JS Moore. (Photo by Ned Jilton II)
KINGSPORT — Like many aspiring authors, it took Kingsport’s JS Moore a several years to find his audience.
Not only does he seem to have located it, these days, books are practically pouring out of his head. The 39-year-old Moore, who has penned 14 titles, recently had no fewer than four published within the span of a month.
One was a project that took considerable lead time. “The Big Mac Book” is his most recent biographical treatment of the late Burkett McInturff. The 186-page volume is a continuation of “Picking Strawberries,” a smaller, preceding volume on the colorful local criminal defense attorney.
“When Burkett saw (the first book) he was ecstatic. It was pouring rain and he ran around giving copies of it to his friends,” said Moore, a Sullivan South graduate who wrote for the military newspaper “El Morro” while he was stationed in Puerto Rico.
“After Burkett died, so many other people were contacting me with stories ... Judge Duane Snodgrass, Shelburne Ferguson, Mayor Dennis Phillips, Rick Spivey ... the list goes on and on,” said Moore, who said he has collected enough stories for a second volume.
“Most people would say he was a turkey buzzard but I’d say he was a little sparrow. He gave money discreetly to a lot of folks who needed help. There was a side to him that a lot of people didn’t see,” said the author, who became friends with the elderly attorney while doing research for “Understanding Apples,” a book about Moore’s bootlegger grandpa.
A penchant for looking beyond appearances led Moore to his three most recent titles, which are based on conversations with familiar Broad Street character Harry Bowyer.
“Haggard Harry and the Holy Grail” came out May 11. “Haggard Harry and the Fisher King” was published May 20. The third title, “Haggard Harry and the Bountiful Harvest,” came out June 4.
To the casual observer, said Moore, the bearded, chain-smoking Bowyer might appear merely aimless on his best days; deeply troubled on his worst.
But Bowyer is a fascinating man with a fascinating story, the author said. In the early 1960s he was a crack paratrooper assigned to honor duty at the White House guarding John F. Kennedy, Jr. Bowyer returned to Tennessee, where he eventually attended the University of Tennessee Law School. He was a Kingsport attorney and high-ranking official in the local GOP. He was a candidate for an eventual judgeship.
One day after reading the Bible, Bowyer experienced what the author chooses to interpret as a life-changing blaze of revelation. The trajectory of Bowyer’s life changed utterly and permanently. He walked away from his law practice. He walked away from everything.
“He gave his mind to God that day,” Moore said. “When the vision came to him, he saw Jesus.”
Some would describe Bowyer’s life story as a tragic arc. Not Moore, who has seen him on good days and bad. The author views the older man’s journey through a different lens. For Moore, Harry Bowyer is a village mystic, at times radiating a saintly strangeness.
“Everybody is a little bit crazy. Harry has a unique way of making you feel in the moment. He can say things that make you feel as if the hand of God is on your shoulder,” Moore said.
“In the past four years, I’ve seen people hollering at him to get a job. I’ve seen people dump trash on him. I’ve seen kids slap him and run off. It’s sad how people treat street characters when they don’t know their story. In our quote-unquote Christian society, people need to start acting like it.”
The Haggard Harry books can be purchased at Colonial Heights Gift Shop and I Love Books at the Ft. Henry Mall. As with Moore’s other titles, they are also available in softcover or digital form through Amazon.com.
A portion of each book sold goes to benefit Bowyer.
“For every book I sell, I put a dollar on his tab at Wallace’s News Stand,” Moore said. “He has a $700 credit limit and it’s always maxed out. He doesn’t inhale, but he smokes five packs of cigarettes a day.”