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It’s fiction … or is it?

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Michael Manuel and Lawrence Timbs Jr. have retold a generations-old story from
Fish Springs in a new novel.

Two childhood friends find themselves on opposite sides of battle lines in the Civil War, and in a battle for the same woman’s heart.
When a snakebite kills a man, suspicions are raised questioning whether it is an accident … or murder.
This could be more than the plot for a novel. It just might be a true story about former residents of the Fish Springs community.
The book, “Fish Springs: Beneath the Surface,” written by Michael Manuel and Lawrence Timbs Jr., follows the story of two friends fighting for the same woman’s heart in Fish Springs during the Civil War. The novel is a re-telling of a book written in 1951 by Timbs’ late father, Lawrence Timbs Sr., called “Tragedy at Old Fish Springs.”
Manuel said the elder Timbs was told the story by his grandfather, and had written the original book based on that story.
“According to Lawrence Timbs Sr., the story that was told to him was a true story,” Manuel said. “He believed his grandfather was telling him a true story. We say it is fiction because we can’t confirm it is true, even though it has been said that it is.”
The senior Timbs grew up in the original Fish Springs community, which was flooded in 1949 by the Tennessee Valley Authority to create Watauga Lake. His original book focused more on the actions of the people involved in the love triangle.
Manuel and Timbs Jr. took a different approach, expanding the book’s focus to other events happening in the region during that time.
“The story centers around the story of two men in a competition for the prettiest woman in Fish Springs,” Manuel said. “We also weave in through the story some historical facts and things that were happening around the area.”
For example, the book touches on slavery, looking at how slaves were treated before the Civil War, then how they fought racism after the war’s end. The book also details the hardships of people struggling to make a living in the remote country community.
“There’s a lot more context in this book,” Manuel said.
The book officially releases on June 1 in both traditional print format and as an ebook.
Manuel said it has been a long process to get to this point.
He started working on the project seven years ago; he read the original book and contacted the Timbs family about turning the book into a screenplay for a movie.
After getting the go-ahead, he wrote the screenplay, which caught the attention of producer Belle Avery.
“We have a movie option,” Manuel said. “There is no date set yet. Belle Avery said she wants to, and intends to, make a film based on the story. A lot of that depends on how well the book does.”
To promote the book, Manuel and Timbs are participating in a number of events around the region.
On Saturday, the pair will be at Fish Springs Marina starting at 10 a.m. for a book signing event. This is held in coordination with the marina’s 65th anniversary.
On Friday, May 9, they will participate in the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce’s National Tourism Week celebration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Saturday, May 10, a book signing will be held at Shirley’s Restaurant beginning at 5 p.m.
Manuel said he plans to move outside of the area while promoting “Fish Springs: Beneath the Surface.”
“We are trying to make it go more than local,” he said. “I plan to promote the book outside the area, to go to Nashville or Atlanta, and let people know about this story.”
The book can be bought in book stores by requesting the title, or on the website, www.fishspringsnovel.com. The website also offers short stories connected to the novel and telling about Fish Springs.
The novel is published through Ingalls Publishing Group in North Carolina.