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By D.G. Martin D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit unctv.org/ncbookwatch.

A voice like Sheriff Andy

By D.G. Martin Posted July 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Who is going to take the place of Andy Griffith as North Carolina’s modest, aw’shucks, good-old-boy, mountain-accented celebrity?

My nominee: Ron Rash.

Maybe you don’t know about him yet. But this time next year, when the movie based on his best-selling novel “Serena” is playing in theaters across the country, you will be beaming with pride about the success of this North Carolina writer.

In the meantime you can get to know him on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch Friday July 6 at 930PM and again on Sunday July 8 at 5PM.

Rash will be talking about his latest novel, “The Cove,” set in North Carolina’s mountainous Madison County during World War I. The lead character, Laurel Shelton lives with her brother in a mountain cove. The dark shadows that cover that cove seem to confirm its reputation as a cursed place and Laurel’s reputation as a witch. Rash weaves a dark and compelling story of Laurel’s frustrating search for an ordinary and happy situation.

“The Cove” is a bestseller and has gained widespread critical praise like this from Amazon editor Joe Foro. “In the lyrical prose that won him such acclaim with ‘Serena,’ Ron Rash washes this novel’s languid spaces with bucketfuls of atmospheric dread, pushing his characters into the currents of their fate with determined empathy. Murky and deliberate, ‘The Cove’ solidifies Rash as master of modern Southern Gothic.”

We might be talking more about the success of  “The Cove” if were not for the excitement about the upcoming movie based on “Serena.” The filming for the movie in The Czech Republic is complete and it should be ready for theaters sometime next year.

Recently I asked Rash how closely he watched over the making of the movie. Rash said that based on what he had heard from other authors it just made more sense “to stay clear.”

Rash acknowledges that some people are asking “Aren’t you afraid of what they’ll do to your book?”
He says there is an obvious answer. “They’re not going to do a thing to my book. They’re not going to change one word. But I am human. If they turned Serena into a vampire or a mummy or whatever, a zombie, I wouldn’t be too happy about that.

“But the great thing is that I feel like that there are some really talented people involved. Susanne Bier, a Danish director, made a magnificent movie called ‘In a Better World.’ She’s a serious director, so that’s great.

“The cast is good, particularly Jennifer Lawrence, who did such a great job in ‘Winter’s Bone,’ though she’s better known for the ‘Hunger Games.’ But the performance that really impressed me was ‘Winter’s Bone.’

Rash did give one of the actors some important help.

“It was funny,” says Rash. “It actually involved Toby Jones, a very gifted actor. He played Truman Capote. He was in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.’ I had seen a number of films by him.”

Jones, a British actor, plays a North Carolina mountain sheriff in Serena.

The film’s screenwriter, Christopher Kyle, told Rash that Jones “would like to talk to you a little bit.”

Rash agreed to talk to Jones. “He called me from London. We were talking and it just seemed like the conversation really wasn’t going anywhere that specific. He asked a few general questions about the sheriff. But what I came to realize was that evidently the screenwriter had said [to Jones], ‘If you want to hear an Appalachian accent, call this guy Ron Rash.’”

So when the movie comes out next year and you hear Toby Jones playing the sheriff and talking in a way that rings true to the North Carolina mountains, sounding like Ron Rash, I bet it will also make you think about the same kind of aw’shucks voice that came from another fictional North Carolina sheriff, Sheriff Andy, and the actor who played him and always made us proud to live in his home state.

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