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Standing room only

By his own admission, Alabama author Sonny Brewer was worried about the large crowd that attended his reading and book signing Monday night.

“I know y’all came for the catfish,” he quipped several times during his presentation.

But judging by the crowd, the attention they paid to him, and the number who stood in line to purchase books and have him autograph them, those attending may have liked catfish, but they liked his books, too.

Brewer, who also visited with students at Andalusia High School Monday, read from “A Sound of Thunder,” and from the manuscript of “The Widow and the Tree,” which will be released Sept. 9.

There is an element of truth in all his fiction, he said. For instance, the main character in “Thunder,” named Rover, was named by his father after his favorite black lab. The character shortens his name to “Rove,” and will fight anyone who adds back the “r.”

“My birth name is Sonny,” Brewer said. “When I was in the ninth grade, my social studies teacher told me I needed to change my name because nobody named Sonny ever amounted to anything.

“Sonny. That’s a good name for a mafia boss, maybe,” he said. “So when I went to the University of Alabama, I signed my papers ‘S. Eugene Brewer.’

“Now isn’t that pretentious? Sort of like F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

Brewer said, “My daddy was married to seven different women. My grandmother told me that the woman he was married to before he married my momma had a boy and he called him ‘Sonny Boy.’

“When I was born, he missed calling him ‘Sonny Boy’ so much that he named me Sonny,” he said.

While Brewer’s father was a long-haul trucker, the father in “Thunder” is a boat captain.

“So that’s autobiographical to some degree,” he said. “It’s easy to take my own experience as a sailor and make this stuff up.”

He said he agrees with Mark Twain, who said, “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”

As a writer, he said, “You are allowed to lie and steal.”

His “Poet of Tolstoy Park” is based on the true story of an Idaho man whose doctor told him he would die of consumption and suggested he go someplace warm to die. The man, Henry Stuart, bought property in Baldwin County and lived there for 20 years. When he was 86, his sons decided he should come back to Idaho. They moved him “home,” and he died almost immediately.

The book is being made into a movie, he said. Tom Epperson, who has written screenplays for “Sling Blade” and a number of other movies, is working on the screenplay.

“Hopefully, they’ll get it made before I‘m too old to go see it,” he said.

“The Widow and the Tree,” also based on a true story, is about a 500-year-old live oak in Baldwin County.

The Lower Alabama Arts Council, Andalusia High School and David’s Catfish House co-sponsored the event.