Book review by Roy E. Perry: T. R. Pearson’s “A Short History of a Small Place”

Editor’s Note: Underground Nashville is concerned about the wholesale devaluing of literature in our society, and trying, in our modest way, to resist it. This week we are doing so by presenting a series of book reviews by Roy E. Perry, who wrote reviews for The Tennessean and Nashville Banner for 30 years. Mr. Perry’s reviews (this week and periodically in the future) will point you toward enriching works of literature you may have missed. Here is his latest review:

“A Short History of a Small Place
By T. R. Pearson
Reviewed by Roy E. Perry

T. R. Pearson’s A Short History of a Small Place is set in the fictional town of Neely, North Carolina, where many of its inhabitants go “from reasonably normal to unquestionably insane without ever pausing at peculiar . . . . The whole of the state was warned against long stopovers in Neely since life tended to ‘bore folks to distraction.'” The novel, however, is anything but boring.

Many of the Neelyites actually do pause at peculiar, including Miss Myra Angelique Pettigrew, a recluse who finally commits suicide by jumping off the town’s water tower, and a mischievous chimpanzee dressed in a blue blazer, a porkpie hat, a plaid sportcoat, and black Keds sneakers. The only clothing he didn’t wear was pants, so naturally he was called “Mr. Britches.” Folks came from miles around to admire (at least for a while) “the monkey” as he scurried up a flagpole and turned his lips inside out at the crowd.

The novel features numerous tall tales typical of Southern oral history: the paintbrush imbroglio, the great pigeon fiasco, the soured milk scandal, the toilet seat dilemma, the monkey’s urination inundation, the duck imbroglio, and the Bridget mishap (the latter describing a defunct guinea pig occupying the coffin of the defunct Miss Myra Angelique Pettigrew). Fervent prayers had been offered up to the Almighty for the ailing guinea pig, but alas, their invocations were sadly unavailing.

I give four stars to A Short History of a Small Place (1985), the first novel published by T. R. Pearson, when he was 29 years old. This pastiche of short stories loosely joined together bears the marks of an amateur writer. But not to worry! The novel is side-splittingly hilarious; the funniest, most entertaining and enjoyable novel I’ve read since Starbuck O’Dwyer’s Red Meat Cures Cancer. The author admirably records the “voice,” “view,” and “atmosphere” of a small Southern town—the antics and high jinks of its quirky, gossipy, and litigious characters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: T[homas] R[eid] Pearson is the author of a baker’s dozen novels. He was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1956, and now lives in Virginia. Critics compare him to Lee Smith, William Faulkner, and Mark Twain.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit and/or the page on Facebook:

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit and consider making a financial contribution. Any amount is very helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


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