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Author Robert Lamb will speak at Moveable Feast at Pawleys Island restaurant

“If you’re a South Carolinian, when the Lowcountry calls, you have to go. It’s a law of nature. And if you’re lucky enough that your destination is Pawleys Island, that’s all the better.”

That could very well be Robert Lamb talking, but it’s not. Well, it is. Sort of.

In actuality, that quote about the greatness of Pawleys Island is from Ben Blake, a character in Lamb’s latest book, “The Ties That Bind (A Family Saga),” his fifth novel since his 1991 debut “Striking Out.” The new book, released in December 2023, is already a top seller on Amazon’s Southern Fiction “hot new releases.”

Author Robert Lamb at his home in Pawleys Island. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens/Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce)

Still, the quote could have just as easily come from Lamb, himself a Pawleys Island resident and a lifelong Southerner. For the 88-year-old writer, there’s no place like home.

“A character in my book,” Lamb mused recently from his Pawleys Island home on Crooked Oak Drive, “says it best: ‘If you can’t get your mind right in the Carolina Lowcountry, there’s no hope for you.’ ”

“The Ties That Bind (A Family Saga)” revives Blake, a character used in two of Lamb’s other novels, “Atlanta Blues” and “A Majority of One.” In the latest, Blake, a writer-in-residence at a Southern university, is summoned to Atlanta by the emotional breakdown of his son Charles, an architect with no history of mental illness, but whose mother killed herself when he was 15. Ben agrees to help Charles’ psychiatrist reconstruct her new patient’s history; Charles has remained silent. But when it is revealed that Charles has furtively planned to enter the Catholic priesthood, Ben, who is not religious, feels bereft: He has not only lost his wife, but will he now lose his son, an only child, and the prospect of grandchildren, too? In other words, Ben will be working against his own self-interests.

So goes Lamb’s latest novel — down streets in Atlanta, detours to Pawleys, but, most of all, across twisted avenues of family history, the good and bad, connected and bound by blood.

Praise for Lamb’s latest is high.

Author Mark A. Bradley (“Blood Runs Coal”) bills “The Ties That Bind” as “the best of Pat Conroy and Sam Shepherd rolled into one.”

“It is also a haunting reminder,” Bradley reflected, “that Faulkner was right about the past. It is not only not dead, but its legacies, good and bad, flit all around us.”

The cover of Robert Lamb’s latest novel.

Henry Eason, author of “Into the Pacific Fog,” wrote, “Robert Lamb, one of the South’s great storytellers, plumbs the depths of human relationships and yields some universal truths.”

Lamb worked on “The Ties That Bind” for nearly a decade and told The Georgetown Times in 2015 that it was his “magnum opus.”

“I was stumped for a long time on how to write it,” Lamb said. “Finally saw that it was really a story within a story. It worked.”

That Lamb could be stumped on how to write might come as a surprise to many. After all, he was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the start of his career, a newspaper publisher in his own right and a former professor at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.

His first novel was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. His acclaimed book of short stories and poems, “Six of One, Half Dozen of Another” had a story, “R.I.P,” that was a winner in the 2009 South Carolina Fiction Project.

Born in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1935 but raised in Georgia, Lamb and his wife, Margaret, moved to Pawleys Island in 2012. For a short time, he wrote a column for The Georgetown Times.

Lamb began his newspaper career in 1962, writing obituaries for The Augusta Herald in Georgia. He was a newspaper publisher between 1969 and 1973 when he co-owned The Jeff Davis County Ledger in Hazelhurst, Georgia. When a man walked in wanting to buy the newspaper, Lamb jumped at the chance and eventually settled as a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution.

Lamb’s books and short stories sometimes seem to reflect Lamb’s own life – a newspaper reporter in “Atlanta Blues,” a newspaper publisher in “A Majority of One,” a college professor in “The Ties That Bind,” but he doesn’t intend his books to be autobiographical.

But, he said, “The first rule of fiction writing is to write what you know. And the reader can tell if you don’t. You can’t write convincingly about, say, a broken heart if you’ve never had one.”

So in that sense, the intertwined family stories Lamb details in his new book do have a truth of reality in the pages of the fiction.

Novelist Robert Lamb and his wife, Margaret, hold the new book, “The Ties That Bind (A Family Saga).” (Photo by Mark A. Stevens/Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce)

“One thing they don’t tell you about growing old is that you will lose a lot of friends and loved ones along the way,” Lamb said. “My mother’s family was large, seven sisters, two brothers.

“Today, all but one of those siblings is dead and so are many of their children, my cousins. I learned recently that at least a third of my graduating class at Boys Catholic High, in Augusta, Georgia, is gone. Even the school is gone! So, yes, ‘The Ties That Bind (A Family Saga)’ is more personal.”

Lamb has been writing since he was 10 years old, and even now, at 88, writing remains part of his life. In fact, he’s already working on a new collection of short stories.

“The old movie ‘Gentleman’s Agreement,’ starring Gregory Peck as a magazine writer, sparked my ambition to write,” Lamb recalls. “But even before the movie, my mother used to read to me at bedtime when I was about 5 years old, and she could really pour on the drama. I can hear her now: “…and the pooor little ugly duckling…’’

“The Ties That Bind (A Family Saga)” is available in hardback and paperback editions at amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.

Lamb will be the featured author at the Moveable Feast on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 11 a.m. at Caffé Piccolo, 9428 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island. Reservations are required by calling Linda Ketron at 843-235-9600, emailing linda@classatpawleys.com or going to ClassAtPawleys.com. The cost to attend is $35.

Lamb will be available to sign copies of his books, which will be available for purchase.

In addition to “The Ties That Bind,” Lamb’s other books include “Striking Out,” “And Tell Tchaikovsky the News,” “Atlanta Blues,” “A Majority of One” and “Six of One, Half Dozen of Another,” his collection of short stories and poems.

“The Ties That Bind (A Family Saga)” is published by MAS Communications and Red Letter Press.