Journalist Lingan’s engrossing and fast-paced book tells a mesmerizing tale of the characters that put Winchester, Va., on the map. As in many small cities, the residents of Winchester are torn between preserving tradition and encouraging industry and jobs. Freelance writer Lingan was first drawn to Winchester in 2013 to explore country singer Patsy Cline’s hometown, just two hours from Washington, D.C. Once there, he learned about Jim McCoy, a DJ who in 1948 gave Cline a chance to sing on a local radio station when she was 16 years old. Within a decade, McCoy started Winchester Records and opened a country music nightclub called the Troubador, which he operated until his death in 2016. Cline died in a plane crash in 1963, and since then the Troubadour has drawn tourists searching not only for stories about Cline but also looking for an authentic small-town experience. Lingan introduces readers to the town’s notable historical figures, such as politician Harry Flood Byrd, who in the early 20th century helped expand the town’s apple farming industry, and contemporary writer Joe Bagean (Deer Hunting with Jesus) who railed against the first Walmart that opened there. Lingan’s charming book tells of a mountain town’s adapting to change in fast-moving times. (July)
“You end Homeplace thinking that every American town could use a book like this one written about it; every town could afford to be this lovingly but critically seen. Like many of the best country songs, the book is sentimental in a way that makes you wonder why sentiment is such a dirty word.” —New York Times Book Review "Those who pick up Homeplace will find a means to escape the ugly partisan drone of their TV programs, to take refuge in something quieter and more measured on the page. In these times when we learn about the Other more often through derogatory memes than through in-depth reporting, an immersive experience like Homeplace feels exponentially more revelatory than any nonfiction you're likely to have read since the dawn of Twitter. It's a refreshing shift in intellectual gears, and the details about rural American living that Lingan spotlights, even when they depict this society as substantially less than perfect, combine to make for a poignant but satisfying whole: a trip through Winchester, at least as seen, heard, smelled and felt through Lingan's pen, is just plain good for the soul...By searching with an open heart, and writing with a frank honesty, Lingan manages an impossible feat: to make Homeplace an antidote to the divisive anger of today's America and to the unrealistic nostalgia that our current despairs inspire."-- PopMatters “John Lingan writes in penetrating, soulful ways about the intersection between place and personality, individual and collective, spirit and song.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams and The Recovering “Homeplace is a magnificent work, new school journalism with old school heart. The combination of intellectual integrity and human curiosity, human compassion, is as intoxicating as it is educational. This is a book in service of place and time, which is to say, literature.” —Rick Bass, author of The Traveling Feast “Some of the best histories of America are those told in miniature: a forgotten landmark, a local celebrity, a small town in transition. John Lingan's Homeplace is all of that and more: a perfectly rendered elegy for an iconic music venue that tells a much larger story: how our dreams, desperation and hope become transcribed in the landscape that surrounds us and embedded in the songs we pass down as our legacy.” —Colin Dickey, author of Ghostland “John Lingan writes movingly about places that are just up the road yet seem impossibly distant to many. Homeplace offers a vivid portrait of a disappearing America, and a hope that the barriers that divide us can be breached by listening to other people's stories.” —Peter Manseau, author of The Apparitionists “John Lingan is an old-school storyteller, wringing humor and heart out of every little interaction. But Homeplace is so much more than a good yarn. Lingan looks into every crack in the American myth, turning the story of one town over until the beauty, tragedy and contradictions of a huge chunk of national identity become clear. The reporting here is indefatigable, the prose full of music. Lingan achieves that highest, hardest goal of writing: he makes us see the world fresh.” —Lucas Mann, author of Captive Audience “Brimming with humanity, here is a lyrical elegy to a declining Shenandoah honky-tonk, to the country singer who drove us "Crazy" and broke our hearts, and to the slow, inexorable erosions of modernity in one little mountaintop town. John Lingan writes with feeling, a sharp eye, and an open heart.” —Brantley Hargrove, author of The Man Who Caught the Storm
The struggles of a town in transition reveal ongoing changes in American life.Making his literary debut, journalist Lingan creates a tender, elegiac portrait of Winchester, Virginia, the Shenandoah town where Patsy Cline made her debut and where honky-tonk—a rueful brand of country music—rang out in working-class dance halls, bars, and clubs. Honky-tonk, writes the author, "is the genre of heartaches, setbacks, and lonely, regret-filled nights. Honky-tonk country is the sound of rural-rooted people taking their first difficult, stumbling steps toward the city, and it is not often the music of triumph." Jim McCoy, the singer/songwriter who first put Cline on the air and who played guitar for many of her performances, is one of several residents Lingan profiles as he reveals "the never-ending American fight between commerce and culture" experienced by Winchester as it aspired to achieve "tourist-trap respectability" after its demise as the flourishing apple-growing center of the country. McCoy, who had been a popular entertainer, never attained Cline's success. By the time Lingan met him, he owned a local nightclub where he hosted karaoke and held a summer barbecue featuring smoked meat, a potluck smorgasbord, and a roster of hopeful local performers. Cline's former home, on the other hand, was turned into a museum, and the town celebrates her in an annual festival. "Patsy," writes the author, "is the patron saint of people who feel kicked to the curb." Those people still live in Winchester; those in the lowest economic strata are barely subsisting, with rising real estate prices, health care costs, and intrusive gentrification posing often insurmountable challenges. At McCoy's summer barbecue, a donation basket collects neighbors' contributions for his and his wife's medical bills. At the same time, hefty funding has turned Old Town Winchester into a walking mall, with espresso bars and sleek restaurants. Lingan resists romanticizing Winchester's rural past; yet, he admits, modernization, change, and loss "is the most American song of all."An empathetic look at a community forging its future as it keeps a tenuous hold on its past.
Exploring the musical history of Winchester, VA, journalist Lingan uses the lens of Jim McCoy, local honky-tonk owner and DJ, who first gave Virginia Patterson Hensley, aka Patsy Cline, airtime on country radio, to pen a requiem to Americana, a tribute to a small mountaintop town, honky-tonk, and a country singer who died too soon. McCoy's hilltop honky-tonk bar becomes a backdrop as the author extensively documents its down-home barbecues, late-night karaoke, and the metamorphosis of a community in light of modernity. Winchester, situated in the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley, could be called a microcosm of America. Classism, racism, and immigration are themes the author attempts to develop via cross-sectional interviews; however, these conversations are too brief to offer adequate context to complex issues. The author's empathy for the marginalized population of Winchester is evident; however, his assessment is limited as an outsider with inadequate research. VERDICT Readers interested in Patsy Cline and the Shenandoah Valley will appreciate the history and in-depth details of various localities.—Angela Forret, Clive, IA