Local author, George Scott, released his latest novel, The Good King, last week and has the official launch today with a reading, signing, and conversation at Union Avenue Books tonight at 6:00 pm. I met with George to learn more about his background, connection with our downtown, and his work.
George, was born and spent his formative years in Stuart, Florida, a bit north of Palm Beach. His father practiced law there after receiving his law degree from the University of Florida. He also served two terms in the Florida state legislature, pushing through important environmental protections for sea turtles and bald eagles while there that are still in effect.
After graduation, George attended Guilford College in North Carolina for a bit, but with no career in mind, dropped out and began a series of random jobs around the southeastern U.S. for the next six years. “I found myself working on a landscaping job, digging a ditch, and thought ‘You know, I could probably do better than this.'” He attended Appalachian State University. He majored in Communications with Broadcast and Theater as a focus.
He began his post-college career as a videographer for WJHL in Johnson City, but moved to Knoxville in 1986 when he got a job at WATE. About a year later, while continuing to work there, he opened a store in the Old City. He operated Old City Mercantile for about eight years (where Boldure Gifts is now) while living in the rear of the store. “It was the first store to open in downtown Knoxville that didn’t sell used merchandise, in decades.” He said opening a business was always a goal.
He felt the Old City would take off and it did have a brief renaissance a couple years after he opened. Thanks to the draw of Ella Gurus at the time, he remembers seeing Leon Russel walk across the street, and John Hartford came into his shop once. George organized several festivals in the Old City to draw people to the area. For two years he organized the Old City Folk Festival in 1996 and 1997. He married Mary Leidig (still married) and moved to Fountain City.
After a stint working in a furniture store, he worked as a market research analyst for Emerson Process Management, ultimately managing their product line. He worked there for nine years and in 2009 left to pick up his camera again. While the Henley Bridge was closed for reconstruction, he advocated for and presented to City Council ideas to calm Henley Street while extending downtown’s footprint in that direction. He sharpened his skill through Community television and purchased a camera similar to what they used. He started his own company to do video for hire (no weddings!) and he’s filmed everything from spots for chiropractic offices to fishing tournaments through his company Southern Rocket Productions. He said he enjoys the variety.
As for the writing, he said, “I’ve always wanted to write and always considered that I could.” As he got older, he realized he needed to get about it. He published a memoir in 2004, Growing Up in Eden. Novels always drew him, however, because of the potential of fiction “to explore a greater truth. I was influenced by James Michener at an early age and his historical, philosophical musings on how things got to be what they are.”
A trip to South Carolina and to Fort Sumter, the stories he heard there of the civil war soldiers fascinated him. He began research and pondered the bigger questions like “how could the south bring itself to go to war with its own country to defend slavery.” After a fifteen-year dive into research of the era, he wrote I, Jonathan, which he self published in October 2020. A pandemic wasn’t the ideal time for the release, but he was pleased with the product. It continues to sell well at the Historic Foundation of Charleston and the book remains available on Amazon.
After publishing that book, he felt ready to tackle his next work, The Good King, which features a topic that has interested him since childhood. “The first time I ever heard of King Wenceslas (turns out that wasn’t his actual name and he wasn’t a King) was in a hymn. I was eight years old at a Christmas Eve service.” He was taken with the idea of snow, which he’d never seen, and was struck with the words. He began research on the person, his family, and tenth century bohemia, ultimately focusing on his brother. The story is told through his eyes to his son.
The country was Pagan, but the Francs were Roman Catholic, and the Czechs in Bohemia were under attack. The book is billed as a “medieval thriller,” but the scope reaches far beyond the action into explorations of the human drive to believe in something larger. Ultimately the Czechs accept that they must become Christian, and the book focuses on this often brutal era and is not a “feel good Christmas tale.” While the book honors the history of the era, there are large gaps in what is known, as much of it was written generations later and is likely filled with inaccuracies for a range of reasons. George said this offered him more freedom to develop his own telling of the time.
For this book, George was able to quickly find a willing publisher in Black Rose Writing in Texas. The book is available on the Black Rose site online via Amazon (and other places where books are sold) in paperback or for Kindle, or at Union Avenue Books in lovely downtown Knoxville. That’s where you’ll find George tonight at 6:00 pm and a perfect opportunity to have him personalize your copy.