Thursday, April 13, 2017

Writing about the South with "Admirable Authority and Poetic Understanding"

In the book Rough South, Rural South: Region and Class in Recent Southern Literature, now out in paperback from the University Press of Mississippi, Jean W. Cash writes about my work in her essay "Twenty-first Century Writers: The Rural Southern Tradition Continues."

Cash, who edited the book, is the author of the first biography of Flannery O'Connor and Larry Brown's biography. She writes of my novels Calling and Fall Line:

In both novels, Starnes has produced work worthy of attention, providing real insight into how misguided ambition and the power of money and government contribute to the loss  of the agrarian South both physically and spiritually. Both works transcend their immediate setting through Starnes's characterization of men incapable of adapting to daily life. Starnes knows his home region and its people and how to write about them with admirable authority and poetic understanding.

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 Questions with

I enjoyed talking fine whiskey, Babe Ruth's favorite steakhouse, and the advice Larry Brown got from Harry Crews in this interview with, the folks kind enough to republish my first novel Calling in an e-book format.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Returning 140-plus: My Sports Illustrated Web Debut

Photo by F. Carter Smith

I lived my George Plimpton moment at the ATP 250 U.S.Clay Court Championships in Houston last weekend. A great time interviewing John Isner (at left), Sam Querrey, and trying to return a ball from Reilly Opelka, who we will definitely be hearing more about. Read all about it on the Sports Illustrated web site.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Taking Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel to the U.S. Red Dirt Championship

I'll be signing copies of Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, from noon-2 p.m. Friday, April 8, in the USTA tent.  This is an appropriate setting being that the tournament is the only ATP event in the U.S. played on red dirt, preceding the European clay court season that leads up to the French Open. I'm looking forward to returning to Houston, where I lived and played a lot of tennis from 1997 to 1999.

Recent support of the book has come from two big names at Sports Illustrated who know a thing or two about tennis. Frank Deford said, "I enjoyed it immensely...a marvelous job of pivoting the plot and making it such a good story."  Jon L. Wertheim, executive editor for SI and a regular fixture on Tennis Channel, said in his pre-U.S. Open blog post last August that it "comes with highest recommendation."

For more on the novel, visit the About Red Dirt page.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An Essay on Larry Brown in Rough South, Rural South

Fifteen years ago, after I had begun to get serious about writing fiction, Larry Brown's stories, novels, and especially his essays that shared his own experience inspired me to keep working -- even when my own writing was not going very well. When my first novel Calling came out in 2005, the year after he died at the young age of 53, I dedicated it in his memory. Now, my essay "Larry Brown: A Firefighter Finds His Voice" is part of the new collection Rough South, Rural South: Region and Class in Recent Southern Literature. I hope that it helps more readers and writers to discover him. The collection was published this month by the University Press of Mississippi and edited by Jean W. Cash and Keith Perry. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Jaxie Skinner at the U.S. Open

Signing books at the U.S. Open was almost as good as playing in the tournament. Books will be available in the store through the finals. Check out my slideshow of photos from Wednesday, September 2

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Signing Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel at the U.S. Open

With my backhand, I never had a ghost of a chance to play at the U.S. Open, but my tennis novel Red Dirt will be making its debut at the final Grand Slam tournament of 2015.

Books will be available in the U.S. Open bookstore located in the Chase Center, the indoor building, nearest the East Gate. I'll be there from 3-4 p.m. Wednesday, September 2 to sign copies.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Philadelphia Inquirer on Red Dirt: Tennis as Metaphor for Life

Frank Wilson, the retired books editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, reviews Red Dirt very kindly in this Sunday's paper. "I am sure I didn't understand all the technical nuances, but I always got the gist," Wilson writes. "That's because Starnes shrewdly couches them in a way that makes the playing on the court seem so much a metaphor for life's vicissitudes and our own fleeting awareness." Check out the full review online.  For previous reviews and coverage, click here.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tenth Anniversary of Calling

It has been ten years this month since my first novel, Calling, was published by Jefferson Press. Jefferson Press is gone, but Calling lives on in the hardback first editions with the dark cover that are floating around or the more easily accessible ebook issued last year by Otto Penzler's Road Media under the nifty green cover. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Roundup of Red Dirt Coverage

Since Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel's release, the novel has been reviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other places, and I've been interviewed a few times, including one television appearance. I also have turned up in a few other news stories in the Inquirer, and I contributed an essay about the best tennis matches I ever saw. Here's a roundup with links:
Philadelphia Inquirer review: "Tennis as a Metaphor for Life"

Best New Fiction Review

"Talking Sports Books and More with Joe Samuel Starnes." A Q&A on The Classical

"Summer Reading List" Atlanta Magazine

"The Inductor -- A Conversation with Joe Samuel Starnes: An Interview with Kevin Catalano."  The Spark: The Alternating Current Press

"Joe Samuel Starnes Delivers the Original Redneck Rocky of Tennis Novels with Red Dirt." NoirCon blog.

"Three New Books with Birmingham Connections." Mark Kelly in Weld for Birmingham.

Cedartown Native, Novelist Returning Home." Cedartown (Ga.) Standard.

"The Greatest Men's Tennis Matches I Ever Saw--And a Few I Didn't." My essay on The Changevoer.

"Red Dirt by Joe Samuel Starnes." Off the Leash.

"At Green Valley, Many Happy Returns." Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Local Readers and Bookstores Await Harper Lee's 'Watchman'." Quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer story.
The video below is from my April appearance on Georgia Highland College Television in Rome, Georgia. The interview gets started at the three minute mark.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Atlanta Magazine: Red Dirt "A come-back worth cheering"

The June issue of Atlanta magazine arriving in mailboxes now includes Teresa Weaver's review of Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel in her "Summer Reading" feature. She had this to say about Jaxie Skinner's story:  

"After a rapid rise through the professional tennis ranks, Jaxie suffers an even faster inglorious fall, and then, 10 years later, a come-back worth cheering."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Book is Out -- Southern Events from Atlanta to Birmingham

Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel -- described as both a "tale with the pace and power of a Rafael Nadal forehand"  and "the original redneck Rocky of tennis novels" -- is now available. 

From April 18 through April 25 I have eleven events lined up in Georgia and Alabama. Check out my schedule and come see me if you can.  

I'm looking forward to taking the book back home where my tennis game and my literary life originated.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Upcoming Readings and Events for Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel

The first reading of Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel was a fantastic time. I'm glad I could share it with golf writer and friend Tom Coyne who read an early draft of Red Dirt seven years ago.

Upcoming events include Exton, Pennsylvania; Montclair, New Jersey; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then a late April southern swing with Georgia stops in Atlanta, Athens, Cedartown, Norcross, Rome, and Woodstock.  I'll also be making Alabama stops in Hoover and Homewood on April 25. Check out my full schedule of events with dates and times.

The official release date for Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel is April 7.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Debut Reading of Red Dirt Set For March 19 in Media, PA

March RS banner

This will be the debut reading from Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel.  The books begin shipping to stores this week for the official release date of April 7.  Check out my complete schedule for more events in April and May. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Red Dirt Set for Late March Release

My third novel, Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel, published by Breakaway Books, will be available in late March.

Praise for the Novel

“Starnes spins a tale with the pace and power of a Rafael Nadal forehand.” Jay Jennings, editor of Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game

“Alright, literate tennis fans, it’s time to put down the remote and set aside those stat sheets and take an alternately amusing and inspiring trip from the top of the pro tennis barrel to the bottom—and back again. Joe Samuel Starnes’s book radiates an aficionado’s understanding of not just how the game is played (on and off the court) but what it takes to triumph in the hypercompetitive pro game.”  Peter Bodo, Tennis magazine senior writer, ESPN columnist, and co-author of Pete Sampras’s autobiography, A Champion’s Mind

Red Dirt is solid pleasure. Starnes knows what it is to compete, to hope to be made whole by competition, to overcome not just your opponent but your own unquiet. This is a tennis novel, but any athlete—no, any reader—will learn a lot and enjoy the learning.”  —John Casey, author of Spartina, winner of the National Book Award

Red Dirt isn’t just a terrific sports novel; it’s a terrific novel, period. Jaxie Skinner is a complex and compelling character, and Starnes gives him a clear, fresh, lively voice.” —Michael Griffith, author of Spikes.

About the Book 

Red Dirt is the story of Jaxie Skinner, an unlikely professional tennis player
from a blue-collar family in the sticks of rural Georgia who takes up the game
at the age of three when his father scrapes a court out of the red clay behind
their farmhouse. He is a natural, rising to the top of junior tennis, and at
eighteen has great success at the French Open. He falls as quickly as he rose,
however, when troubles back home and injuries arise. He quits the game for
years, but then mounts a comeback, struggling for almost a decade in the
unglamorous, low-paying minor leagues of tennis, often living out of his van,
before getting one last big shot. A fascinating study of tennis, its demands
and tactics, as well as a look at the insular and often selfish character required
to reach the pinnacle of the sport, Red Dirt is the Rocky of tennis novels.

Available from bookstores everywhere, including independent stores
through Indiebound, as well as Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Ebook 
available from Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google Play,
iTunes/iBooks, and Kobo.