Sterling Watson ’69

Emeritus Professor of Literature & Creative Writing
Co-director, Writers in Paradise

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Weep No More My Brother; The CallingBlind Tongues; Deadly Sweet; and Sweet Dream Baby.

Degrees

M.A., University of Florida
B.A., Eckerd College

Sterling Watson

Sterling Watson is a fiction and screenwriter. He is the author of five novels: Weep No More My Brother; The CallingBlind Tongues; Deadly Sweet; and Sweet Dream Baby. Weep No More My Brother was nominated for the Rosenthal Award given annually by the National Academy Institute for Arts and Letters. He is a co-author with Dennis Lehane of the screenplay, Bad Blood. Watson is the recipient of three Florida Fine Arts Council Awards for fiction writing. His short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, The Los Angeles Times Book ReviewThe Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Southern Review. His main professional interests are fiction, play and screenwriting, American and British and European short and long fiction, and the theatre. He served for five years as the fiction editor of The Florida Quarterly, and taught secondary English and later fiction writing at Raiford Prison.

Selected Excerpts

Weep No More My Brother

Set in the rural South, Sterling Watson’s Weep No More My Brother is a stark, brilliantly told story of a young man who believes he can redeem himself only by avenging the death of the brother he loved.

When Farel Odum comes to a North Florida state prison as a teacher, he does so with the intention of seeking the death of an inmate who ten years before had murdered his older brother Charles in cold blood. It was Charles whom Farel adored and in whose shadow he had willingly lived. However, once absorbed into the violent and uncompromising pattern of prison life, Farel is compelled to do much more than he had personally planned.

Weep No More My Brother is also the story of the love both brothers have for one woman, Clare. Poignant, true, it is a love that is unforgettable.

Only the living know sorrow, pain, remorse. There are times when only the dead can return the gift of life. It is Charles who, when vengeance is finally wrought and guilt laid to rest, can say to the surviving younger man he also loved, “weep no more my brother.”

“Sterling Watson writes with power, directness, urgency and eloquence–a rare combination which makes Weep No More My Brother not only instructive but, rarer,entertaining. I suspect it will also prove memorable, which is rarest of all.”

–Reynolds Price, author of
The Surface of Earth
and A Long and Happy Life

© Sterling Watson

The Calling

The Calling is the story of Blackford “Toad” Turlow, an ambitious, impressionable young man who aspires to be a writer. The voice singing in his head is that of Eldon Odom, a famous–sometimes infamous–novelist to whom Toad apprentices himself.

In the beginning, Toad devours every morsel from Odom, both words and actions. But along the way he learns far more than the art of crafting fiction. He discovers that behind Odom’s genius is a warped human being who abuses himself and those around him with alcohol, drugs and debauchery. Instead of teaching his eager disciples about writing, Odom uses them to fulfill his base desires.

But Toad also listens carefully to “The Old Man,” the writer who years before was Odom’s own mentor and who describes himself as “just the strange boy who cared to write things down.” Toad is also influenced by the echoes of his reckless, lovable dead sister, Trish; Odom’s lean and lusty girlfriend, Linda Briggs; Odom’s loving and patient wife, Missy Sully; and by Toad’s own girlfriend, the knowing Ardis Baines.

From this boozy, brilliant cast of characters, Toad eventually learns that a man and his art are two different things, that the worth of one may far exceed the other, and that there are dangerously thin lines between creativity and madness, between dedication and obsession. The Calling is a beautifully written and thoroughly engrossing novel of passion and purpose–one that tells much about the calling and the called.

The Calling is the best book ever written about that peculiar American invention–the creative writing class. With the portrait of Eldon Odom, I think Mr. Watson has provided us with an archetype of the American novelist–dissolute and self-absorbed, brilliant and on fire with his own genius.”

–Pat Conroy

© Sterling Watson

Blind Tongues

For Merelene Durham it’s been fifteen years of coping, of determination not to lose her purchase on this world, a world that has become almost unendurable since her rakish husband, Mayfield, fled after encephalitis turned their son Roland’s mind into a strange, shell-holed country.

Blind Tongues is the story of what happens when Mayfield unexpectedly returns, and his conviction that a newly made fortune can make Roland whole again — of a brilliant local attorney whose body bears the scars of aviation heroics in World War II — and finally of Merelene herself, who must choose between these two competitors in love while trying to accept the sweet simplicity of her ageless son.

Blind Tongues is a stunning novel. Sterling Watson creates a woman of great richness in a prose that is at once movingly lyrical and lucid. His voice rises to that rare level of genius that characterizes only our very best novelists. Blind Tongues is a story with power and suspense at every turn, and gold in every sentence.”

–James Hall, author of Under Cover of Daylight

© Sterling Watson

Deadly Sweet

Eddie Priest, lawyer turned boat salesman, was up on the bow doing something with a wrench. Corey liked his calm, handsome face. It was cool under the big tin roof of the marina and the moving air carried the smell of salt and gasoline and mildewed canvas. She liked it. She thought about stepping on a boat and just sailing away. Away from all the trouble she’d found…

When Corey Darrow’s body was dragged from the canal where she had drowned in her truck, her hand was still clutching a cocked .357 Magnum. She had come to Eddie for help, a black Irish beauty who was being harassed for raising the ecological flag in the rich dark ooze of Okee Country–land of sugar cane, migrant workers, neo-colonialists, and rattle snakes as big around as your thigh. A botanist had disappeared after making inquiries at her Water Management office. Corey asked too many questions of the wrong people, the menacing phone calls began, and she suspected that she was being followed. Running on regret for not being a serious threat, Eddie Priest drove to Okee City to check out how she had died.

He was drowning Wild Turkey in the Cane Cutter Bar when Corey’s double walked in–Sawnie Darrow, a senior aide to the governor. She had the same million-dollar voice as her sister and a dangerous taste for the truth. She didn’t care about Eddie’s wife, searching for her center in California, or his vaunted football fame. She wanted him to find out if her sister was murdered. This time Eddie couldn’t say no…

His first stop was Harry W. Feather, whose big white Caddy, Buck knife, and slimy silk shirts propped up his fantasy of Tribal Warrior Prince. Fascinated by decay, sex, and clinical horrors, Harry was an elemental predator who saw meddling humans as a species of prey…Tow-truck operator Boner Harkness thought getting shot by a corpse’s gun was bad enough. He didn’t know what bad was…Lofton Coltis, a Harvard man with deep roots in his forebears’ soil, savored the hot Gulf winds that blew ten miles over his sugar cane land before reaching his house. A two-hundred-octane Anglo supremacist, Coltis’s will was law…Clinton Reynolds, Corey’s boss, had warned her to shut up, but nothing could silence his dark ravings, caused by an untraced toxin…Moira Big Breath, one of the Indigenous Peoples and a Barnard graduate, was nursing a Florida panther back to health with roadkill and special loving care. A fearless political activist, Moira wanted the two-fisted White Man off her ancestor’s lands…

With the help of insurance investigator Raymer Harney, Eddie was heading into a tangle of vested interests, furtive passions, greed, and unleashed mania that could trap the most ingenious hunter. The truth about Corey’s death–and the dirty secrets behind it–might be rotting under a rock too deadly to kick over.

Deadly Sweet captures the weird
steamy essence of Florida without
wasting a single sunset.”

–Carl Hiaasen

© Sterling Watson

Sweet Dream Baby

Sent to live in the humidity of rural Florida with his grandparents and his sixteen-year-old Aunt Delia for the summer, twelve-year-old Travis becomes absorbed in the closed ways of small-town life. Captivated by Delia, Travis watches her attempt to find a place for herself in the socially stunted, gossip-driven town. Delia’s secrets go beyond what Travis can understand, but he believes that he alone can save her–a belief that not only forces him to grow up fast, but one that builds to a dangerous and disturbing climax. In trying to free Delia from her past, Travis leads her into a shocking present and a most uncertain future.

In a work at once honest, chilling and compulsively addictive, author Sterling Watson has created a time and place where rock ‘n’ roll hums from AM radios, steam rises from a secluded riverbed and violent summer storms threaten the peace of silent nights. Watson’s characters are brought vividly to life through Travis’s touching, powerful and intensely personal voice. A dark and evocative coming of age tale, Sweet Dream Baby begins steeped in innocence and ends in a dramatically different place.

“Sterling Watson’s Sweet Dream Baby brings us the
words and music, the tastes and smells of that
special time — as well as its heartache and secret
shame. I was utterly absorbed in these fierce pages.”

–Fred Chappell,
author of Look Back All the Green Valley

© Sterling Watson