Acclaimed novelist David Madden returns to Pellissippi State tomorrow

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Author and Knoxville native David Madden returns to Pellissippi State Community College to read from his latest novel, “London Bridge in Plague and Fire,” on Feb. 28. Madden’s reading is scheduled for 2-3 p.m. in the Goins Auditorium at the Hardin Valley Campus.

In the novel, Old London Bridge is as much a living, breathing character as its architect, the priest Peter de Colechurch, who began work on the structure in 1176. With more than 200 houses and shops built directly on it, the bridge was a wonder of the world until it was dismantled in 1832.

“London Bridge in Plague and Fire” tells the story of the bridge and two of the calamities that afflicted its residents. The bridge serves as the story’s backdrop and as a dominating force in the lives of the principal characters.

Madden’s tale is lyrical, complex and often shocking, according to the publisher, the University of Tennessee Press. The novel is also considered his most ambitious and imaginative work.

“It’s a frame story: a story within a story,” said Ed Francisco, a Pellissippi State English professor and writer-in-residence. “[Madden] is prolific, he is protean in his imagination; his imagination goes where ever it wishes and the results are always fascinating.”

Madden read from “London Bridge in Plague and Fire” two weeks ago at the Bijou in Knoxville. Now a resident of Black Mountain, N.C., he returns to Knoxville regularly to share his work. The city also continues to influence his work. In the case of his most recent novel, the Gay Street Bridge served as inspiration.

“The look of Knoxville—its seven hills, like Rome—during the Civil War, there were batteries on all those hills,” Madden said in an interview with “The Read on WNC.”

“By the way, about the origin of ‘London Bridge’— it was Gay Street Bridge in Knoxville. I used to go down there in a trembling sense of excitement [as a youth], and walk across it, skipping over the broken parts, which is right there in ‘London Bridge in Plague and Fire.’”

Pellissippi State hosted Madden when he read from the novel prior to its publication a few years ago.”

His book “Sharpshooter,” a Civil War-era novel set at the Bleak House on Kingston Pike, was adopted as Pellissippi State’s Common Book for the 2007-2008 Common Academic Experience. At that time, Madden made several visits to the college, giving readings and talking with young writers. He also gave the first and only dramatic reading from “Abducted by Circumstance,” when it was still a work-in-progress.

Madden’s best-known novel, “The Suicide’s Wife,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and made into a CBS movie, but he is most known in the Knoxville area for “Bijou” and “Sharpshooter,” also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

For more information about this event, contact Francisco at (865) 694-6744.

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or