Just back from a lively talk by Ann B. Ross, author of the popular “Miss Julia” novels about a wealthy, straight-talking widow and staunch Presbyterian in the fictional town of Abbotsville, North Carolina. Ross was promoting her new Miss Julia Delivers the Goods (Viking, 339 pp., $24.95), which finds her heroine playing matchmaker to two feuding mainstays of the series.
I haven’t read the books, but I liked the talk. Ross did something I’ve rarely seen at signings for authors of light fiction: She began by talking about the history of novels in Western culture in general. She noted that when they first appeared in England in the early 18th century, ministers preached against them – not because the content was poor but because they told made-up stories or encouraged people to read “lies.” What kinds of novels did they condemn? Among them: Robinson Crusoe, one of the great adventure novels of all time.