Here is a lyric telling of history in a story of struggles and triumphs in the Old South, told by an author who has a special skill for dialogue and language that is energetic and spontaneous.
He is Carl J. Barger, a Conway writer, and at his best, the author of "Black Clouds Over Alabama" a story that draws the reader into a poignant yarn that contains images of life in a dangerous time in American history.
His book is a work of fiction. But it is woven around a real sense of history, which is enhanced by many scenes of slavery in keeping with the story’s textile happenings.
The story develops in hostile events of 1853, a volatile era when the country was on the threshold of dissolution over the issue of slavery. The author has charted the kind of events that have readers hanging on tenterhooks as he writes about the country in the mosaic of the times leading up to the civil war.
Barger’s colorful characters are central to happenings in the Twin Oaks Plantation of Autauga County, Alabama. From this setting, young Obadiah Bradford looks at the world through rose-colored glasses living a life of plenty and not concerned with the plight of the world of the Negro outside his doorstep.
But the life of the 21-year-old lad is transformed forever when he accompanies his father on a trip to a slave auction. Young Mr. Bradford is on his way to Selma, Alabama, to purchase a new household servant.
Here the story’s patina takes on a new hue as Obadiah begins to experience feelings that are totally new to him. He is captured by the lure of a beautiful slave girl. His intense feeling for the girl leaves him breathless; he is taken by an attraction for the girl that ultimately brings him to challenge his capacity to love the slave.
Barger calls it a heart-wrenching story of the protagonist’s forbidden love for Penelope, the slave girl and the immorality of slavery.
Yet, Obadiah is southern to the core. He serves in the Confederate Army and his traditional values assert themselves at every turn, despite his struggles as a man of the Old South. Simply put, Barger’s readers find themselves resigned to dealing with a fascinating chapter of living in times of civil war, whetting the appetites of readers who might wish to know more about this time in our nation’s past.
How the young man overcomes challenges he faces by adhering to his traditional values, his Christian beliefs and his faith in God, are essential facets to growing into manhood.
"Dark Clouds Over Alabama," then, is a story of love, life, hope, commitment, realities, tragedy and triumph — elements that shape the young man’s character. Throughout, Barger moves this appealing story crisply and readers will marvel at a tale of forbidden love.
Barger is a native of Arkansas, one of 11 children of migrant workers, but despite his meager beginning, he managed to win a college degree and became a teacher and basketball coach. After a short hiatus, he moved on to the offices of school superintendents in five school districts, working in that vineyard for 33 years.
Along the way he authored four books, "Swords and Plowshares," "Mamie: An Ozark Mountain Girl of Courage," "Cleburne County and Its People" ( a non-fiction work) and "Dark Clouds over Alabama."
He is enamored with the work of researchers and he has done much work in that field for authors.
"You might say I fell into writing by doing that research for others," he said.
Now the happy days of book signings are ahead in Alabama and Arkansas.
"I’ll be at our public library and at Hastings," he said.
Signing dates will be announced.