While looking through photos I took a few years ago of Eastern Europe, one in particular reminded me of a very special and favorite writer, Anne George. Anne was also the first writer I ever met and she, upon learning I was interested in becoming a writer myself, was full of enthusiasm and encouragement. I attended many of her book signings and fell in love with her Southern Sisters series of cozy mysteries. People often tended to be discouraging to the fledgling me, but not Anne. She may be a huge reason I am writing this blog today. I listened to her and she inspired me to stick with it until I was published.
This post is not about me, however. Anne’s Southern Sisters Series is about two sixty-something, totally opposite sisters who live in Birmingham, Alabama. The narrator, Patricia Anne, is petite, both in height and weight and is a retired school teacher who has been happily married to Fred for forty years. She tries to live a Southern Ladylike life, but it’s not easy to be prim and proper with a sister like hers who calls her, “Mouse.”
Mary Alice is five years older and admits to weighing 250 pounds and, as she says, “is five foot twelve inches tall.” She is known as “Sister” and has been married three times to incredibly wealthy and much older men, all of whom left her widowed, and who are all buried together in Elmwood Cemetery. Mary Alice is constantly on the lookout for a good time and invariably this causes trouble for them both—and hilarity for the reader.
Since the sisters live in Birmingham, Alabama, there are sites mentioned in the books that will be familiar to readers who know the city. But, I have spoken to readers who have visited Birmingham just so they could see those sites. One in particular, mentioned several times in various books is seen from Patricia Anne’s kitchen window; the bare backside of the god Vulcan, a towering monument to the iron and steel industry of the area, sculpted by Giuseppe Moretti in 1904. This sculpture is not fiction, it actually exists. The photo below was taken by Kent Russell and is on Flickr.
This brings me back to perusing my Eastern Europe photos. While in Belgrade, Serbia, I took a photo that reminded me immediately of Anne George’s Vulcan. I’m not meaning to make light of either of the monuments, it’s just the similarity is quite arresting. The Victor Monument in the Belgrade Fortress, sculpted by Ivan Mestrovic (1928) was erected to celebrate the breakthrough of the Thessalonica front in WWI. But, the two sculptures resemble one another, and I couldn’t help smiling as I thought of my friend Anne George.
The Southern Sisters series consists of eight books. For those of you who have not read them, I heartily encourage you to give them a try. They are delightful. In addition, Anne, a poet of some renown, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a book of verse titled Some of It Is True. Sadly, she passed away in 2001 and I was never able to thank her for her inspiration and encouragement, but she and her books will live forever in my heart and on my bookshelves, and in many others’ as well.