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The Road Less Traveled

For my thirteenth Christmas, my parents gave me a copy of travel writer Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels which ignited my young imagination like nothing before or since. I was gobsmacked by Halliburton’s global exploits and stunning photography, not to mention a man daring (or foolish) enough to scale the Matterhorn off-season, leap 70 feet into the Mayan sacrificial pool at Chichen Itza and swim the Panama Canal! Such derring-do made headlines around the world and had special resonance because Halliburton, like myself, was a native Tennessean. His tantalizing adventures transported me to worlds well beyond my backyard and set me on a path continuing to this day. Born into a well-to-do Memphis family in 1900, Halliburton took a hiatus...

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History Lessons

Writers of historical fiction love old buildings, especially houses, and I well remember the first one I visited. I grew up in Fountain City, Tennessee and when I was ten I went on a school trip to Blount Mansion (1796) in nearby Knoxville. It’s a handsome but simple structure, its claim to fame being that it was home to Southwest Territorial Governor William Blount and is one of the first frame houses built west of the Allegheny Mountains. A lot of kids were disappointed because it wasn’t a real mansion, but I was enthralled. We were told not to touch anything, but when nobody was looking I stroked the banister. It felt different somehow, maybe because I wanted it to or maybe because I thought I was touching history. What I recall even more were the...

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