Fisher of men 

When Terry Kay speaks, he sounds a little like the voice of God. That is, God as he might sound in some mid-'50s Technicolor epic, ordering Moses to lead the Israelites. Kay's precise dialect resonates with warmth and authority, the kind of voice you can't help but absorb and obey.

But the voice in Kay's writing is different, more soothing, though just as commanding. The new novel from the Athens-based author, The Valley of Light (Atria Books), often reads with the simplicity and grace of myth. Biblical allusions abound. Protagonist Noah Locke, blessed with a miraculous gift for fishing, drifts into a small North Carolina community in the late '40s. As he tries to forget the horrors he saw in WWII, Noah uses his talents to amaze and comfort the locals who live around the appropriately named Lake of Grief.

"What I really wanted to write about was a gifted person, that inexplicable thing that some people have," says the 65-year-old author. "I've always believed that those people affect others with more than their gift. They actually affect their souls."

Kay's much-revered 1990 novel To Dance with the White Dog has been lauded for its mythic qualities, but Kay calls The Valley of Light his first deliberate attempt to add such an element to his writing. Hallmark Hall of Fame plans to make a film version of The Valley of Light, his third novel to be made into a TV movie.

Though the book centers on a gifted angler, it speaks more to matters of healing than to the philosophy of fishing. The story was inspired partly by the author's son Scott's uncanny knack for fishing -- a talent he didn't inherit from dad.

"He catches fish left and right," Kay says. "I couldn't catch 'em with dynamite."

Perhaps he should try talking them out of the water.

Terry Kay appears Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Margaret Mitchell House, 990 Peachtree St. $8, free for members. 770-578-3502. www.gwtw.org.

Shelf Space is a weekly column on books and Atlanta's literary scene.

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