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Book excerpt: Dolly Parton & James Patterson's "Run, Rose, Run"

Music superstar Dolly Parton and bestselling author James Patterson have teamed up for a novel about an aspiring country singer, "Run, Rose, Run" (Little, Brown).

Concurrent with the release of the book is a new album release by Parton, featuring songs she wrote expressly for the novel.

Read the excerpt below, and don't miss correspondent Lee Cowan's interview with Dolly Parton and James Patterson on "CBS Sunday Morning" March 6!

Little, Brown

It was open-mic night at the Cat's Paw, which meant that everyone and her in-laws had come out to get their six minutes in the spotlight. And if Ruthanna Ryder had known this in advance, she'd have thought twice about showing up.

"Boo!" said a voice right near her ear.

Ruthanna socked her guitarist in the arm without even looking. "Ethan Blake, don't scare a lady," she said.

"Shh," he said. "She's on."

"It's nice to be back here," she was saying. "I'm AnnieLee Keyes, and I'm kinda new in town." She tapped on the beat-up instrument she held in her lap. "This here is the Cat's Paw, um, community guitar. It's got old strings and slippery pegs, so it doesn't always like to stay in tune. But the two of us'll do our best for you tonight."

As AnnieLee began to strum her intro, Ruthanna could hear how dull the strings sounded, and she quickly decided to get a better instrument sent to the bar tomorrow. She was wondering whether she should get a Martin or a Gibson—or maybe a Taylor?—when the girl opened her mouth and started singing. And Ruthanna sat up and started paying attention.

Dark night, bright future
Like the phoenix from the ashes, I shall rise again

The girl's voice was a honey-colored soprano, clear and luminous. Where did this girl come from? AnnieLee Keyes looked barely older than a teenager, but she sang as though she'd lived for ninety-nine years and seen tragedy in each one of them.

When she started a new song with a quicker tempo, her voice became a roar rather than a trill. Underneath that sweet, doll-faced exterior, there was something fierce and furious about AnnieLee Keyes. Some dark pain powered those pipes; Ruthanna was sure of it.

She'd seen more than a lifetime's worth of brilliant, accomplished professional musicians, but this girl was a natural.

It took one to know one.


When AnnieLee finished her set and went to the bar for her celebratory club soda, the bartender waved her off. "Somebody wants to meet you."

He gave her a gentle shove and then they broke through a knot of people to find themselves standing in front of a small, battered table, in the very back corner of the bar, where the biggest star in Nashville was sitting, clicking her nails on the rim of a martini glass.

Perfumed and painted, with smoky eyes and candy-red lips and her spectacular hair coiffed in studiously messy curls, Ruthanna Ryder was so dazzling that AnnieLee gasped.

As Ruthanna extended a slender arm, gesturing for AnnieLee to sit, her beaded dress reflected the colored lights dripping down from the ceiling. "Damned if I don't look like a disco ball in here," she said, almost to herself.

"Ruthanna," Ethan said to the glittering queen beside him, "I'd like you to meet AnnieLee Keyes. AnnieLee, this is Ruthanna Ryder."

"You're a very talented girl," she said. "I've been in this business for over forty years, and I've seen more singers than I've seen Sundays. But honestly, you stand out, AnnieLee Keyes. You've really got something special."

AnnieLee's heart swelled with relief and gratitude. "Thank you," she whispered. "That means the world to me."

But Ruthanna didn't smile. She pointed one perfect, blood-red nail at AnnieLee's heart. "Here's my advice for you, AnnieLee Keyes," she said. "Get the hell out of Nashville while you still can."

AnnieLee swallowed. "Pardon me?" she gasped.

"It's a hard, rough business," said Ruthanna. "A tiny thing like you? You'll get chewed up and spit out like a hunk of gristle. Sure, you might taste success, but you're more likely to end up broke and alone. Do something sensible with your life, AnnieLee. Get a job. Find a man and marry him."

AnnieLee had to remind herself to breathe.

Can I fix it?
No I cain't
But I sure ain't gonna take it lyin' down

Steeling herself, she spoke slowly and calmly to her idol. "I admire you more than anyone else on this whole green earth," AnnieLee said, "but with all due respect, Ms. Ryder, you can go screw yourself."

From "Run, Rose, Run." Copyright © 2022 by James Patterson and Dolly Parton. All song lyrics copyright © 2021 Song-A-Billy Music. Al rights administered by Sony Music Publishing. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved.

To listen to Dolly Parton perform the song "Dark Night, Bright Future," from the album "Run, Rose, Run," click on the player below:

Dolly Parton - Dark Night, Bright Future (Official Audio) by Dolly Parton on YouTube

For more info:

  • "Run, Rose, Run" by Dolly Parton and James Patterson (Little, Brown), in Hardcover and eBook formats, available March 7 via Amazon and Indiebound; also available in Audio format, read by Dolly Parton, Kelsea Ballerini, James Fouhey, Kevin T. Collins, Peter Ganim, Luis Moreno, Soneela Nankani, Ronald Peet, Robert Petkoff, Ella Turenne and Emily Woo Zeller
  • Album: "Run, Rose, Run" by Dolly Parton (Butterfly), available via Amazon
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