Tuesday, 02 July 2019 15:21

Leath Library hosts co-founder of Richmond Observer for book signing July 15

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ROCKINGHAM — The Thomas H. Leath Memorial Library is hosting a Meet the Author and Book Signing event for former area resident and co-founder of the Richmond Observer Lance Jenkins, whose debut novel, "A New Requiem," releases this month. 

The event will be held just three days after the book’s release on Monday, July 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham. It will be the first event on Jenkins’ book tour following its release. 

“I am so excited to come back to Richmond County, and for it to be my first event after the book’s release is very appropriate,” said Jenkins. “Richmond [County] will always be special to me. I only lived in Rockingham for a short time, but I rediscovered my desire for creativity there, and it became one of the most special places in my life.” 

In Jenkins’ debut novel, "A New Requiem," a 17-year old boy is murdered, and a gay community chorus director and teacher is wrongly accused. The small, radically-fundamental town mounts against the alleged perpetrator, whose identity so starkly contrasts with the community’s social norms, and a local defense attorney must sacrifice everything to save the man he knows is innocent. A thrilling story of good and evil, A New Requiem entertains with whimsical humor while constantly pulling at the heartstrings in a call for empathy and understanding toward things different than what we are used to.  

“If you know my background, you know I am from a small town,” said Jenkins, “but I want to make clear that the fictional town of Freeden [from the novel] is not a reflection on the town I grew up in…or any town I know of, for that matter. Freeden, the antagonist, is merely a collection of people who exhibit the very worst of bigotries and unfair prejudices. Think of the most hateful, negative, narrow-minded person or persons you know. This town is full of them.” 

Jenkins also noted that despite the fact the book is a work of fiction, the character Dwight Kerry was inspired by a real-life eastern North Carolina native, Dwight Berry. 

For many years, the man who became known by so many as “Mr. Berry” taught at Roanoke Rapids High School and served as the choir director and organist at Rosemary United Methodist Church. Jenkins met Berry in 2010, and the two became friends soon thereafter. When Jenkins moved away from the area in 2014 for a job, he and Berry did not stay in touch regularly for about three years; however, the two reconnected in late 2017 and Jenkins informed Berry that he was writing a novel with a main character largely based on him. 

Jenkins says he found out about halfway through writing the novel that Berry had passed away after a battle with cancer. 

“I hope that in  "A New Requiem," I made the character Dwight Kerry the way Dwight [Berry] was to most of those who knew him. He was a good man, stylish in his own way, uniquely gifted, multi-faceted, funny, and well-respected.” 

Jenkins thinks the message behind "A New Requiem" is very much one Berry would have believed in: empathize and try to understand others, even if they’re different from you. And while he knows there is an obvious message of social justice embedded in the plot, Jenkins maintains that the thrilling storyline is the key component to his debut novel. 

“I believe it’s an incredibly good story that people will really enjoy,” he said. “Readers will be treated with a classic battle of good and evil, a crime thriller, a love story, and a life lesson — all in one.”  

As far as the central theme of empathy and understanding, Jenkins has said that he hopes readers will appreciate the message in today’s often contentious social climate. 

“I believe the message in "A New Requiem" is more pertinent now than ever before. It’s time to end prejudices toward things that are different from what we understand. Often times, our fallacies need to be right in front of us…some people need to see how ugly they are. Perhaps when they do, they’ll realize a need for change in the way they treat others.” 

The Meet the Author/Book Signing event presented by the Thomas H. Leath Memorial Library is free and open to the public. "A New Requiem" is available on July 12 in bookstores everywhere and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers. Hardcover and paperback copies will be available for sale on the night of the signing/social event. 

For more information about Jenkins, visit his web site at blancejenkins.com. For more information on the Thomas H. Leath Memorial Library, visit srls.libguides.com.