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General Fiction Review    


Wings of Morning
by William Cobb
Crane Hill Press, 2001
ISBN: 1-57587-177-7

  William Cobb sings a song, but it is more than a song. It is a symphony with repetitions of highs and lows, cadences, refrains, all of the complex rhythms that make up a great story-telling feast.

William Cobb creates a symphony of people inner-acting on the stage of Alabamaís Black Belt in the early 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement is gaining steam among the black churches and when the whites are reacting to the marches and when the marches are growing in number and size and importance. It is a tale of the mingling of blacks and whites among themselves long before the Civil Rights Movement was even heard of, when people were just people.

As in his previous, Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, A Walk Through Fire, Demopolis-native Cobb generates dramatic action, creates a community of characters, and dares the reader to plow straight into the burning furnace of conflict.

Wings of Morning, which stands alone as a fine novel, is also a sequel to A Walk Through Fire. Some of the main characters from the earlier work become background people in this story. The characters of Wings sear the pages: Rachel, who has fled to New Orleans where she learned voodoo and who returns to Hammond, Alabama, where she becomes victim of Billy Singletonís lust; Billy Singleton, redneck known as Billy Simpleton, filled with anger and hate, who becomes obsessed by Rachelís curse; Rachelís brother Carter, who learns that his and Rachelís true father is the segregationist governor of the state. And there are more, including Dooly Legrand, the Episcopal minister son of Governor Oscar Legrand, and Kitty, the country music singer who is having an affair with Dooly.

Not unlike the building of violence, showing the hatred as it seethes through the community, as William Faulkner unleashed venom through the world of Yoknapawtapha County in Light in August, William Cobbís action ebbs and flows, like the river that becomes a character in Wings of Morning.  After Billy Simpleton is cursed by Rachel, he seethes personally, feeling a catfish growing in his belly. The teachers of literature should have a heyday working with the symbols through the southern images with which the author plays throughout his story. Sometimes it is a bit overdone. At first I was again overcome by Cobbís use of ghosts, but he brings magic and realism together in the end, tying his verbal string into a neat knot.

While I had to look closer at the text from time to time when the author changes tenses from present to past, overall it grabs just right -- the perfect touch. The action is as immediate as today. The words are strong, the intensity powerful Although violence is heaped upon violence, the poor souls wandering through a wilderness of dishonor among preachers and thieves, in the end there is redemption soaring high above the Black Belt on wings of morning.

Wayne Greenhaw
Southern Scribe Reviews

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