James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

The Characters of DIXIANA

As promised at the end of the ‘Notes On DIXIANA‘ posts, here’s the guide to the eight major POV characters who drive the intertwining narratives in my recently-completed Southern literary novel series DIXIANA, DOWN IN DIXIANA, and DIXIANA DARLING.

1. ROY EARL PETTUS

Despite demonstrable financial success, a lovely wife, and a wide-open future ahead for him, ROY E. PETTUS (late 40s) suffers a midlife crisis and inwardly flails for purchase . . . but it’s for a good reason: When we meet him, he’s discovered that his dream girl, Creedence, has been unfaithful. Not simply sexually — the letters he’s read indicate more than a fling, rather a full-on love affair. At virtually the same moment, he gets news that his grandfather has fallen ill, perhaps critically so. He flies home to Edgewater County, where he’ll end up staying for some time and through quite a number of story lines, all of which revolve around his grandfather’s honkytonk, The Dixiana, that Roy will find is now his to run. It’s not a welcome inheritance — he blames The Dixiana for most of his childhood ills.

  • REYNOLDS ELDER ‘RABBIT’ PETTUS (also POV in Book One & Three) — 89, “father”/grandfather to Roy Earl, his presence hovers over the rest of the story, culminating as it does in a town music festival in his honor; ‘Pa-Paw’ to Roy
  • RUNELLE KITTERY PETTUS (POV in Book Three) — 88, “mother”/grandmother to Roy Earl, the Darling of The Dixiana, ‘Mee-maw’ to Roy. She calls her husband ‘Rennie’.
  • MERVIN PETTUS — a cousin, 40s, who attacks Roy over a dispute regarding Rabbit’s estate (wife CARLA MAE, kids DALE and DJ). Grandson of Rabbit’s brother Rutledge Pettus
  • RONALD EDWARD ‘RONNIE ED’ PETTUS — Roy Earl’s father, long dead before the events of DIXIANA, a haunting presence: his father, like his grandfather in WW2, he served in war, Ronnie-Ed ends up giving his life in said service.
  • CLAUDIA BALLAHACK PETTUS — Roy Earl’s mother, also deceased, a young waitress struggling along after the death of her equally young husband in Vietnam. Claudia, killed in what Roy Earl will find out was a car accident that also almost took his infant life.

2. ALLYSON BUTTON SYKES

Dreadlocked granddaughter of Burnham Sykes, this iconoclastic second principal character has already retreated to Tillman Falls well before the arrival of Roy E. Pettus, a family friend with whom she has lost touch. In her mid 30s and considering herself a failed writer, Button (it’s not a nickname) cares for her mother Tinky, left bereaved by the cancer-death of Button’s father, as well as her grandfather. A new age devotee of the jam-band Phish, when we meet her Button has decided on a new mission in life: to protest the new nuclear reactors being built. Her plan of outreach? A good old fashioned American pamphleteering campaign on the town green. A lifelong outcast—a mix of ruddy Irish and Vietnamese, an odd physical combination—she is the story’s heart, soul, and conscience.

  • BURNHAM ‘BURNIE’ SYKES (POV in Book Three) — 90, Rabbit Pettus’s best friend for 75 years, a very important character to the overall arc of the story, and to Button and Roy personally. In the old days, Burnie’s business success made much of everyone’s reality possible
  • HENRIETTA ‘HENNY’ SYKES — Burnie’s wife, dead for a number of years prior to present day narrative
  • NGUYEN-THANH THI TRINH ‘TINKY’ SYKES — Vietnamese mother to Button and Thim, a nervous type, has panic, is medicated and near irrational, but as Button says, “she always was.”
  • THIM SYKES — Button’s older sister, and nothing like her boho younger sibling. An uptight aide to Governor Sandra Three-Rivers, who has her eye on the U. S. Senate, Thim is happy to leave the care of her mother and grandfather to Button, for whom she otherwise has little respect.
  • BURTON ‘BUDDY’ SYKES (POV in Book Three) — father to Button, dead already prior to events of novel. The Vietnam vet who’d gone off to war with Ronnie Pettus, the one who’d returned sporting an Asian wife. He’d been a part of a unit that carried around the “backpack nuke” that could be used on short notice should President Nixon have wished to ramp up the firepower. Buddy died of cancer, possibly from his service in Vietnam, but also possibly due to his long career as an engineer at the Sugeree River Station.

3. CHELSEA COLETTE ‘CREEDENCE’ RUCKER-PETTUS

Roy’s wife Creedence, 40ish (childhood initials CCR, nicknamed by her beloved late father for the 60s rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival) is in crisis as well: in love with another man but not out of love with Roy Earl, alcoholic, confused, stuck. She writes her journal in the form of endless letters to her brother Devin, missing and unheard from for 10 years—an inveterate drunk, likely long dead. Once the affair is discovered by Roy, however, reality comes crashing down, and so does her alcoholism.

  • DEVIN RUCKER — vanished older brother to Creedence, and to whom she writes epistolary-style letters that provide exposition along with raw inner monologue
  • LIBBY MEADE — Devin’s college love, referred to in flashback only
  • EILEEN RUCKER — mother, deceased, referred to on occasion, a former esteemed member of the Edgewater Ladies Munificence Society (ELMS)
  • DWIGHT RUCKER — father, deceased, but appears in flashback

4. GASTON ‘GOOCH’ BUNDRICK

Gooch Bundrick, the publisher and editor of the Edgewater Advocate, a once thrice-weekly paper now reduced to a weekly. Gooch is an aging, closeted gay who is lonely but happy. He’d been a reporter and editor in big city newspapers for years, but found that as he aged, he longed for a more quiet and peaceful life. Working the crime beat in Atlanta left him cynical and burned out at a young age, and now in his late 60s, he suffers from severe memory issues and dementia; he keeps forgetting that he’s already retired, and only helping out at the paper. Another man’s the publisher now, and Gooch is supposed to be following his dream to write a great novel.


5. CHRISTOPHER ‘CHRISTY’ BEAUDOCK

Christy Beaudock has a heart filled with pain and hatred. A fat, unattractive kid with a girlie name, bullied, unhappy, and hopeless. At 15, he’s now a physical giant, if emotionally stunted. Special Ed classes. But there’s a secret: Christy’s much smarter than that. His quiet demeanor has been mistaken for mental deficiency. His father, a meth-head, and his grandmother, the madam of Edgewater County. Quite a troubled background, living in his trailer park and playing his flight simulator game, an obsession. When he decides he’s had enough of his Daddy, then he has a new problem: what to do with the body.

  • CHRISTY’S DADDY — Only identified in this manner, what happens with him sets this storyline in suspenseful motion.
  • MAMIE ‘MAMA’ BEAUDOCK — The legacy madam of Edgewater County, she runs a brothel that’s been around as long as The Dixiana. Mama Beaudock’s is out near the bump in the road called Red Mound. Why she’s still allowed to be in business—who doesn’t know about Mama B’s?—is something of a mystery.

6. JASPER ALVIN GLASSCOCK 

A small-town, small-time attorney, Jasper mainly handles poor clients from “across the tracks,” which in the case of Tillman Falls and Edgewater County means across the Sugeree River in recently-annexed Easton. Jasper, when we meet him, is in much worse spiritual and financial dire straits than Roy Earl: at 60, his practice is unfulfilling and barely pays the bills, he’s moved back home with his sister Letty. A musician, he only wants to play guitar and sing, but how can an old Southern lawyer make a living doing that? In his younger years, Jasper had been a bail bondsman and PI, as well as a published author: he interviewed homegrown serial killer Coy Wando from death row about all the other heinous crimes the murderer committed. After Jasper finished that book, he swore he’d never want to write another.

  • LETTY GLASSCOCK (also POV in Book Three)— Older sister to Jasper; they have a very close relationship, one that will be clarified by novel’s end to reveal that she’s actually Jasper’s mother. The truth had been hidden from him because of family shame over her becoming pregnant at 14.
  • MR. GLASSCOCK — Letty and Jasper’s widowed father, an old farmer with a sordid family secret that Jasper has never known

7. MANFRED ‘MANNY’ THEODORE 

Manny Theodore, 50, an ex-pat New Orleans resident driven out by Hurricane Katrina, as well as his wife’s desire to return to her roots in order to care for an aging set of parents. His wife Neecie thinks that, among its many possible meanings and causes, Katrina was a sign that they needed to get out. After moving to SC, money they received from an insurance payout was used to purchase Lucinda’s, the dying lunch counter on the town green in Tillman Falls, which they remodel and re-christen as Manny’s On The Green, a restaurant and music club that mainly features Manny himself on saxophone, as well as the occasional touring act and open blues jam night. Manny, when we meet him, is in deep trouble: he’s been foolishly unfaithful with Rebecca LaFreniere, a town stakeholder and member of the venerable Edgewater Ladies’ Munificence Society—as is Manny’s wife Neecie.

  • LILLYANNE THEODORE, 13, daughter — Lillyanne, a lovely, intelligent young woman who disapproves of her father’s behavior
  • BERNICE ‘NEECIE’ (DUCKETT) THEODORE, 42, wife — She handles the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, a recurrence, with an unusual approach
  • AHMAD DUCKETT, 40, brother-in-law — brother of Neecie, Ahmad is a troubled ex-addict from New Orleans that Manny’s giving a second chance. They butt heads frequently, eventually become unwilling roommates mixed up in the discovery of a large amount of money

8. TRUDY (FOOTWATER) SAMUELSON

Rabbit’s longtime bartender and manger of The Dixiana, 51, a one time lover of Roy’s, when she was twenty and he was only sixteen! A heartbreaking experience for him, she has watched through Rabbit’s eyes as Roy became a millionaire. Married to an aging, sickly biker, Trudy is terribly conflicted and unhappy. The Dixiana is all she has. When Roy fires her in retribution for her rejection thirty years before, their reunion turns toxic.

  • MICKEY ‘SAMSON’ SAMUELSON — Trudy’s husband of twenty years, and nearly that much older than her. A former motorcycle mechanic and member of the Pagan Knights biker club, Samson has a bad toe and bad knees and a big alcohol problem.

After living with them through three long novel manuscripts, these folks seem so real to me. I can’t wait for readers to one day get to know them as I do!

Dixiana Depot 2

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About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

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