January 2010

Roger Pinckney and His Reefer Moon

Author: Courtney Hampson Naughton

He lives his life by the tide, the sunrise, and the sunset. His way of life is the Daufuskie Island way. Laid back. Sand and sea soaked. Preservation focused.

With a gruff exterior and a questioning eye, Roger Pinckney may not endear you at the outset. However, I warmed to him almost immediately the first time I met him three years ago. When he calls you “dear” in his sweet Southern twang it’s hard not to.

But, I think it’s fair to say that some folks may be put off by his pointed commentary regarding those who have invaded his beloved Lowcountry, where he was born and raised.

“My people have been here for seven generations,” he said. “I am the voice of the dispossessed, white and black. Between the developer and the tax man, the things I love are vanishing… Everybody who comes here loves the very things they are destroying by their presence: the clean water, the woods, the wildlife. I’d like to send all the more recent arrivals back to where they came from, but barring that, I’d like those who remain to tread lightly on this land I love.”

Now, even as a so-called “recent arrival,” I tend to agree with him. The man has a point. More importantly, he walks the talk. Pinckney has been a farmer, a teacher, an editor, award-winning writer and I’d venture to say, poet. The focus of his essays and books, to this point, has been on the cultural, historical and environmental aspects of the Lowcountry.

But Reefer Moon was written to entertain. Namely to entertain women, who he hopes will get caught up in the novel while sitting around the pool sunning themselves. Yes, he’s gone to the dark side, writing pop-fiction. And he is honest about the reason why… as a freelance writer and novelist, you don’t have a regular payday. In fact, according to Pinckney, “It is downright financially precarious.” So, he is looking to build his retirement fund courtesy of the ladies at the pool.

He tells me that Reefer Moon started as a different story but blossomed into part love story, part tale of a drug smuggler. And, he magically makes the two storylines work in tandem.

Reefer Moon? (available at www.rogerpinckey.com or major book sellers) is the first book in his “Lowcountry Trilogy”— he just finished the second, Blow
the Man Down, and is working on the finale Mullet Manifesto (I love it already!). And, with this trilogy, he’ll build his portfolio of mass appeal and his retirement portfolio to boot. He is currently negotiating the movie rights to
Reefer Moon, which should also help pad the portfolio.

With a sharp wit, a keen sense of self, and an admirable love for the Lowcountry, it is easy to love Pinckney and his writing. But lest the ladies come a knockin’, he tells me he has a “little young thing in Houston, a gorgeous Texas aristocrat, who was just too good to say no to.” They met on the beach on Daufuskie, not coincidentally where most of his stories begin.


The writing is deliciously vivid.

Pinckney weaves a compelling story about a tomato farmer, a drug smuggler, and an Atlanta businessman’s wife who spends six months out of the year on Daufuskie and has a penchant for playing moonlight golf in her negligee, skinny dipping in the clubhouse pool, and climbing naked into bed with her male friends (but it’s okay in her mind, because they are gay).

A not so subtle distaste for the Yankee “in his golf shirt and two-toned shoes” is a recurring theme, as is reference to the Good Book and a good stiff drink. Throw in a little gator tail and some ju ju (that’s voodoo in the Lowcountry) for good measure, and you’ve got all the fixin’s for a fun read, fraught with lust and lore.

Pinckney swears the story is absolutely all true, simply couched as fiction (probably not a bad idea). This makes figuring out who the characters are almost as enticing as trying to figure out the ending. After all, if this is a true story, that means we need to start combing the Beaufort County family histories for a local tomato farmer who fell in love with a married-moonlight-golf-playing-skinny-dipping-spooning woman who spent the majority of her time on Daufuskie. (There can’t be more than one!) And, while we are at it, let’s check the record books for known dope smuggling local who may have lost a few hundred pounds of product in a little smuggling snafu.

In the end, Pinckney stays true to his roots and tells an honest story of the Lowcountry—“A world where the river always runs. The tide always changes. The porpoises blow just beyond the surf line. And the sun always sets”.

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