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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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Jan 31
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73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
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Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
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Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
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Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015

Paul Reid of Tryon writes Winston Churchill: Defender of the Realm

Paul Reid of Tryon rounds out The Last Lion

by Rob Neufeld

 

            When Paul Reid got his advance from Little, Brown & Co. to write the third volume of William Manchester’s Winston Churchill biography, “The Last Lion,” he and his wife Barbara moved to Tryon from Florida, where he was an award-winning journalist for the “Palm Beach Post.”

            Reid knew the Carolina mountains.  As a lad from Winchester, Massachusetts and a student at Ithaca College in New York, he and his bluegrass band, the Promised Land String Band, had taken their sound to Boone, Linville, and Deep Gap.  

            Russ Barenberg, Reid’s guitar-playing hero, had sat in on their sessions in New York.  (Barenberg is the performer of “Ashokan Farewell,” the soundtrack theme in Ken Burns’ series, “The Civil War.”)

            Writing about a group of World War II veterans in the late 1990s, Reid met and established an affinity with William Manchester, the best-selling author and former journalist, who, as it turned out, was not able to complete his Churchill trilogy.  On Oct. 9, 2003, Manchester pulled out his suitcase of notes and told Reid, “I’d like you to finish the book.”

            Manchester planned to edit Reid’s work, but died of stomach cancer seven months later.  His notes were a puzzle of coded pages, without the section on sources included.  Reid worked for eight years, covering all the research territory over again, resulting in over 1,100 pages, and a volume titled, “Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.”

            Reid presents his book at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 3 p.m. tomorrow.  Following is my interview with Paul Reid.

 

Q:  When you first met William Manchester, doing your story on the Marines, how did you bond?

 

A:  Pretty early on, he asked me about my father.  I said he went to the Naval Academy, and that I’d grown up reading military history.  I think he realized: this guy is a feature writer with a strong interest in history, not just on assignment.  When I visited (his area), doing other stories, or going to see my daughter at U. Mass, he’d invite me to stay over, and we’d chat…He wasn’t a lonely, old man, but he was an old man who lived alone.  So we just got to be friends.

 

Q:  He must have sensed an affinity that went beyond an interest in military history to one based on an approach to history.

 

A:  We were talking and I said, “Bill, you should get someone to finish the book.  Get a historian.”  He said, “I don’t want a historian.  If I wanted anyone, and I do not, I’d want a writer.”  I knew exactly what he meant.  I must have done 500 feature stories on all sorts of topics, and he asked if I could send up that month’s bundle of features.  He liked the writing.

 

Q:  You’ve won awards for your features.  What were some of those about?

 

A:  I did a story on the Pratt & Whitney engine for the F-22 Raptor—the biography of an engine….I did a story titled “Geraldo’s Violin.”  It was about a guy whose father had been a violin maker—this guy was now about 70—and his father had not finished a violin he’d started 65 year ago, and had put it in a box.  And now decades later, his son completes the violin and realizes he has a talent for it.

 

Q:  Isn’t that wonderful?  It sort of relates to you and William Manchester.

 

A:  Yes.  The unfinished story. 

 

Q:  How much of the new book did you create?

 

A:  The first 150 pages is a synthesis—there are about 100 of Bill’s pages in there.  From page 161 on, I don’t think Bill is in the book any more. 

 

Q:  That’s when you write about the German air strikes on London.  Let me quote a passage in which you follow Londoners coming out onto the streets from shelters.  “They rose to fires still burning, to stinking raw sewage seeping down gutters.  They emerged to unexploded bombs buried up to the fins in marl and mud, just waiting for the clumsy jolt that would start the fuse softly buzzing.”  I read somewhere that an old man gave you a tour of the haunted sites, and that fed your writing of that chapter.

 

A:  That walk with the old Londoner had a definite effect.  I could close my eyes and hear him.  I’d been to London many times. I had sources, books and maps.  But what a happy coincidence for me to have had this old guy walk me through where the planes came from at night.  I could imagine, I could re-listen to what he’d told me.

 

Q:  How has your newspaper writing experience helped your book writing?

 

A:  The value of journalism to this type of effort is critical.  When you’re making your living on deadlines, and you’ve got to get everything right—nobody wants to print a correction—and you want the reader to enjoy the story, and you have 36 hours to do it, and the next week, you’re on a whole new story—those are skills that are perfectly applicable to a project like this…(With) the demand upon yourself to keep the reader hooked, you don’t have the luxury of a one-page transition in a 15-inch feature story.  You have to move from Topic A to Topic B fluidly.  I told people I thought of the book as an 1,100 page feature story.

 

Q:  That’s the William Manchester tradition, and the Barbara Tuchman.

 

A:  Barbara Tuchman had a Bachelor’s from Radcliffe.  The divide between popular and scholarly history intrigues me.  If you look in the back of one of her books, it’s full of source notes…You can take “The Guns of August” to the beach.  That can’t be said about a lot of scholarly books.  I want a book that moves me, that makes me laugh and think, and doesn’t lecture me…I wanted my book to pass the campfire test as well as the scholarly test.

 

Q:  It’s a big subject, but you can you name one impact that Churchill had on history that readers should be especially aware of?

 

A:  He was full of contradictions and had a lot of faults, and that is made clear in the book.  That said, I believe that his fighting alone, in England, 1940-41, against Hitler (when others favored appeasement)…Because he believed that Nazism was a mortal threat to everything held dear in Western civilization since Plato.  I believe that he bought the time for the Russians to accidentally come in and for the Americans to come in to save Western civilization. 

 

Q:  One also has to be impressed by the effect that great oratory can have on history.

 

A:  My father, when I was a little kid, would put on recordings of Churchill on our RCA Victrola (while) he flipped pancakes and fried eggs for breakfast.  He’d walk around the kitchen in his Annapolis bathrobe, stabbing the air the air with the spatula in syncopation with Churchill’s words.  “Listen to Winston,” he commanded.  That's where it all began.

BOOK

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Read (Little, Brown and Co. hardcover, Nov. 2012, 1,199 pages, $40).

 

AUTHOR EVENT

Paul Reid presents the third and final volume of “The Last Lion” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Jan. 5.  Call 254-6734.

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