Nick and Viola: A Kentucky Family Tragedy in the Tobacco Wars (1904-1911), has been selected for sale at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, KY on Nov. 16, 2013.
The Book Fair is Kentucky’s premier literary event and one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
Sponsored by The State Journal, Frankfort’s daily newspaper, and co-sponsored by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the University Press of Kentucky, the Book Fair will be held Saturday, Nov. 16, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Frankfort Convention Center in downtown Frankfort.
About 200 authors will attend the Book Fair to autograph copies of their books, usually published within the 12 months preceding the November Book Fair date. The Book Fair generally attracts 4,000-5,000 visitors and raises about $120,000 annually for school and public libraries in Kentucky.
Nick and Viola is a family story about a neglected period of Kentucky history and traces the impact of the tobacco wars on three generations of the Muntz family.
The story, lost for two generations, recreates a family’s experience before tobacco farmers had any safety net; when monopolies controlled the price of tobacco.
In 1904 the American Tobacco Company (ATC) dropped prices for tobacco below the cost of production. Populist groups formed to “pool” or hold tobacco off the market to force higher prices.
Because pooling was voluntary, tensions arose between neighbors who pooled and those who didn’t.
Vigilante groups, known as “Night Riders,” attacked barns and crops, and sometimes beat and killed those who refused to join the pool.
Nick and Viola and their relatives did not join the pool and suffered the consequences.
A barn full of tobacco burned, a gunshot killed an innocent man, and a family fell apart.
In researching the book, Derr realized the story was more than a family history. “I found that the world of tobacco was a major theme in the book. All the rituals of tobacco—planting, tilling, housing, selling—were essential to the story of my family over three generations.”
The economic and political pressures of the time were also key to the story.
“I knew nothing about the tobacco wars when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s,” Derr said. “I heard stories about night riders, but never knew why they existed. Writing the book was like piecing together the puzzle of my childhood world. I began to understand the forces that created the world in which I grew up.”
About the author
The author, Laura Muntz Derr, grew up in Harrison County and graduated from Harrison County High School in 1964. She is also an alumna of the University of Kentucky (BA in English, 1968; MA in English, 1970).
Today Derr is a retired teaching and marketing professional living in East Tennessee. She taught college English for 15 years in Virginia, Texas and Iowa. While raising a family in Cedar Rapids, she and her husband owned and operated a marketing business for 17 years.
Nick and Viola supports Harrison County Heritage Council
Laura Muntz Derr read from her book and spoke at the Aug. 15, meeting of the Harrison County Historical Society.
After the talk she donated 50 copies of the book to Marilynn Bell of the Harrison County Heritage Council, to be sold as a fundraiser to preserve the Handy House in Harrison County. The book sales raised nearly $500 for the preservation project.
Nick and Viola selected for Talking Books
Nick and Viola has been selected to be recorded for “Talking Books.”
The Kentucky Talking Book Library (KTBL), a service of Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, provides free library service to people who cannot read traditional print because they have a visual, physical or reading disability. Nick and Viola will become available soon as part of the 2013 catalogue.