To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, N.C., co-owner (with Emoke B'Racz) Linda Barrett Knopp and her husband Brian Lee Knopp enlisted10 western North Carolina writers to write a chapter each for a collaborative serial novel set in Malaprop’s hometown. The result, Naked Came the Leaf Peeper, is an R-rated comic romp through Asheville and environs involving an assassin, a detective, and a bunch of mysterious deaths linked to a land deal gone bad.
“Brian started the book out as a PG affair,” Linda Barrett Knopp told PW, “but it quickly turned R-rated. The authors told us this was the most fun writing they’d had in years. I’ve read it probably a dozen times and I still laugh out loud.”
The rules were simple: each author wrote a chapter, had only two weeks to complete it, and none were told who had written the previous chapters (“Though the authors had a vague, unconfirmed idea of who was working on the project,” said Linda Barrett). Brian Lee, who wrote Malaprop’s bestselling book of 2010 and 2011, Mayhem in Mayberry: Misadventures of a P.I. in Southern Appalachia (Cosmic Pigbite Press) wrote the first chapter, and Linda Barrett wrote the penultimate chapter and serves as editor. The other ten authors, in chapter order, are John P. McAfee, Susan Reinhardt, Vicki Lane, Tommy Hays, Wayne Caldwell, Fred Chappell, Alan Gratz, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Gene Cheek, and Tony Earley, with an afterward by Charles F. Price. As the book is intended as a fundraiser, everyone involved worked for free, including the local artist who provides the cover art.
The title of the book comes from Brian Lee’s inspiration, a collaborative novel by a group of Florida writers called Naked Came the Manatee, who themselves took the name from the 1969 erotic spoof Naked Came the Stranger. The working title that the writers saw, however, was Sodom, Cried the Leaf Peeper! “I think the working title may have contributed to the bawdy humor in the book,” said Linda Barrett.
Knopp reports that Leaf Peeper (“a term for the people who come to our area in the Fall to see the foliage turning color”) was shipped from Lightning Source earlier this week and she has started to handsell the title. A release party is in the works for April, and the entire authorship will be in attendance at the Carolina Mountain Literary Festival in September. Orders are available on the Malaprop’s website.