Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Story from Atlanta's August House Publishers--The Red Scarf by Richard Mason

Norphlet, Arkansas

December, 1944

"Christmas is gonna be here soon, and the way things are a-looking around here, it ain't gonna be much. Momma told me not to expect a lot, and for her to tell me that when it's right after Thanksgiving means I ain't gonna get nothing. Yeah, I do get a little sad when I think about a Christmas without presents, but you know; I don't care that much about Christmas presents. Ahaaa, wait a minute, I'm lying like a dog. Yeah, I do want Christmas presents, but since I ain't gonna get none, I just act like every thing's okay. But hey, you know what? I've got some good friends, and I like living out here on the farm where I can go in the woods and swamp and roam around. Anyhow, I can't think of a dang think I really want. Oh, heck, I'm lying again. There's a whole bunch of stuff I want, but I ain't gonna get nothing. So shoot, if I don't get a dang Christmas present it won't matter a whit to me. Liar!"

From 'The Red Scarf' by Richard Mason

A book friend at our local public school system gave me a copy of this book several weeks ago. As today is Christmas Eve, it seemed like a proper thing to post about.

Author, oilman, and former president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Richard Mason, grew up in rural southern Arkansas. His 2007 debut novel, 'The Red Scarf', recounts Christmas 1944 through the eyes of an eleven-year-old farm boy named, um, Richard.

Young Richard's adventures revolve around his quest to earn money with which to purchase Christmas presents. Specifically, he wants to earn enough money to buy a red scarf for Rosalie, the prettiest girl at school. Richard's various money-making schemes and penchant for trouble lead him to square-off with school bullies, criminals, a skunk, and a wildcat. Oh, weren't those the days?

'The Red Scarf' is reminiscent of the writings of Georgia author Ferrol Sams. The book has some genuinely funny moments, and a nice--Christmassy--twist at the end. Some readers might find the author's folksy, country boy dialogue to be a little contrived. However, if the reader grew up hearing and speaking that same dialogue, it is easy to recognize it a genuine. It might have you "shaking like a leaf". Laughing.

Richard Mason is the CEO of Gibralter Energy. His forthcoming book, 'Love and War in Afghanistan' is due out in the Spring of 2010.


The works of Terry Kay, Philip Lee Williams, and Dr. Ferrol Sams.

Merry Christmas, everybody.


Friday, October 16, 2009

In Honor of Halloween, A Local Monster Story

The following piece was researched and written last summer for a local magazine (Gwinnett County, Georgia). I post it here in honor of the season. Sorry, no photos to post as yet. Those are currently trapped in storage in a malfuntioning remotedrive. I'll work on it.

The Wog (a true story)

Perhaps you are one of the many Gwinnettians who will be making the drive over to Athens this fall to attend UGA football games. Perhaps you are planning a late summer or early fall camping trip over at Fort Yargo State Park.

Perhaps, as you make the drive along Highways 78 or 316 one evening, you catch a glimpse of flashing red eyes from the side of the road. Perhaps, as you lay in your tent sleeping, you are awakened by a noise in the middle of the night. What of the flashing eyes by the side of the road? A deer, most likely. And what about the commotion in your campsite in the middle of the night? Probably a raccoon rummaging for food.

Probably. Maybe not.

Just three miles east of the City of Winder lies one of Georgia’s more unusual geographic oddities. Geologists refer to it as a peat bog, though there has been some discussion over the decades as to whether or not it might actually be a long-dead volcano.

Historical records indicate that the early white settlers to the area knew the place well. Numerous accounts are to be found which describe an area of some four to five acres of black muck that bubbled and boiled, and presented a hazard to man and beast alike.

The Creek Indians who inhabited this area referred to the spot as Nodoroc or, more precisely, Hell. The Creek believed Nodoroc a place inhabited by the Devil. Prisoners of war and criminals were sacrificed by tossing them into the muck. Occasionally, when no one else was available—and Nodoroc was particularly active spewing smoke—an innocent villager might be offered up as a sacrifice.

The Creek were concerned about appeasing the resident of Nodoroc. This fearsome creature, that the Creek believed to be the Devil, was called The Wog.

The Wog would go about at night, terrifying the local inhabitants, and devouring the bodies of their dead. When sacrifices were tossed into the bog, it was the Wog that would pull them under. Some of the victim’s ghosts are said to be heard screaming in the woods at night even to this day.

As white settlers moved into the area the story of Nodoroc and the Wog persisted, though in a somewhat less sinister form. Local histories recount settlers’ tales of the creature lurking about the countryside at night, sometimes frightening livestock to death.

Not unusual where myths and monsters are concerned, there was much agreement between the Native Americans and the white settlers as to what the Wog looked like. It was said to be the size of a small horse. It was covered in jet-black hair, and had a head that resembled a bear. Its legs were about the length of a deer’s, with the back legs slightly shorter than the front legs. It had huge, nasty teeth—so large that its ugly lips could not close over them. Not surprisingly, it had a long, forked tongue that darted in and out of its mouth, and red eyes.

Perhaps the Wog’s most distinguishing feature was its tail. It was said that its tail was long and had a wiry tuft of hair at the end. The creature continually swished its tail, creating a buzzing sound that could be heard at some distance. Settlers claimed to have heard the sound at night, and would occasionally see the forked tongue flicking in and out through the cracks in their cabin walls.

The Creek sold off the land of Nodoroc to white settlers (likely thinking that they were getting quite a deal). Over the decades, the bog was drained for agriculture. Still, it remained a hazard to livestock, though there are no records of the Wog having molested farm animals for some time.

On a recent visit to Nodoroc, my tour guides were Jimmy Hardegree, age 78 and a lifetime resident of the area, and his nephew, Andrew. Both are relatives of the man whose family has owned the property on which Nodoroc is located for generations.

Mr. Hardegree is a wealth of knowledge regarding local history. He even has his own “museum”, a recreated general store, behind his house and just down the road from Nodoroc.

A trail through the woods leads down to the bog. Our young guide, Andrew, points out a sign announcing Nodoroc. He says that the sign is a remnant of an Eagle Scout project conducted by his older brother years ago, when local schools would bring students over to see the site.

Today, Nodoroc is covered over by a growth of ferns. Still, there is no mistaking the dark, black muck. Even after two years of drought, the ground is spongy to walk upon. Andrew tells us that, when things (meaning “No drought”) are normal, it’s difficult to find a place on which to stand and not sink.

To illustrate, Andrew takes a large stick, maybe four feet in length, and easily pushes it down into the ground up to his palm. When he removes it just as easily, it is covered with a wet, black ooze, and makes a sucking sound as the stick is pulled out of the ground.

Mr. Hardegree talks about the area, how it was once covered in corn and how he farmed it himself years ago. He talks of mules and tractors having to be used to get cows unstuck from the bog. He speaks of other artifacts that have been found around the place and how, to his knowledge, no serious excavation has ever been conducted in the place once known as Nodoroc. Maybe people are too spooked?

Andrew laughs and tells about times when he has been down at Nodoroc and allowed his imagination to get the best of him. And how he was at a full run by the time that he got back to the house.

Neither Mr. Hardegree or Andrew have seen the Wog, though Andrew tells us that his brother and a friend did once see “something” off in the distance—something that was about the size of a deer, and was jet black.

That commotion in your campsite in the middle of the night—it’s just a raccoon going through your cooler.

But what’s that buzzing sound?

I'm thinking about going back to Nodoroc for a visit. I would like to see what the recent rains have done to revitalize the bog, and it seems like a Halloween thing to do.

RMR. And get spooked.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Georgia author Donny Seagraves-Gone From These Woods

An interview with Georgia author Donny Seagraves for her debut young adult novel Gone From These Woods, just out from Delacorte Press.

GBAW: Hunting and the outdoors were obviously part of your growing up, and part of the culture you live in. Did you have any concerns that your book would be seen as a direct assault on a part of that culture? Putting it bluntly, did you think that readers would come to identify you as having chosen sides in the often contentious national debate about guns?

DS: I did spend a lot of time outdoors like most kids who grew up before video games and computers, but hunting wasn’t part of my growing up. I didn’t come from a hunting family and actually knew very little about hunting and guns before I started writing the book that would become Gone From These Woods. I wasn’t trying to assault any part of our culture or anybody or choose sides in anything. I am telling a story. Since it’s a story about hunting and there is a gun in the story, and I’m not a hunter and have never owned a gun, I had to research those subjects and go out in the woods with the former police chief of the town where I live and learn how it feels to hold a gun in your hands and hear the sound when it fires and smell the smoke. I also consulted with a Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger to learn more about these subjects. The ranger told me there are more of these kinds of accidents in the woods than you might think. He also shared his own love of the outdoors and guns and hunting. I could almost feel his excitement about walking in the woods and the first day of hunting season. In my author’s note, I talk about hunting and guns and I don’t take sides.

GBAW: Clearly, the topic of suicide among young people is something that concerns you a great deal. You seem to feel just as strongly about the issue of gun violence. Was your intention with ‘Gone from these woods’ to write a work of advocacy fiction, if you will, or did you just want to tell a story that happened to achieve that end?

DS: I actually didn’t have an agenda when I started writing GFTW, other than to tell a story. The story happens to cover some tough and possibly controversial topics. I got the idea for this story from a real life gun accident I heard about when I was young. My second grade teacher’s nephew accidentally shot her husband (his uncle). That was all I knew about that tragic story. I used the idea of a boy accidentally shooting his uncle as a “story starter” or a “jumping off point” to construct my own story with characters who are not the “real boy” or his “real uncle.” They weren’t even hunting. The real boy was cleaning a gun. So, to get back to your question, of course the topic of suicide among young people concerns me. It should concern us all. Likewise, gun violence. But my intention when I wrote this book was to tell a story, not to write a book of advocacy fiction (not sure I’d even know how to do something like that). For me, the story is about the boy, Daniel. It’s a coming of age story and the fact that he goes through a horrible and tragic experience and survives is the point of the story. It’s not about the gun or the issue of suicide among young people. It’s about the boy. If readers feel they’d like to be more careful with guns after reading GFTW, I certainly applaud that. If they believe that suicide is not the solution to a problem, that’s good, too. But those weren’t the motivations for me to write this book.

GBAW: There has been an enormous amount of writing of late about the need to get kids back into the woods, to reconnect them with nature. There is even a term for it, now: Nature Deficit Disorder. Publications like ‘Field and Stream’ have taken up the issue. What are your thoughts on the subject, and do you recommend particular organizations, activities, or places?

DS: I’ve never heard of Nature Deficit Disorder until now, but I can definitely say that I’ve observed such behavior in young people all around me. I did some research into how many people hunt when I was writing my author’s note for GFTW and found that hunting is definitely on the decline. Families are more likely to live in urban areas now and there’s a lot of competition indoors for kids’ attention such as video games, computers, Internet, movies etc. I think this is something we should all be concerned about. Both of my children participated in scout troops when they were young and I would definitely recommend those. They also experienced outdoor activities in their church youth group and we visited state parks. I recommend that all parents keep outdoor activities on their to-do list. Seeing the outdoors on a computer screen or on TV isn’t the same as smelling pine and hearing a red-tailed hawk.

GBAW: You live and write in Athens, Georgia. Could you comment about your relationship to some of the other writers that live in this vibrant literary and writing community?

DS: Sure. My first editor was Phil Williams who later because the author Philip Lee Williams. Phil published my first adult writing in the Athens Observer, a great little alternative weekly newspaper. About a year later, I moved my column to the Athens Daily News, where my editor was Blake Giles, who later published several sports books. I was a columnist for the Daily News for about six years. One day I got a fan letter from a reader who worked at the Athens Regional Library. She introduced herself the next time I visited the library and we became friends. Eventually, she became the author Augusta Trobaugh (of course, I knew her under her real name, but I won’t share that here). I was an early student of Harriette Austin’s Creative Writing class at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and got to know many writers there including Andrea Parnell, Beverly Connor, Judy and Takis Iakovou and others. I was in a writers group in the late 1980s at the Athens Regional Library with Lori Hammer, Gene Fehler, Mary Ann Coleman and many others. I’ve also been in or am still in writers groups with authors including Gail Karwoski and Susan Vizurraga. As a frequent writer for Athens Magazine since 1993, I’ve interviewed and reviewed the books of many authors including Judith Ortiz Cofer, Terry Kay and Mary Kay Andrews. My hometown of Athens, Georgia is known for music, but we also have a talented and active literary community.

GBAW: As a reader, I thought that the messages in your book concerning grief, loss, and having made a terrible mistake could have just as easily been delivered using an auto accident, or any number of “accident” scenarios. The hunting scenario could be just as likely to occur in the woods (and cultures) of New York state or Montana. Do you think that having it all take place in a Southern setting gave the story some unique perspectives that might not have occurred in a different geographic or cultural setting?

DS: Again, I was not trying to deliver a message or use a scenario to get a point across. It’s a fictional story inspired by a real life happening. This is the tenth book I’ve written but is the first to be published. In the other nine books I worked very hard to take out the “Southernness,” which was quite hard for me since I am a native of Athens, Georgia and have lived all of my life in this area. I did this because I was told early on as I submitted manuscripts to New York publishers that I would never be able to sell a book to a NY publisher if it was Southern. Well, this is the first book I’ve written where I just let the Southern hang out and it sold to the first editor who read it, Michelle Poploff, VP and Editorial Director of Random House in New York.I think one of the reasons this book sold is its Southern setting. It’s Georgia in 1992. I took this setting directly from the area where I live, about six miles from Athens. A few years ago, I began exercise walking early in the morning to reduce my cholesterol. For the first time as an adult, I actually “saw” the place where I lived. It sounds corny, but I smelled the pine trees, heard the birds, saw the fish jump from the lakes behind my house. Yes, you could set this story anywhere there are woods, and you could change the details of the accident, but in my mind it wouldn’t be Daniel’s story. One of the things you do when you write fiction is make decisions. Lots of decisions. I decided right from the start that Daniel was a boy of the South and this would be a Southern story, whether or not it ever sold to anyone. And so it is.

GBAW: Tell me a little more about Mr. Hooper. Is he based upon a real person? Southern fiction always seems to supply a regular guy, usually older and a little curmudgeonly, who always manages to come through for everybody in a pinch. Could you comment?

DS: I’ll answer the last part of the question first. I didn’t have an older, a little curmudgeonly regular guy in my earlier versions of GFTW. My editor asked me to add a helpful neighbor. “Old Man Hooper” is mentioned in the first chapter by Uncle Clay. So I decided to give him a role in the book other than just being a name. I borrowed the names “Mouse Creek Road” and “Hooper Gap Road” from Cleveland, Tennessee, where my mother and other family members live. So it seemed natural to make this neighbor a Hooper from Hooper Gap Road. As I thought about bringing him to life, I remembered George Langdale, a retired Soil Scientist who owned about 70 acres of undeveloped land behind our land (it bordered the area where I walked in the mornings). George used to ride up and down the road in his old pickup truck full of barking hunting dogs while I was exercise walking. So I put the truck and the dogs in my story. It was the editor’s idea to have this helpful character and I simply reached out and gathered someone who was in my memory (George passed away about three years ago) and seemed like someone who would have helped Daniel. I agree that there are many helpful characters in Southern fiction. But they’re in every kind of fiction and I’m glad they exist in the real world, too.

GBAW: What’s next?

DS: I’m in the process of rewriting the book I wrote right before GFTW (number nine to me). Random House has an option on it and hopefully my agent will sell it to someone when I’m done. I’m also actively promoting GFTW. I recently appeared on a panel about middle grade novels at the 4th Annual AJC Decatur Book Festival. Next week I’ll got to SIBA (Southern Independent Bookseller’s Alliance) where I’ll participate in a panel called, “Writing the South.” In October, I’ll be a featured author at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. And of course, there’s always the next book. For me, it really is about the writing.

You can visit Donny at her website: and her blog: . Gone from these Woods is now available in bookstores, both real and virtual.
Gone From These Woods is a tremendous young adult/middle school read, and deals with some difficult subjects.


Blood Brothers by H. A. Harazin

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fall in Georgia--Look What's Coming

Thank goodness. Fall is around the corner. School starts back soon. College enrollments are way up and budgets are way down. Cooler weather. Fly fishing? And, of course, college football.

Fall is also prime book season. Here is a smattering of what's happening in Georgia. Note: this is the Cliffnotes version. If you want more details, please check the appropriate link at right.

Happy reading all.

From A Capella Books in Atlanta's Little Five Points District:

August 19 at 7 pm
Pat Conroy South of Broad
At the Carter Center

September 24 at 7 pm
Gary Pomerantz The Devil's Tickets: A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age
At the Carter Center

From the Georgia Center for the Book:

August 6 at 6:30 pm
Judson Mitcham A Little Salvation
Cherokee Regional Library, LaFayette, GA

August 10 at 7 pm
James Cobb Georgia Odyssey
Hart County Library, Hartwell, GA

August 11 at 7:15 pm
Amanda Gable The Confederate General Rides North
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

August 25 at 7:15 pm
Jonathan Tropper This Is Where I Leave You
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

September 4 thru September 6
The Decatur Book Festival
150 Authors

September 14 at 7:15 pm
Tom Edwards Blue Jesus and Samg Pak Wait Until Twilight
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

September 15
Judy Shepard The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder In Laramie and a World Transformed
Time and Location TBA

September 17 at 7:15 pm
Sal Cilella Upton's Regulars
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

September 17 at 7 pm
David Bottoms Waltzing Through the Endtime
Lake Blackshear Regional Library, Americus, GA

September 19 from 11 am to 3 pm
Celebrate Curious George and his creator H. A. Ray
Georgia Center for the Book

September 21
Philippa Gregory The White Queen
Time and Place TBA

September 28 at 7 pm
Garrison Keillor Pilgrims: A Wobegon Novel
Presser Hall, Agnes Scott College, Decatur

September 29 at 7:15 pm
Poetry Night Atlanta
Robin Kemp This Pagan Heaven and Karen Head Goizia Notebook
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

September 29 at 7 pm
Terry Kay collected works and stories
Catoosa County Library, Ringgold, GA

October 6 at 7:15 pm
Carmen Deedy 14 Cows in America
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

October 12 at 7:15 pm
Carol Berkins Civil War Wives
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

October 13
Byron Pitts Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Overcome Life's Obstacles
Time and Place TBA

October 17 from 9 am to 6 pm
The Georgia Literary Festival
Rome, GA

October 19 at 7:15 pm
R. A. Salvatore The Ghost King: Transitions, Book III
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

October 20 at 7 pm
Terry Kay Collected Works and Stories
Mountain Regional Library, Young Harris, GA

October 25 at 3 pm
Hank Klibanoff The Race Beat
Athens Regional Library, Athens

October 26 at 7:15 pm
Robert Hicks A Seperate Country
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

October 28 at 7:15 pm
Wil Haygood Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

October 29 at 7 pm
Wil Haygood Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson
Ohoopee Regional Library, Vidalia, GA

November 10 at 7:15 pm
Jill McCorkle Going Away Shoes
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

November 14 from 10 am to 4 pm
Savannah Children's Book Festival

November 17 at 7:15 pm
Mary Kay Andrews The Fixer Upper
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

November 19 at 7:15 pm
Debbie Macomber One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity
Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur

Presented by the Margarett Mitchell House:

August 8
George Dawes Green Ravens

August 20
Nancy Grace The Eleventh Victim

August 28
Jack Riggs The Fireman's Wife

September 16
Anita Diamant Day After Night

September 30
Richard Russo That Old Cape Magic

October 27
Rita Mae Brown Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small

October 29
Richard Paul Evans The Christmas List

November 9
David Wroblewski The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

November 16
Jeff Shaara No Less Than Victory

November 18
Jennifer Burns Goddess of the Market

Other Events and Happenings:

August 16
Nancy Grace The Eleventh Victim
Borders at Peachtree Road, Atlanta

August 30 at 2 pm
Donny Seagraves Gone From These Woods
Borders Books, Athens, GA

September 2 at 7 pm
Rev Run Take Your Family Back
Barnes & Noble at Peachtree Road, Atlanta

September 19 at 7 pm
Jamie and Bobby Deen The Deen Boys Take it Easy
Barnes & Noble, Savannah

October 15 at 7:15 pm
Andy Williams Moon River and Me
Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta

Upcoming Releases of Note:

September 1: Phillip Lee Williams The Campfire Boys

September 15: Marion Montgomery With Walker Percy at the Tupperware Party: in Company with Flannery O'Conner, T.S. Eliot, and Others

Events can change. Better check the websites. More to come. Happy Reading.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Author and native Atlanta, Georgian Pat Conroy has a new book, South of Broad. It is being published by Nan A. Talese, and arrives in bookstores on August 19. I managed to snag an advanced reader's copy some weeks ago, and read the book over a few days.

Pat Conroy's men are Southern to the core. They just don't wear it on their sleeve as a simple-minded caricature (unless intended to irritate someone who's predisposed to see those same caricatures). Conroy's protagonists are damaged, bruised and roughed up, but still full of dignity and grace. They are prone to be bookish, non-judgemental, empathetic, a bit too sensitive, and can even cook well. They also love football, can handle themselves on a basketball court, appreciate the discipline and tradition of military service, and can use a rod, reel, and firearm with ease. They are right at home in the library, in the woods, on the water, or on a ball field. Conroy's men are a little embarrassed about themselves, pretty quick to turn the other cheek, and wicked pranksters who recognize that even a thinking man will sometimes encounter some S.O.B. in life who is so sorry that only whipping his ass will get the message across.

Mr. Conroy's readers figured out a long time ago that he has a love (hate) relationship with the city of Charleston, South Carolina, the Carolina low country, and the South in general. Reviewers are already calling this book a love letter to Charleston. No doubt, Charleston is the star of this novel. But this book is also full of the character types that won Mr. Conroy millions of fans over the years. There are also guest appearances by Hollywood and Mother Nature. I remember being in Savannah that September night in 1989, on the telephone with a co-worker over in Charleston, and wondering what that must have been like for him. Now I have a pretty good picture. Mr. Conroy's language is just tremendous.

If this book is a love letter to Charleston, it is also a beautifully written tribute to friendship. Mr. Conroy writes of "essential men". He might well have referred to essential women, or essential people. That's the real story. That, and a gallant, bookish nerd who suffers the nickname, 'The Toad'.

Pat Conroy is the author of eight previous books. Though the folks of the Carolina Low Country claim him, he is a native of Atlanta, Georgia.

Pat Conroy will be discussing his new book at the Day Chapel of the Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 19th. The event is at 7 pm, and doors open at 6 pm. Admission to the event is $30 ($25 for Friends of the Carter Center) and will include an autographed 1st edition of South of Broad.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Georgia Authors Discuss Iran, Espionage and National Security Issues

Attention all espionage and national security aficionados:

On Thursday evening, beginning at 7 pm at the Buckhead (Atlanta) Barnes & Noble, Emory University professor of political science and history, Dr. Harvey Klehr will discuss his new co-authored book, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America. The book examines the journals of former KGB officer Alexander Vassiliev, and details the heretofore unknown extent of the KGB's operations in the United States. The book, and the discussion, will likely prove far more interesting than even the best Cold War fiction.

What: Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by Harvey Klehr

Where: Barnes & Noble Buckhead (Atlanta)

When: 7 pm, Thursday, June 25

Other Georgia authors you may wish to check out:

If you have an interest in intelligence and intelligence agencies, University of Georgia professor of political science Loch Johnson is one of the leading intelligence scholars in the country. In January of 2001, at a book signing for his then new book, Bombs, Bugs, Drugs and Thugs: Intelligence and America's Quest for Security, Dr. Johnson discussed his fear of a possible "non-conventional attack against the US by a terrorist group or other non-state actor" as one of the gravest threats facing America. Nine months later, Dr. Johnson was in great demand by media organizations seeking expert analysis concerning that very tragic reality.

Loch Johnson is the author or co-author of nearly a dozen books on intelligence and national security topics, including the Handbook for Intelligence Studies (June 09) and Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council (with Ambassador Karl Inderfurth; Nov 03).

If you have been following events in Iran, you may wish to examine the books of Georgia author and Middle East expert Sandra Mackey. In particular, her book The Iranians: Persia, Islam, and the Soul of a Nation (Apl 98) is certainly relevant to current events. Her other books include Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein (first published in May 02, then revised in March 03) and Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict (Feb 08).

If you have been following the Swine Flu pandemic, Georgia author and former Atlanta Journal Constitution health reporter Maryn McKenna's 2004 book, Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service is a darkly fascinating and disturbing look at the work of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) headquartered in Atlanta. McKenna was given unprecedented access to the elite units of the CDC who serve as America's (and often, the world's) front-line warriors against Ebola, SARS, bio-terrorism and flu pandemics.

The recent and horrific shooting at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. brings to mind Georgia author Daniel Levitas' 2002 (revised in 2004) book, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right. Levitas regularly consults with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, on issues relating to domestic terrorism.

For good, solid WWII-Cold War fiction, try University of Georgia faculty member, screen writer, and former CIA officer Howard Berk's novel, Nikolai's War (08). Some of Berk's other writing credits include many of the scripts for the original 'Mission Impossible' and 'Columbo' TV series.

On a related, though non-literary, side note, I was recently pleased to discover that the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education is continuing a program that I started there back in 2005. This year's Secret Agent Summer Camp (formerly, Spy Camp) sounds pretty cool. Below is a link to an Athens Banner Herald article about the program when we were first getting it off the ground.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Immigrant Experience--Judy and Takis Iakovou Book Signing

After years of meticulous research, Judy and Takis Iakovou's historical mystery novel, Bitter Tide, finally hit the shelves this week. The Athens' area couple are perhaps best known for their previous Nick and Julia Lambros mystery series, which includes So Dear to Wicked Men and There Lies a Hidden Scorpion. They are also known for Taki's Greek cooking, and are the former owners of the Silver Screen restaurant in Crawford, Georgia.

A nice crowd turned out this past week for their reading and signing over in Athens, GA. The new novel revolves largely around Ellis Island, and early 1900s New York City. The Library Journal has already given the book a hearty thumbs up.

For a bit more detail about the book, see the article that appeared in this week's Athens Banner Herald at the link below:

The photo is from this week's signing. That's author Terry Kay in the one shot. He is a tremendous supporter of Georgia authors and their work.

Congratulations Judy and Takis!

Also suggested, if you are interested in immigrant stories (& Georgia):

Outcasts United by Warren St. John. This new title features the story of a group of immigrant/refugee kids in metro Atlanta who form a very successful soccer team. The book has been receiving a great deal of press lately, and a movie deal is in the works.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Siege by Ismail Kadare

First published in Albania in 1970, then in France in 1994, The Siege by Albanian author Ismail Kadare has finally made it to bookstores in the U.S. It is just out from Cannongate Press. It is extraordinary.

The book won the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005, and Kadare has repeatedly been seen as a candidate for a Nobel Prize in literature. And he is from Albania.

Set in medieval Albania during Ottoman rule, The Siege tells the story of an Ottoman army trying to take an Albanian citadel. If historical fiction, fine writing, epic battles, and universal themes interest you, this book is worth a look.

This book is brutal, sensual in places, and rich.

The photos at top are of Rozafa Citadel in Shkoder, Albania. They show the castle at a distance, then looking over the ramparts toward the city of Shkoder, then the interior of the fortress. The photos were shot back in 1994.


The General of the Dead Army and Broken April, both by Ismail Kadare.

Andersonville by McKinley Kantor

Broken April was the last book that I ever purchased from Oxford Bookstore in Atlanta. On my way to Albania to teach.


Friday, May 22, 2009

A Harem of 50-Year-Old Hotties

My dad (Pop, we call him) is getting remarried tomorrow. The harem of 50-year-old hotties living at his house had to move out to make room for his new bride.

Pop is marrying a wonderful lady. It's quite a story, too. Both he and my late mother, as well as his new wife-to-be and her late husband, all new each other as teenagers. They grew up together. My mom passed away over three years ago, now. Miss Nancy, Pop's fiance, lost her husband five years ago.

Friendship led to companionship and, well, what can one say? Senior Citizens these days!

So, tomorrow, with two whole lives already under their collective belt, Pop and Nancy are getting married. A month ago, my father (age 69) more or less asked me for my permission to get married. In a round about way, so did Miss Nancy. Pop's very old school, and Nancy is the picture of grace.

We never quite know what to expect next, do we? I'm already trying to absorb my own child's finishing kindergarten this week (she is a READER!).

Unbeknown to my spouse (and soon to be first grader daughter), Gone With the Wind Barbie and her sisters are about to move in with us. Pop has been making room at home for his new bride. One of the items moving out has been my late mother's rather substantial collection of heirloom Barbie dolls. Barbie just turned 50 years old, you may recall from the media coverage. This collection was one of my mom's quirky passions. The collecting really took off after the birth of my daughter. Call it her legacy.

Quirky as it was, it was still heartfelt. And that's what matters. And I've never curated a Barbie museum. It ought to be interesting.

Best of Luck to Pop and Nancy.

Recommended reading:

Anything about family.


Friday, May 15, 2009

On the Road

It is certainly nice to be home after being on the road for work for nearly a month. Two weeks in Chicago, then two weeks commuting daily between metro Atlanta and Milledgeville, Georgia.

While in Chicago, I had the opportunity to meet author Neil Shubin at a discussion and signing for his book Your Inner Fish. I'm hoping the book will give me some insights on the matter of my own inner fish, as well as to some of those less evolved.

Chicago is a tremendous city, especially for eating. I also had the chance to see the famous Loyola University basketball court, and Soldier Field. The Field Museum is simply not to be missed. Indiana Jones would melt in that place.

Recommended reading:

From Lucy to Language by Donald Johanson (with photography by Georgia photographer, for National Geographic staff photography, Hominid expert, and former dairyman David Brill)

Summer for the Gods by Georgia author and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Larson

Comets by David Levy (the Mr. Rogers of astronomy)

After Chicago, it was back to Atlanta, then on the road each day to Milledgeville (home to Georgia's antebellum capitol, the State mental health facility, and Flannery O'Conner). Oddly enough, I got the email from work that I'd be going to Milledgeville on O'Conner's birthday. Several days later, friends from my former bookstore in Athens, GA let me know that they had just hosted Brad Gooch for a reading and signing of his new book, Flannery-A Life of Flannery O'Conner. The book was, I believe, well reviewed in the New York Times. I recommend it, too.


Gooch's book and any works by O'Conner.

Glad to be home. Hope to have time to read a little.

Oh, also, I finished Ray Bergman's Freshwater Bass while in Chicago (while not working or eating). If you like old fishing books, I highly recommend it.

I'm finally up on Facebook (another distraction from reading). Our daughter, age six, just lost her first tooth, and was invited to read at new kindergartner orientation at her elementary school. And our four year-old Star Wars nerd is kicking my butt at Star Wars Legos Wii.

Good luck everybody.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another Recall--Obama Administration Targets Peeps

This from yesterday's New York Times:

Following a spate of recent food recalls, the Obama administration announced in a surprise news conference that it was now targeting Peeps, the gooey, brightly colored candy-thing that is popular around the Easter holidays. Like fruitcake, the so-called treat is often given, but seldom actually consumed.

In a news conference last week, acting Secretary of Health and Human Services, Charles E. Johnson, announced that Peeps was now a target of an aggressive recall event. Surrounded by officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, Johnson stated that, "The time has come!"

When questioned by reporters, Johnson stated that there had been no complaints by consumers of any potentially health-threatening contaminants in Peeps, or that there were any legal or scientific data showing that Peeps represent a threat to the general public.

"I just think that they're nasty and I want them gone," stated the Secretary.

Further questioning by reporters revealed that Johnson had several bad experiences with Peeps as a child. Apparently, on at least one occasion, several larger children had forced the then younger Johnson to eat several packages of the easily recognizable glowing yellow Peep chicks against his will.

"I got sick as a dog," recalled Secretary Johnson. "And I have made one of the goals of my career to reach a position that would allow me to take the steps that I am taking today."

When reporters asked Johnson what would become of the massive national stockpiles of Peeps (according to the Congressional Technology Office, Peeps have a life-span of approximately 250 years), Johnson was adamant.

"I don't care what happens to the nasty things. As far as I am concerned, we can use them to bomb suspected terrorist targets overseas. Bury them in Yuca Mountain. We can launch them into space, for all I care."

There is some precedent for the Secretary's last comment. A spring 1999 space shuttle mission was nearly scrubbed when astronauts discovered that NASA dietary staff had included Peeps among the items on the in-flight menu. The crew was, however, able to jettison the offending treats, and continue the mission.

The press conference was cut short when one member of the media inquired of Secretary Johnson if, since his earlier negative experiences with Peeps, he had ever tried to eat one. Shuddering noticeably, Secretary Johnson stated that there would be no more questions. He then excused himself from the room, stating that he felt queasy.

Okay. So the above story DID NOT appear in yesterday's New York Times. I made it up. Just wishful thinking on my part. The grocery stores are all ready for Easter, and Peeps are everywhere. And it's making me ill. Just a personal thing.

J. D. Salinger to Appear at the Georgia Center for the Book

In what can only be considered a major literary coup, the Georgia Center for the Book will present J. D. Salinger tonight on stage in the Decatur Library Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public, and begins at 7:15 pm.

Salinger will be joined on stage by Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy and Phillip Roth. What an extraordinary and rare occasion it will be!

Author J. D. Salinger is best known for his iconic coming of age classic, The Catcher in the Rye. He is also--like Pynchon, McCarthy and Roth--known as a somewhat reclusive character in real life.

For more information, visit the Georgia Center for the Book's website at right.

What an incredible opportunity for Georgia's bibliophiles.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Condolences to an Atlanta Peace Corps Family

Ours is a Peace Corps family, so to speak. My wife and I first met at a gathering of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in Atlanta. We had both been back from our respective tours with the Peace Corps--she in Mali, me in Albania--just a few months. We spent the months of our early courtship comparing stories from our service, and competing in terms of who had acquired the most numerous and more interesting forms of dysentery while abroad. She won.

We both put a lot of stock in what the Peace Corps represents, despite the good and bad cliches about the organization.

In yesterday's Atlanta-Journal Constitution, and again today in the local media, there is a story about a young woman from Cumming, Georgia (an Atlanta suburb) named Kate Puzey. Miss Puzey, aged 24, was serving in the Peace Corps in the West African nation of Benin as a teacher. She gave her life this past week in the service of that nation's children, and while showing the best face of the United States abroad. According to news accounts, she was very proud of her service in the Peace Corps, and felt a great deal of warmth toward the people whom she was serving.

Ms. Puzey kept a blog of her experiences in the Peace Corps. It may be found at

She sounds like she was a pretty terrific young woman, and our family extends its condolences to her family and friends the world over--and it sounds like she had them, the world over.

Visit the Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers Memorial Project:


Power Lines by Jason Carter. This book, by Georgia author, former Peace Corps volunteer, and grandson of Georgia author and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, recounts the younger Carter's experience as a Peace Corp volunteer in South Africa. It goes some way at describing why someone might want to take on the challenge, and what stands to be gained by doing so.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

For these stressful times, try a little bookstore balm. Georgia author Philip Lee Williams.

Some years ago I had the opportunity to work with author and poet Philip Lee Williams in conducting a reading and book signing for his then new book The True and Authentic History of Jenny Dorset. The reading was to take place at the bookstore where I was working at the time.

On the day before the reading was to take place, Phil gave me a call at the store. He wanted to know if--all things considered--we still wanted to go through with the event the next day. "Do you think anybody is going to come?" he asked.

I thought about it for a moment and decided that my guess was as good as his. "Let's go ahead and do it, " I said, "I think people might like a chance for something to take their minds off things." So, the reading went forward.

The next evening at the store, I was pleased, and a little surprised, to see that an audience of some twenty people had gathered to hear Phil read and discuss his book. Always the bookseller, I was also glad to see that most of the people in attendance had at least one copy of his new and other other books in hand for purchase. Still, on that day, even sales didn't seem important.

My being surprised to have an audience that day had nothing to do with Phil and his book. He is well-known and has a loyal following of readers, and deservedly so, in my opinion. That day, however, our little book signing had some pretty serious competition for people's attention.

Some of the people in the audience that day seemed to know each other. Some were obviously acquaintances of the author, either friends from the substantial Athens' literary community, or colleagues and students from the University where Phil teaches. Most of the crowd, however, were clearly strangers to each other.

It was interesting to watch people that day. The best way to describe the mood of the group that had come for the reading was one of quiet--but intense--friendliness. People were somber, for sure. But it wasn't like, say, a funeral. The people in attendance seemed to look around at each other, making a point to give polite--maybe even reassuring--smiles of acknowledgement to these other strangers.

I introduced Phil, who was there to read from his new historical comedy. He welcomed everyone, and thanked them for coming. Then he stated that, before moving on to the book reading and discussion, he'd like first to read several pieces of verse that he had brought along. He thought that, all things considered, they might be fitting for the occasion. I don't recall the poems that Phil read from that day. I wish that I did. I suppose that I wasn't paying enough attention, being too caught up in watching the responses of the audience.

As Phil read, the people in the audience listened politely. People nodded their heads in acknowledgement of the words that he read, and some had smiles on their faces. Two of the ladies in the audience who were smiling also had tears in their eyes. Phil finished reading the verse, and paused for a few moments to let everyone take it in, and if necessary, regain their composure. He then introduced everyone to Jenny Dorset, read, took questions, had people laughing (laughing!), and autographed books.

Even after the signing was officially over, people stuck around for a while. Just chatting with strangers and maybe feeling normal.

That reading and signing took place on the evening of September 13, 2001.

Phil Williams is the author of 13 books, including his 2004 Civil War novel, A Distant Flame, which won the Michael Shaara Award. He teaches creative writing at the University of Georgia.

Phil will be reading from his new book, Elegies for the Water: Poems, at 7 pm on Thursday, March 12 at the Athens, Georgia Barnes & Noble. The book is just out this month from Mercer University Press. Call 706.354.1195 for more information about the reading.

The news these days seldom seems to be good. Recession. War. Dreadful statistics about just about everything. A lot of screaming and yelling, too. And it seems as if we are all ALWAYS in a damned hurry.

Your local bookstore has some help for what ails you. Good luck everybody.


In the Morning: Reflections from First Light by Philip Lee Williams

The Heart of a Distant Forest by Philip Lee Williams

RMR (poetry)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Georgia Spring, Wordsmith's Books & March Events

In my last post, I stated that the weather was turning warmer.

Welcome to springtime in Georgia. It snowed all day yesterday. But the snow clouds had a silver lining--the weather was bad enough to close down my school (where I work) today, but not bad enough to close my children's daycare (they would have been upset to miss today's Dr. Seuss birthday festivities on any count). The weather for the coming weekend is supposed to be in the seventies.

There are not enough bookstores in the world, and I am sorry to say that it appears that Atlanta is losing another. According to their website today, Wordsmith's Books in Decatur is closing its doors after just two years. Good luck, guys. These are tough times. Your customers will no doubt miss you.

These are tough, anxious times. Book people might look for a little relief at one of the following events coming this month:

Monday, March 2
Brad Gooch will discuss Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta
Reception at 6 pm/program begins at 7 pm
$ for MMH members & $10 for non-members

Tuesday, March 3
Mary Kay Andrews discusses Deep Dish
Barnes & Noble Buckhead, Atlanta
7:30 pm
Call 404.261.7747 for more information.

Tuesday, March 3
Barbara Brown Taylor will discuss "Downtime: The Sacred Art of Stopping" and autograph her book, An Altar in the World.
7:30 pm.
Agnes Scott College in Decatur
Call 404.471.6430

Downtime? I wonder if Ms. Taylor fishes?

Tuesday, March 3
Writers on Writing Program--The Sophomore Slump: Writing the Second Book
Panel featuring authors Jack Riggs (The Fireman's Wife), Renee Dodd (A Cabinet of Wonders) and Tom Mullen (The Last Town on Earth)
7:15 pm at the Georgia Center for the Book/Decatur Library

Wednesday, March 4
A Cappella Books & The Opal Gallery
Rodes Fishburne discusses Going to See the Elephant
7 pm

Thursday, March 5
Women's Poetry Night featuring Andrea Cohen (Long Division) and Lynn Pederson (Theories of Rain)
A Cappella Books
7:15 at the Decatur Library

Sunday, March 8
Debra Conner, An Afternoon with Peggy Mitchell
The Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta
Program begins at 4 pm
$5 members/$10 non-members

That's just a week's worth, and no where complete. Check the links on this website for other literary events coming to Georgia.

Good luck, everybody. Watch the ice.


George, Being George--George Plimpton's Life edited by Nelson Aldrich. They just don't make them like Mr. Plimpton anymore.

Double Whammy by Carl Hiassen (Bass fishing. Murder.)


Friday, February 27, 2009

Public Service Announcement--Get Your Flu Shot

It is official, my family has been designated the 2009 Why You Should Get Your Flu Shot When You are Supposed to Family of the Year.

We have always made a point of getting our shots each year. This year, however, we decided that due to a mild winter, and everyone being pretty healthy, that we would postpone (forgo) shots. That proved to be a pretty bad idea. With the exception of perhaps five or six days, at least one person in our family has been sick enough to stay home from school or work every single day for the past, almost six weeks.

My wife became so ill that she developed a spot of pneumonia. If that were not bad enough, one of the medications prescribed to her by our physician contained steroids. Subsequently, the children and I had to ban her from playing Wii baseball with the rest of the family. It seemed the only fair thing to do.

This run of illness, combined with the constant drum of bad news about the economy--plus the weather--has really had our house in the doldrums of late.

Regretfully, too, there was no time to take advantage of all the literary events taking place in Georgia in January and February. Or even blog about them, for that matter. My wife did read Atlanta author Susan Rebecca White's new book, Bound South. My wife was so taken with the book she stated that she could sit up all night reading it. Even the flu didn't keep her from it (must have been the steroids).

But everyone seems to be on the mend, now. The weather seems to be turning warmer. And there are so many terrific literary events coming up in Georgia during the next few months (many, if not most, being free). In fact, a number of author acquaintances have been in touch recently about their upcoming projects. Fishing season is just around the corner, and a recent and much unexpected romance is all the news at our house.

Good news. Good health. Good people (like understanding employers). Good books. The rest will fall into place.

Strongly recommended:

Bound South by Susan Rebecca White

The American Academy of Pediatrics Complete and Authoritative Guide to Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, edited by Dr. Steven Shelov. I don't know if Dr. Shelov is from Georgia, but this book is a tremendous and handy guide to the more that 4,000 different reasons that children get nauseous, and to the more than one million and seven reasons that they might run a fever.

RMR (and get their flu shots)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Susan Rebecca White--Georgia Author

On Monday, February 9, beginning at 7 pm (reception at 6 pm), debut Atlanta author Susan Rebecca White will present her new novel, Bound South, at the Margaret Mitchell House and Literary Center in Atlanta. The event is free for Margaret Mitchell House members, $5 for Atlanta History Center members, and $10 for non-members.

Ms. White is a native Atlantan. Her new book, Bound South, tells the story of three contemporary Atlanta women and their interwoven lives.

With all due respect to other cultures around the world, as well as to other regions of the United States, there cannot possibly be anywhere else on the planet where the word “Mother” carries so much weight as it does in the American South. God bless mothers everywhere. But where else can a fifty-year-old professional man still refer to his mother as “Mama” and have that be perfectly acceptable?

Bound South is a solid and enjoyable read (think, The Joy Luck Club meets Driving Miss Daisy). Ms. White clearly knows her subjects and settings. The book has much “old south” in it, but there’s no mistaking that it is a modern story. Mother-daughter relationships, dark humor, and quirky relatives are big selling points for this book. Mostly, though, it is a good story and well written.

Bound South ought to cause a stir in Atlanta. For that matter, it won’t be a surprise if the book becomes a big hit nationally.

Again, Ms. White will be reading and signing at the Margaret Mitchell House on February 9th. For more information about her, Bound South, or author appearances, see her website at right.


Eating the Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Little Suggested Reading for the Occasion

Here is a little suggested reading in recognition of the momentous occasion this week:

The Great American Handbook: What You Can Do for Your Country--Today and Every Day by Cheri Sicard

Here's just one suggestion from the book: Use the Library of Congress.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Georgia Book Awards & The 100th Day of School

Last week, my daughter brought home from her elementary school library a copy of Georgia author Betteye Stroud’s 2005 The Patchwork Path-A Quilt Map to Freedom (illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett). My daughter informed me that the book has been nominated for a 2009 Georgia Book Award. She also informed me that she is reading books to earn points for a free ticket to Six Flags Over Georgia. So we began reading Patchwork right away to add to the points she had already earned.

Last night, before going to bed, my daughter told me to make certain that she was up early this morning so that she could finish the story that she was writing and illustrating entitled, The 100th Day of School. The story recognizes her class’ 100th day of kindergarten. She got herself up this morning just after 6 a.m. and was at her desk working before I even knew that she was awake.

I understand that this all simply sounds like the musings of a doting father with regards to his above average child. I do dote and she is above average. But that isn’t the point.

I just find it interesting—her making decisions and choices on her own, then acting on those decisions and choices, particularly when they are of a literary bent. Are there any developmental psychologists out there who can tell me what I am talking about? It’s just so cool!

My daughter was surprised to learn that she is the owner of an autographed copy of Ms. Stroud’s book. The author inscribed her copy to her when my daughter was just three years old—the year her baby brother was born. More information about Bettye Stroud and her works can be viewed at her website which can be linked to from of this blog.

Good luck and congratulations Bettye, on this year’s nomination.

And reading to earn a Six Flags ticket? My folks took me to the park the year it opened. I think it was 1967. Do I want to let my child on a roller coaster that is as old as me?


Friday, January 16, 2009


A nasty cold sent me home from work early one day this week. While not in a cold-medicine-induced stupor, I was able to spend some quality time with Isabella.

And Cullen.

Back over the holidays, my ninth-grade niece and I came to an agreement. If I would read Twilight, the first in the Stephenie Meyer Twilight Saga, she--my niece--would read Brom Stoker’s classic, Dracula. That was the deal.

Until recently, I was only aware of Ms. Meyer’s series as a result of them being the top-selling titles for the book industry in 2008. I work in books, and the Twilight series is, beyond doubt, a phenomenon approaching Potteresque proportions. So, my agreeing to read the first in the series was as much about my own professional interests as much as anything.

I confess that I had some pretty serious preconceptions about the Twilight books based upon the hype. That said, however, the truth about hype is that it seldom really tells you much about what is being, well, hyped.

My biggest preconceptions about the books, though, were based primarily upon the enormous appeal the series obviously has to adolescent girls and young women. Plus, the snippets that I’d caught from aficionados discussing the books made me think that they were nothing more than High School melodrama with a supernatural twist.

My niece, among many others whom I have witnessed, need only mention the name “Cullen” to send herself off into a state of blissful sighing and far away looks. When I was her age, Farrah Fawcett did the same thing to me.

Too, some of my reasons for perhaps thinking badly of the Twilight books before having even read one (something I harshly criticize others doing) might have had something to do with vampires lately being all the rage in the purely adult Romance genre.

I do not consider myself a critic, and I am certainly no spoiler (who rate with telemarketers and morons who talk during movies). That said, I do not think that I am giving anything away by revealing to the dozen or so people left on Earth who have not yet read the Meyer’s saga, that the hero in Twilight is a vampire named Edward Cullen. Though he presents himself as a seventeen-year-old youth, he is, like most vampires, much, much older. So, he is an old man in the eternally buff and strikingly handsome body of a seventeen year-old who is irresistible to females? This sounds more like a middle-aged man’s fantasy more than that of a young woman, but that’s just me thinking out loud.

Finally, I must confess some prejudice toward Twilight as a began to read it due to my tendency to view the book through the eyes of someone who will one day be the father of a seventeen year-old daughter himself. I expect that the day will come when I view all teenage males as dangerous supernatural beings that I must ward off by any means possible.

I’m not saying that I actually “got into” Twilight. I do confess that there were one or two times when I did catch myself thinking calmly to myself, “NO, BELLA! Nooooooooo!”

And that Lauren! What is her problem?

I’m open to just about anything that gets people excited about books and reading. And if Twilight did turn out to be silly stuff, who am I to begrudge anyone for reading just for pleasure? After all, I certainly have my own favorites for simple pleasure reading. I am particularly fond of the late (though still producing) Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series of international espionage novels.

I think that the primary difference between what I choose to read for fun, and what my young niece—a bright kid, I might add—chooses for light reading, is simply a matter of personal taste based upon what is most relevant and familiar to us, respectively.

It is perfectly natural that young readers would be drawn to a world of romance, adventure, fantasy, (and did I say, romance?). I think that this is especially so for young and impressionable women. Still, it is, after all, just make-believe. And that is the big difference, I think, in what I choose to read for fun and what my niece and her peers choose.

Fun reading about teenage vampires is all just fine. Certainly there are some elements about life as a teenager and life in high school with which many readers of the Twilight series may identify. It’s still just pure fantasy.

Unlike my own more grown-up fun reading, in which the attraction—to me—is based more upon reality. I don’t identify with Ludlum’s Jason Bourne character because he is a supernatural, indestructible gentlemanly hunk. That’s just fairy tale stuff. No. I identify with the fictional Bourne because, much like me, he has a dark past, is surrounded by an air of mystery and danger, and is a master in the martial arts. Plus stuff that I can’t go into.

It’s a small distinction, I know. I chalk it up to age and experience.

I can’t wait to hear my niece’s take on Dracula, the original vampire love story.

I’m off to the barbershop tomorrow. And I know just what the nice Vietnamese lady who cuts my hair is going to ask.

“Hey! Where you been so long? What look you want this time? James Bond or Jason Bon?”

Can you give me an Edward Cullen?

Kudos to Ms. Meyer for making her heroine a book lover.


Dracula by Brom Stoker

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice


Monday, January 12, 2009

A Few January Author Events

Here are a few readings, signings and discussions taking place in Georgia between now and the end of the month. By no means is the list complete.

Rudolph P. Byrd, The Essential Writings of James Weldon Johnson. Tonight, Monday, January 12 at 7:15 at the Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur. Free.

Tuesday, January 13
Bernie Schein, If Holden Caulfield were in my Classroom: Inspiring Love, Creativity and Intelligence in Middle School Kids.
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. Reception at 6 pm. Program begins at 7 pm. $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Thursday, January 15
Jack Riggs, The Fireman's Wife.
Georgia Center for the Book (with A Cappella Books) in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Monday, January 19
Nami Mun, Miles From Nowhere.
A Cappella Books (and the Opal Gallery) in Little Five Points in Atlanta.
7 pm. Free.

Tuesday, January 20
Carolyn Jessop, Escape.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Wednesday, January 21
Penelope Leach, Child Care Today: Getting It Right for Everyone.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Thursday, January 22
Bob Zellner and Constance Curry, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.
6 pm reception. Program begins at 7 pm. $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Friday, January 23
Sheryl Kayne, Immersion Travel USA: The Best and Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living and Learning Excursions.
A Cappella Books and the Opal Gallery in Atlanta.
7 pm. Free.

Monday, January 26
Robert J. Norrell, Up from History.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Tuesday, January 27
Georgia State University Professor Pearl McHaney will give a presentation entitled, "Eudora Welty's Cosmos: One Writer's Beginnings and Photographs".
The Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

Wednesday, January 28
Stephen J. Cannell, On the Grind.
Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.
Reception at 6 pm. Program begins at 7 pm. $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Thursday, January 29
E. Lynn Harris, Basketball Jones.
Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur.
7:15 pm. Free.

To confirm events, and to get additional information pertaining to the above events, visit the linked websites on this blog.

Suggested reading: see above.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Predictability--There Doesn't Seem to Be Any

To know, positively, before leaving one's office, countinghouse, or workshop for a day's outing, that it is the day of all others of the season, and that the phase of the moon, the condition of the sky and atmosphere, the direction and force of the wind, and the temperature and condition of the water are just right to insure success, and to know just what bait or fly to use, and in what portion of the stream to fish, under these conditions, implies a state of knowledge that can never be attained by ordinary mortals; and though we are created, "little lower than the angels," it involves a pursuit of knowledge under such extreme difficulties, that even prescience and omniscience are but ciphers in the total sum, for it leaves out the most important factor in the calculation--the fish itself.

--Dr. J. A. Henshall, Book of the Black Bass, 1881

Recommended: At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman by John Gierach

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year's Resolution

My one New Year's Resolution, posted seven days into the New Year--Better Time Management.

My apologies to Phil Williams. In my last post, I referred to his upcoming book by the title, Ode to Water. The actual title is Elegies for the Water.

If I have one more New Year's Resolution, it would be this (these): read more and fish more in 2009, especially with my kids.

Recommended: Any title, really. Just make certain that it is a book that will encourage you to start your New Year out making regular time-quiet and still-for yourself. It sounds like we'll all be needing some of that in the coming year.