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Dawson Living: Five local authors to try this summer
reading outside
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This summer, you might be looking for a new book or two to read. There are several local authors within Dawson County, with several local works to keep you busy with new books to read. Here are five of the authors in your own community to try out this summer. 

“They Inspired Me: My Life Journey from Gardi to Tomahawk Mountain” by Jimmy L. Hill

Jimmy Hill book
"They Inspired Me" by Jimmy Hill.

Jimmy Hill had always wanted to write an autobiography as a keepsake for his children and grandchildren, but he’d always been too busy to sit down and start writing until one day he realized that if he was going to write the book, he was going to have to make the time to work on it. So he sat down and started researching and remembering, and nearly two years later the Dawson County man published “They Inspired Me: My Life Journey from Gardi to Tomahawk Mountain”.

Hill’s autobiography follows his story of his childhood in rural Georgia all the way through to his retirement in the Dawson County mountains. Throughout his book, Hill tells story after story from his life, from living in a tar paper shack for the first several years of his life to meeting and marrying his wife, his mother starting successful frozen dumpling company Mary Hill Dumplings and the tragic loss of his brother at age 14. 

Hill said that his time living in Dawson has made an impact on him and his life story, so he mentions the county and many of his neighbors in his book. 

“The last place we lived before here was Grayson, Georgia, but we always camped up in the mountains, so when I retired from Georgia Power in 1996 we came up to a friend’s house up here and fell in love with it,” Hill said. “It’s a small community, so you get to know people and interesting characters and I write about a lot of them in the book and tell some of their stories about them.” 

In addition to the stories and memories Hill details in his book, something that makes it especially unique is the number of photos he has included throughout each chapter. 

“I put 242 pictures in the book and that’s something that’s not normally done,” Hill said. “I went through all my parents’ pictures and pictures I had and was able to pull all of those together, so there’s a lot of old pictures that are in there.”

For those interested in reading Hill’s book, “They Inspired Me” is available for purchase on his website at https://jimmy-hill.com. He also donated two copies of it to the Dawson County Public Library for community members to check out and read, and he hopes to sell copies at the Amicalola Regional Farmers Market throughout the summer. 

“You may cry a little bit, you’re gonna laugh a lot I think, and you’ll share the experiences that I’ve had over the years,” Hill said.

“Killing My Cuba” by Lou and Lilli Meier

Killing My Cuba
"Killing My Cuba" by Lilli Meier

Local woman Lilli Meier recently published a historical fiction book based on her experience growing up in Cuba under a repressive government. Meier was both in Havana and lived there until she was 11 and a half, from 1949 to 1961, when she moved to Miami, Fl. Now, with the help of her husband Lou, she has written and published a book, “Killing My Cuba”, based on the first part of her life in Cuba. 

Meier, who lives in North Forsyth and is an active member of the Dawsonville book club, said that she always wanted to return to Cuba where she grew up but didn’t have a chance to do so until she was in her 50s. 

“As the years went by, I was raising a family and lived in Atlanta but I thought that by the time I was 40 I could return back to a free Cuba,” Meier said. “Years went by and I turned 50 and I did get to go back in my 50s, but I went back to a country that was practically destroyed.” 

After returning to visit Cuba, Meier said that she wanted to write a book to remember past events. Meier based her novel on her own memories and those of her father, who was a doctor in Havana, and added a fiction element in her book too. 

““I had conversations with my father later on growing up, he was a doctor in Havana so my husband who is a radiologist helped me to write some of the medical parts of the book,” Meier said. “But the fiction part of the novel is for the sake of entertainment, and the historical part is factually based on my growing up there and my father’s memories.” 

Meier and her husband took two and a half years to finish writing the book, and Meier said that the process was therapeutic for her. 

“It brought me a certain amount of remembering both the sad memories and the fond memories,” Meier said. “If you ask people what they remember about their first 10 or 11 years a lot of people would say it was nothing exciting, but I had a really exciting childhood.” 

Meier said the goal of her book is to reach members of the next generation with her story. 

“I want to reach the young generation with this too, because this happened and the unfortunate thing is that the communist regime is still pretty much in force down there,” Meier said. “A lot of people will say ‘I’ve been on cruises and I’ve seen Havana' but you haven’t seen what I’ve seen; I’ve seen some things that would just break your heart.” 

For those interested in reading Meier’s book, “Killing My Cuba” is available to order in paperback form on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Killing-My-Cuba-L-Meier/dp/173531370X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=killing+my+cuba&qid=1623442528&sr=8-1/. For more information on the book and its authors, go to https://www.killingmycuba.com/

“Those Days in January: The Abduction and Murder of Meredith Hope Emerson” by John Cagle

Those Days in January
"Those Days in January" by John Cagle

If you’re interested in a gripping, behind-the-scenes look into one of Georgia’s most shocking murders, then John Cagle’s book “Those Days in January: The Abduction and Murder of Meredith Hope Emerson” is the book for you. 

Cagle, who was the supervising agent in the investigation of Meredith Emerson’s kidnapping and murder on the Appalachian Trail, published his tell-all book over a decade after the case ended, offering a new perspective into the case. 

The investigation took place in January of 2008 when 24-year-old Meredith Emerson went missing from the Byron Herbert Reece Memorial Trailhead in Union County, where she had gone hiking with her dog Ella. Authorities found and arrested 61-year-old Gary Hilton a few days after Emerson’s disappearance and later charged him for kidnapping, murdering and decapitating Emerson. 

Hilton pled guilty and negotiated to avoid the death penalty by showing investigators where he had hidden Emerson’s body in Dawson Forest. He was also convicted of kidnapping and killing John and Irene Bryant, a couple hiking in North Carolina, and Cheryl Dunlap, a nurse from Florida. Hilton is currently awaiting execution in a Florida prison. 

According to Cagle, Emerson’s murder is one that has always stuck with him and the other investigators who worked the case. One of the reasons it affected him so much personally was because much of the search took place in Dawson Forest, where he had worked back in high school. 

“I grew up in Pickens County, and when I graduated from high school, Dawson Forest had just been decommissioned and I worked a summer job out there shoveling radioactive dirt,” Cagle said. “I would kind of explore out there after I’d get off and it was spooky. So I kind of described that experience, and then 36 years later I’m out there one night looking for a body.”

Cagle said that one of the main reasons he decided to write the book was as a way for himself and other officers to work through the case, and to hopefully put it behind them. 

“Some people are hesitant to talk about it, and that might have been one of the reasons I waited so long to write it,” Cagle said. “I’ve struggled with this case since then, as a lot of investigators have, and I thought it might be kind of therapeutic to write about it – and so far so good. And I’m getting a good response from folks; a lot of officers and some of my former agents have called me and said they felt the same way.”

For those interested in reading Cagle’s book, “Those Days in January” can be purchased on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Those-Days-January-Abduction-Meredith/dp/163183732X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1CXFFRK8D3K4C&dchild=1&keywords=those+days+in+january&qid=1623443147&sprefix=those+days+in+%2Caps%2C193&sr=8-1

“Uncorked and Off the Chain” by Jameson Gregg

Gregg book
"Uncorked and off the Chain" by Jameson Gregg

If you’re in the mood for a laugh, then local man Jameson Gregg’s book “Uncorked and Off the Chain” is the choice for you. Gregg’s book consists of 175 sections covering a variety of topics, from sports to gambling to marriage and short anecdotal stories, all aimed at giving readers a laugh. 

According to Gregg, his aim is to help end the “laughter drought” in the United States by giving readers a reason to laugh. 

“Everybody loves to laugh,” Gregg said in a press release. “It provides instant gratification and an endorphin burst. Some pieces will resonate with every reader in a long-lasting and personal way — writings that they will not soon forget.” 

For readers without a ton of extra time on their hands, “Uncorked and Off the Chain” is the perfect book. Since it’s divided up into so many short sections, it’s perfect to grab and read a paragraph at a time. 

For those interested in Gregg’s book, “Uncorked and Off the Chain” is available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Uncorked-Off-Chain-Offbeat-Ramblings/dp/1631839306/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=uncorked+and+off+the+chain&qid=1623444177&sr=8-1. For more information or other ways to purchase the book, go to jamesongregg.com

“A Taste of Chestatee” cookbook by Chestatee neighborhood residents 

Chestatee cookbook
"A Taste of Chestatee". by Chestatee neighborhood members.

If you’re interested in a different kind of summer reading and want to add some new recipes to your cooking repertoire, “A Taste of Chestatee” cookbook, written and published by Dawson County residents, is the book for you. 

The cookbook, which was assembled and published by a group of women from Chestatee neighborhood in Dawson County, was a project aimed at raising money for the Backpack Buddies charity. The book showcases recipes from five local chefs, which was a selling point for it, according to El Morris, one of the book’s creators. 

“We ended up with five chefs who each gave us one of their recipes which was really cool,” Morris said. “So we had a professional photographer come in and take pictures of them and put them in the book on the divider pages so it has the chef’s picture and the name of the restaurant on the front and then on the back is his recipe.” 

The five restaurants included in the cookbook include four from Dahlonega, as well as Dawson’s own Blue Bicycle restaurant. In the first several weeks of selling the book, the team of women sold 485 copies of it and raised $5,558 for Backpack Buddies. 

For more information on the Chestatee cookbook and how to get one for yourself, email chestateecookbook@gmail.com. 

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