral parlor, the mound, and the gaping hole in the red Georgia clay. He sat with his mother, Clara, on the porch of the old family home place, in which had resided many generations of Longstreets. The sky to the west bled ruby into the night. John Robert sighed, kissed the baby, and offered him to Clara. She looked at him, discerned his fatal inten3 tions, and refused the bundle.
“Take the boy, Mama,” John Robert said woodenly, his voice a bottomless melancholy. He was not a coward but had chosen the craven path, and he had a long journey ahead to regain his place at Rose’s side