PHOTO: John Neely Davis reads from his latest novel, “The Chapman Legacy,” at his daughter’s house on Thursday, July 5, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
After a career in land acquisition spanning several states, a Franklin author has penned his third novel, “The Chapman Legacy,” which was released June 20 by Five Star Publishing.
The piece of historic fiction paints a multi-generational tale of a Tennessee transplant, beginning in the New Mexico Territory of the late 1800s.
Author John Neely Davis has lived in Franklin for 45 years. He became fascinated with the Western legacy during his youth in West Tennessee and Texas.
From inside daughter Cindy Massey’s house in south Franklin, Davis, 80, described his father’s stories of growing up in Oklahoma and his boyhood reading western novelists Zane Grey and Ernest Haycox.
“To a kid that’s ten years old, and you don’t have a television, that’s as good as it gets, is Zane Grey,” he said, eyes sparkling.
Davis self-published his first novel,“The Sixth William,” in 2012. That book’s prequel, “Bear Shadow,” won the Williamson County Library’s Janice Keck Literary Award for Drama, earning him a publishing deal from the library in 2014.
Both books are set partially in Tennessee’s landscape and Appalachia.
Continuing in a similar vein, the book begins in Tennessee, spanning out to New Mexico.
He based one of the book’s characters loosely on Korean War prisoner Franklin “Jack” Chapman, who was wounded and captured by the Chinese during the war and struggled to assimilate back into culture upon his return to the United States.
“In the back of my head, I’ve got all this Western stuff piled up in here, and since I’m not getting any younger, I’ve got to get this stuff out of my head,” Davis said.
He draws inspiration from novelist Cormac McCarthy: “Nobody can write darker than he can, and nobody can have characters that are as violent and as deep as his characters,” he said.
In the 377-page novel, “There is redemption at the end, but it’s not the kind where everybody lives happily ever after,” he warned.
For Davis, writing about three generations in a family was a way to examine cause and effect.
“I hope that people know the things that we do today, they carry on forward,” he said.
Davis will be available to discuss the book at an author event at Parnassus Books in Green Hills on Saturday, July 14 beginning at 2 p.m.