'SOUP' FROM THE SOUTH
Veteran journalist caps off novel trilogy, holds West Ashley book signing
By Charlie Morrison
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Retired newsman and columnist Ken Burger will be launching the release of his third novel, Salkehatchie Soup, on Saturday, March 2 at Morris Nissan in West Ashley
Ken Burger has truly lived a writer's life. Two years removed from his retiring from a four-decade long career in journalism, a career that saw him report on sports, business, and politics throughout the state and the nation. Writing in a fearless style that reflected his adventurous youth, Burger carved himself a niche in journalism over the years.
The industrious Allendale native, however had aspired to write fiction as a young boy. The dreams of a boy became the pursuit of Burger the man, and in 2008, he began writing more than sports columns. Three published novels and an award-winning compilation book of some of his best articles later, Ken Burger these days wears the look of a man that's got it all.
“I'm doing a lot of things that I never could do. I was with the newspaper … I had my hands tied for 40 years,” says Burger. “Write what you know, that's a lesson I learned very early in my career.”
Utilizing one's own life experiences as a jumping off point for any writer, but particularly in the case of Burger, who had grown up amongst the tension of the then still segregated south, as well as that of the Savannah River power plant. Those two, dichotomous overtones in part defined Burger's childhood, and as a result they provide the backdrop for all three of his novels.
To that recipe for complexity add Burger's more than four-decade career in journalism and one can begin to grasp what drives the colorful, wit-filled, wild works of satire that make up Burger's trilogy of locally-focused works. For Burger, his works have organically developed their own unique niche amongst South Carolina-based literature.
“South Carolina's not all beautiful beaches and golf courses,” says Burger. “There's a lot of other stuff going on … and there's two or three different South Carolinas that you really need to know something about.
“Most people that have moved here in the last 40 years from somewhere else, they only learn the history of Charleston, Beaufort, and Myrtle Beach … they never really get to know the inner core of South Carolina,” he continues. “All the other authors write about the pretty stuff … I write about the ugly stuff.”
As far as that “ugly stuff” goes, a number of common themes run through of Burger's trilogy, which began with his first published novel, Swallow Savannah, in 2008. “If you were to walk up to Allendale in 1960, you'd think you were coming up on Vegas. All these neon lights out in the middle of nowhere … you know, it was the ’50s, it was Mayberry with a lot of motels.”
Two years later, Burger published Sister Santee, followed most recently by Burger's latest romp around the “ugly” side of the Lowcountry, Salkehatchie Soup.
Soup picks up on themes laid down in the two preceding novels, respectively set in 1960s and late-1970s to early 1980s South Carolina, chiefly the state's troubled handling of integration, along with the looming threat of nuclear war with the Soviets.
“All of my books, they have are a lot of crazy people in my books, there are a lot of stories going on the common thread that runs through all of it is race relations. South Carolina will always be dealing with race relations, and that continues in Soup, which is set in the ’90s and 2000s.
“There's a lot of crazy stuff in it, it has golf and it has a lot of stories going on with people, but the common thread is still there, that of race relations It's never as good as we hope it is, especially when you get 20 miles out of town here in the country.”
You don't need to go into the country to purchase a copy of Salkehatchie Soup signed by the author. Salkehatchie Soup will be available beginning Monday, March 4 for $26.95 online at www.eveningpostbooks.com and www.amazon.com.
The official launch of the new book is Saturday, March 2 at Morris Nissan, located at 1714 Savannah Hwy.