author of a historical fiction book, ‘Firedamp: A Killing at Kettle Island’ joins The Housing Hour this week to discuss the history of a coal mining community in Pineville, Kentucky and how a mining explosion on the day of his birth forever changed his life. Kyle wants to honor that community and its people by depicting a wonderfully entertaining ‘Who-done-it’ book set in the 1930s.
J. Kyle Johnson lives in retirement among the beautiful mountains and lakes of East Tennessee with his lovely spouse of 46 years (the ‘Little Suzi’ of stories found at jkylejohnson.net).
Kyle permanently changed his technical hat for a creative one after a 35-year career with science and engineering contractors of the federal government. Most of his creative writing can be classified as historical fiction (or ‘creative nonfiction’) that is based on actual characters and events associated with family and friends.
Kyle was born in Pineville, Kentucky, and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He received his BS and MA degrees from Tennessee Tech University (’75, ’77).
Read Kyles story of growing up in Oak Ridge!
Firedamp: A Killing At Kettle Island
On a muggy night in the summer of 1930, Deputy Sam Garrett reports for duty to find his mentor and boss, Sheriff I.D. Atkins, shot and left for dead behind the Bell County, Kentucky, courthouse. Unnerved and out of his depth as a greenhorn lawman, Sam is determined to step into the sheriff’s shoes but soon finds himself mired in a swamp of deceit. FIREDAMP is a fast-moving, first-person tale of a young deputy’s struggle with ruthless bootleggers and crime bosses. Adding to his troubles are his ne’er-do-well brother, Billy Wade, and his brother’s “woman,” Jonetta Isbell, an exotic Melungeon vamp. The story begins with the shooting of the sheriff, then spins off into the investigation of a brutal killing at a coal mine in Kettle Island, where a firedamp (or flash fire) in a deep mine is somehow connected to the murder of a newly arrived miner. But as Sam prepares to deal with the two local crimes, he encounters “friendly fire” from Special Agent L.C. Schilder of the federal Bureau of Investigation (as it was known in 1930). In Newport, Kentucky, the notorious home of vice on the Ohio River during the Prohibition era and America’s original “Sin City,” Agent Schilder entangles the deputy in a peculiar scheme to bring down George Rhodes, a Cincinnati gangster known in the Midwest as the “King of the Bootleggers.”