“The Vale of the White Horse” — Sharyn McCrumb

Sharyn McCrumb is the author of the Appalachian Ballad series, which includes the New York Times bestsellers She Walks These Hills, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, and The Ballad of Frankie Silver. Her novel The Rosewood Casket is currently in production for a feature film adaptation, and forthcoming novels include The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, and a book co-authored with NASCAR driver Adam Edwards called Faster Pastor. McCrumb has been honored with the Library of Virginia Award and her book, St. Dale, received the Book of the Year Award from the Appalachian Writers Association. In 2008, she was also presented with the Virginia Women of History Award.

The Uffington White Horse is a giant prehistoric chalk carving cut into the bedrock of a hillside in southern England. McCrumb says that she is fascinated by British folklore and prehistoric landmarks, and when she visited Wiltshire and saw the Horse, she knew that she wanted to incorporate it into a story someday. “The Vale of the White Horse” is the result.

This story is one of those rare ones in which we get to see the great detective Sherlock Holmes from the point of view of someone other than Watson. Of this character, the author explains, “Grisel Rountree is the English counterpart of a favorite character from my Ballad novels, the Appalachian wise woman Nora Bonesteel.” She adds that the story is inspired in part by “my resentment of the urban know-it-alls who think that country people are less intelligent or sophisticated than city dwellers. I enjoyed making Grisel Rountree every bit as astute and eccentric as Holmes.”