Thursday, March 16, 2017
Refreshments: 3:30 Program: 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Chapel Hill Public Library, Room B
Free and open to the public
Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson is a Vietnam Veteran and recipient of the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross. The Last Road Home has been called a powerful, lyrical debut novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and ’60s.
His path to writing was not easy but he found support in the North Carolina Writers Network. Ron Rash, author and professor at Western Carolina, served as a mentor of sorts. Danny began with short stories and then decided to write his first novel out of his own experiences as well as his depth of reading in Southern literature.
When he was growing up in North Carolina in the 50s, Danny liked to do two things: read books and work on his grandmother’s farm. He has now combined his love of reading, especially Southern literature, with images of rural North Carolina tobacco country in his first novel, The Last Road Home.
After spending summers growing up on his grandparent’s tobacco farm in rural Chatham County, Johnson started college at Western Carolina University but in 1965 took off with a fraternity buddy for Florida. When he ran out of money, his mother wired him some but when he came home his father showed him the door. He went to Raleigh where he found the Air Force recruiters. He served in Vietnam with a unit that flew C-47s in search and destroy missions. After the Vietnam War, he raised a family and pursued a career in finance but he always had an image of himself as a writer and when he turned 62 he decided the time had come and it was “now or never”.
The novel explores race relations between a white orphaned farm boy and a sharecropper’s daughter. It’s set in the late 50s and early 60s and moves back and forth among Chatham County, the city of Durham and the jungles of Vietnam.
The book is dedicated to the man he calls, “his warrior brother,” James Dorsey, with whom he served and who was killed in Vietnam on Feb. 5, 1969. Danny Johnson was a poor white boy who grew up in rural Durham and Chatham Counties. His “brother” was a black man from Washington DC. In their conversations, Johnson said, “I realized I never really understood his vision of the world.”