The Great American Road Trip
Books: Sister Jane’s Foxhunting Books by Rita Mae Brown and Mrs. Murphy Mysteries by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown ( a cat)
Guest Post by Paula K. Price
Back to Ole Virginny
I don’t know when I first got hooked, but for one who reads almost exclusively nonfiction it was, at first, my dirty little secret. Now that I’ve reached an age where I have given up pretensions of intellectual snobbery, I can freely and unashamedly admit that I read cat mysteries, in particular Rita Mae & Sneaky Pie Brown’s plethora of offerings.
A neighbor in Flagstaff, AZ jokingly gave me my first cat mystery because I love cats and over the years have collected an assortment of stray and rescue cats. One evening after a long day, when I was too tired to read one of my weightier tomes, I picked up the stupid cat book. By 1 a.m. I had finished the last chapter. I had been transported to Crozet, Virginia and made several new friends, Harry, Fair, Boom Boom and, most importantly Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, the cats and the corgi, Tucker. OK, so the animals talk to each other. This is not great literature nor do I suspect it is intended to be. It is well written escape.
What does this have to do with travel? Over the years, through many twists of fate, much has changed in my life. For several years now I have lived in Virginia. I have been to Crozet, Virginia and Virginia’s horse country. I’ve come to understand that Rita Mae Brown has more to offer than a pleasant little escape. She offers an insight into a part of Virginia’s personality that is seldom understood by outsiders.
Most people come to Virginia to see Civil War (War of Northern Aggression to Virginians) battlefields, the homes of our founding fathers and Robert E. Lee standing on every corner. Virginia, the “Old South”. Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!
Except for General Lee, it is all here, but there is much more. Virginians will show you the “Old South” and their love of tradition but look a little deeper and you will find an underlying earthiness. It comes from a love and respect of the land and the natural beauty of Virginia.
Brown’s fiction writing captures the combination of that often-stuffy rigid tradition and the earthiness that is Virginia. The cat mysteries are set in Crozet, a small town outside of Charlottesville. The reality does not match the quaintness of the stories, but Crozet is an interesting combination of old and new, upscale, traditional and country life reality.
If you want a real treat and glimpse of some of the “real” Virginia read one of Brown’s Sister Jane’s Foxhunting Mysteries and head deeper into Virginia’s horse country. I always thought of fox hunting as barbaric but a little education here, helps clear up some misconceptions.
Skip the fox hunting if you want and just enjoy the peaceful foothills of central Virginia.
You will also find many wonderful little wineries there. Virginia is second only to California in number of wineries.
I think Virginia’s new travel slogan should be “Visit Virginia and Get Back to Earth”.
It should be noted Rita Mae Brown is a very interesting person and has written much more than cat and fox hunting mysteries.
Paula Katherine Price, despite the inherent disadvantage of being my younger sister, has carved out several important careers over the years, including running a bookstore. The bookstore, is, alas, defunct. However she now serves as executive director of the Mental Health Association of Virginia. An avid historian and traveler, she particularly loves road trips and has explored just about every corner of Virginia.
Thank you so much, Paula, for sharing your knowledge of Virginia, and your not-surprising knowledge of books written by cats. (Photo by Vera Marie Badertscher, all rights reserved).
Now it is the reader’s turn. Several years ago a friend recommended Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown’s mysteries to me as good airplane reading. Unfortunately, nobody told me she would make such a good guide to Virginia, and I still have not read her books. Any other good books about Virginia that you would like to recommend? (Biographies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Robert E. Lee do not count.)