Southwest Ohio native pens intriguing tale of mystery in first book

Ross, Ohio, native S.V. Brown has published his first novel, "Carnival Songs," which centers around long-held family secrets and race relations in the Midwest.
Caption
Ross, Ohio, native S.V. Brown has published his first novel, "Carnival Songs," which centers around long-held family secrets and race relations in the Midwest. CONTRIBUTED.

Credit: S.V. Brown

Decades ago, Ross native S. V. Brown heard a tale so riveting it eventually inspired him to write his first book. Earlier this month, he released “Carnival Songs,” a novel set in a fictional Indiana town.

A 1985 alumnus of Ross Senior High School, Brown wrote “Carnival Songs” in the early 1990s following his graduation from the University of Cincinnati and living abroad in Paris to evoke the spirit of his favorite authors. However, he put the finished draft in a drawer and later began to question his artistic gifts.

“I just kind of lost faith in my writing,” Brown said. “I had a bunch of small press short stories and poems published, but at the end of the day, I just didn’t think I had it. I compared myself to my heroes.”

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After penning his first few major works of fiction and putting them on a shelf, Brown pursued a career in music, playing in Cincinnati bands Dock Ellis, The Black Republicans (which eventually turned into The Afghan Whigs) and Hermano with John Garcia from Kyuss. He said he figured music would help him move on from being a novelist, a profession he feared he was not suited to pursue.

After releasing multiple records with Hermano in the early 2000s, Brown moved to Southern California and taught high school English for 16 years. He ultimately relocated upstate to Sonoma County to pursue his master’s degree and found work as an administrator for the city of Santa Rosa, working in homeless services.

While working on a thesis for his master’s degree, he stumbled upon the manuscript for “Carnival Songs.” After putting aside the story for decades, he rewrote the entire novel and received some fanfare from his professors. He eventually found a publisher to turn his thesis into a novel.

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Caption
Ross, Ohio, native S.V. Brown wrote "Carnival Songs," a novel about racism and small town secrets published earlier this month. CONTRIBUTED.

Credit: S.V. Brown

Ross, Ohio, native S.V. Brown wrote "Carnival Songs," a novel about racism and small town secrets published earlier this month.
Caption
Ross, Ohio, native S.V. Brown wrote "Carnival Songs," a novel about racism and small town secrets published earlier this month. CONTRIBUTED.

Credit: S.V. Brown

Credit: S.V. Brown

“Carnival Songs” centers around the founding family of the fictional city of Torrenceburg, Indiana accented by the influence of local and national politics, religion and the transition into a new millennium. The novel is narrated by the last heir to the family as he searches for the truth about his ancestors after his mother confesses a shocking secret on her deathbed.

Much of the novel centers around racism and how it impacts small Midwestern towns. Brown was particularly inspired to write the novel while working at the Ohio Department of Transportation as a college student. While there, he recalled a secretary telling him an account of what happened in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in the 1970s. A Black man was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman and was subsequently killed by an angry mob. This crime was supposedly covered up by the city, which might explain why Brown was never able to find concrete evidence that this incident actually took place. Real or fake, it was this tale that ultimately inspired him to write his first novel.

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“It’s an important story about Midwestern politics and Midwestern race relations,” Brown said. “It took me a long time growing up in a little farming community, where that type of racist attitude is all around you, to realize that it permeates and saturates into your being. You have to really dig in and not be afraid to face it and try to come to terms with it and get past it to try and make the world a better place.”

“Carnival Songs” can be purchased in Kindle format only on Amazon.com.

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