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A Valleyplace
published in 2009
202 pages
, hard cover

A Valleyplace cover

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Slim McCall’s fifth adventure is truly a ballad of remembrances as the tall, thin Mississippian journeys up the Mississippi Valley in the shadow of the legendary river to fulfill a promise made years before, and keep an appointment with destiny.

However, it is Slim’s longstanding friend, the ill-fated Amanda Tidwell Shaw, called Arkansas, who early on is identified as a maestra en vihuela— a master of the Spanish guitar — who drives this timeless river story.

It is a girl named Arkansas, the world-acclaimed guitarist, who was fated to go “out there” . . . “beyond us” . . . “to that far country” where few are so privileged. Further, it was intimated, long ago, that there is something “truly tragical” about this innocent, beautiful, and endearing child.

A Valleyplace, at heart, is a river story in the tradition of Mark Twain’s classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” which, according to the great novelist Ernest Hemingway, “marked the “birth” of American Literature.

The story, like the currents of the great river, moves majestically to its endpoint. It has the elements of a great drama and the force of a great tragedy — another triumph by Payne!

• • • • • • • • •

He remembered how she took the perfectly preserved guitar out of the bag, carefully laid it aside, and took her time to fold the leather covering and place it on the wooden floor. She then picked up the guitar, began strumming its strings, then leaned back and braced her heavy, square shoulders and back against the wooden support of the open gazebo.

She looked at Slim and said, “This song is called Cara Mia . . . and I dedicate it to Slim McCall — the only brother I’ll ever have.”

She first began to hum the melody as she strummed the strings of the guitar with fingers that took on a life of their own. Her fingers touched the strings with delicacy and precision. Then, she stopped humming and just played. It was as though her fingers and face separated from the rest of her body and were synchronized perfectly.

Arkansas had been instantly transported to another world — another place.

an excerpt from
A Valleyplace