Professor's research sparks renewed interest in North Carolina author

Associate Professor Anthony Hatcher published a biographical essay on crime noir author James Ross, a critically acclaimed but little known North Carolina writer who attended Elon for a year in the 1930s.

Associate Professor Anthony Hatcher (left) and crime noir author James Ross (1911-1990), who attended Elon for a year in the 1930s.
Associate Professor Anthony Hatcher in the School of Communications has published a biographical essay in the 2013 North Carolina Literary Review about James Ross, author of the acclaimed but little-known 1940 book “They Don’t Dance Much.”

Hatcher has been conducting research on Ross and his sole crime noir novel for more than two years.

Ross (1911-1990) attended Elon College in the 1930s and published only one novel and eight short stories. Unable to earn a living as a fiction writer, Ross turned to journalism, first in Savannah, Ga., and then in Greensboro, N.C. He became a reporter and editorial writer for the Greensboro Daily News, now the News & Record, in the 1950s.

Anthony Hatcher's article on James Ross appears in the 2013 edition of North Carolina Literary Review.
Hatcher’s NCLR article is titled, “‘It didn’t sell much’: The Publishing Struggles of Novelist Turned Newspaperman James Ross.” Hatcher notes that Flannery O’Connor helped Ross by suggesting him to her literary agent, and he moved in lofty literary circles but never quite broke through as a successful writer.

Ross was the eldest of four siblings born near Norwood, N.C. who became known as the “Writing Rosses.” His brother Fred, who also wrote one novel and some short stories, died in 1992. His sister, poet Eleanor Ross Taylor, was the widow of novelist Peter Taylor. She died in 2011. The youngest sibling, Jean Ross Justice, widow of poet Donald Justice, lives in Iowa and is still writing stories and essays.

James Ross’s niece and Fred’s daughter, Heather Ross Miller, is a novelist, poet and teacher at Pfeiffer University near Charlotte. Miller, Jean Ross Justice, and James Ross’s widow Marnie provided firsthand accounts, photos, and original manuscripts that made up the bulk of Hatcher’s research. Numerous interviews were also conducted with former Ross associates, including Pulitzer winners Ed Yoder and Jonathan Yardley, both of whom worked with Ross at the Daily News.

Hatcher’s work on James Ross has yielded renewed interest in the author. A Spanish language edition of the novel will soon be published for the first time. Articles by former Ross colleague Bill Morris on Hatcher’s research appeared in O. Henry magazine and on the website The Millions.

A new edition of “They Don’t Dance Much” has been published by Mysterious Press, who asked Hatcher to pen an essay for its blog:

Hatcher’s essay in Oxford American magazine detailing his search for information on Ross can be accessed online at

A Washington Post book review by Jonathan Yardley on the reissue of “They Don’t Dance Much” references Hatcher’s Oxford American piece:

North Carolina Literary Review is published annually by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary & Historical Association. The 2013 issue also features poetry and prose by Fred Chappell, Bland Simpson, Daniel Wallace and many others. Contents of the current issue can be found at: