Book Review by Roy E. Perry: T.R. Pearson’s “True Cross”


Editor’s Note: The self-described “amateur philosopher of Nolensville,” Roy E. Perry wrote book reviews for “The Tennessean” and “Nashville Banner” for thirty years. In his latest post for “Underground Nashville,” Mr. Perry presents another in a series of reviews of the work of Southern novelist/humorist T.R. Pearson.

In working my way through T. R. Pearson’s thirteen novels, I have now finished his ninth, True Cross (2003). This is another of Pearson’s satirical, hilarious dissections of the denizens of a small backwater Virginia town.

“The bulk of the local rhetorical eloquence,” writes Pearson, “seemed to have gone to Thomas Jefferson, leaving the rest of the population to descend from the sorts of people given to phlegm manipulation and bouts of inarticulate rage.”

Narrated by Paul Tatum, a feckless and failing accountant who prepares “creative tax returns” for those intent on evading IRS audits, the story centers on Stoney, Tatum’s next-door neighbor, a local jackleg handyman and jack-of-all-trades.

The best-drawn character in the novel, Stoney discovers that he bears a spooky resemblance to the hero in Carpaccio’s famous 16th-century masterpiece St. George and the Dragon—a revelation that inspires him to become a knight errant whose mission is to alleviate the sufferings of mankind and rescue damsels in distress.

The plot thickens when Paul and Stoney learn that Maud Hooper, a comely and willowy woman, is being abused by her domineering husband, Douglas, a rich man who has shadowy connections with the New York City mafia.

Goaded to action by Tatum, and inspired by his (Stoney’s) Messiah complex, Stoney sallies forth to right the wrongs as he sees them, an ill-advised moral crusade that ends in tragedy.

As usual in his narratives, Pearson indulges in (seemingly) trifling tangents, so that we all but lose the thread of his disquisitions. After many digressions and rabbit chasings, however, the plot finally reaches its unsettling goal.

Although True Cross is not Mr. Pearson’s best work, it contains enough of his trademark hilarious hi-jinks and satirical portraits of his characters’ quirky idiosyncrasies to evoke numerous laughs.

I may have been dozing, or simply am dense, but I have yet to discover what the title “True Cross” means.

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:

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 (link below) 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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