Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

William C. Harris Returns

Yesterday my heart rejoiced when I opened a package that I knew from the address label had been sent by a publisher. Inside was the Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of the new novel from William C. Harris, Jr. [pictured left].

This is something I know many people around the state have been waiting for. Harris’s first two novels, Delirium of the Brave (1998) and No Enemy But Time (2002) were both exceedingly popular; but for the last five years there’s been nothing, nada, rien, niente!

But now the drought is over…well it will be in March 2008 when Wassaw Sound is published by Frederic C. Beil of Savannah (the original publisher of Delirium of the Brave).

Harris has appeared on Cover to Cover twice before. In April 2000 the show focused on Delirium of the Brave, and in October 2002, No Enemy But Time was the topic of conversation.

Harris is a wonderful man. Savannah born and bred, he sets his books in that fair city and along the Georgia coast that he loves dearly. He enjoys nothing more than cranking up the Admiral Graf Spee, his boat, and sailing along the waterways and inlets that feature prominently in his books.

Harris is the type of author that I admire in a special way. He, and Sandersville’s William Rawlings, are what I would call “gentleman authors"; their writing is an avocation and they have a “real” job which takes up most of their time. Both Harris and Rawlings are doctors-the former a podiatrist, the latter an internist-and might therefore be compared to the doyen of Georgia physician/gentlemen authors, Ferrol Sams.

In fact, Harris retired from medecine several years ago, and Rawlings has as many different occupations as there are gators in the Okeefenokee: physician, author, historic preservationist, estate manager, world traveler, to name those that I know about.

I remember the first time I met Harris. I was interviewing him at our studios here in Atlanta when Delirium came out. He told me that writing a novel was something he just decided to do one day when he’d become bored with a succession of hobbies and his wife warned him it wasn’t healthy for him to sit around in front of the TV every night without anything to do. So, having grown tired of clay pigeon shooting, painting model soldiers, and researching local history, he sat down at his computer and began what was to become Delirium of the Brave.

What Harris writes are not so much novels as sagas. His narratives range over decades and centuries as he tells the stories of the Irish-Catholic families who have been leading lights in Savannah for so long.

Delirium for example begins during the Civil War and concludes in the present, while No Enemy opens during World War II and travels up to the present.

Wassaw Sound spans almost 60 years of Savannah history, from the 1950’s to the present. At the center of the story is an historical event; a hydrogen bomb was jettisoned into Wassaw Sound in February 1958 by a damaged B-47 bomber. Despite an exhaustive search by the military, the bomb, nicknamed the “Tybee Bomb,” was never found.

Once again this story is structured around historical fact. As Harris says in the book’s Prologue,
Although it is fiction, Wassaw Sound is historically and technically correct; the locations in the story are all real and accessible. Most of the characters are, at least to some degree, based on actual people I have known. With some of the lesser characters, I have used their real names.
As with Harris’s previous books, Wassaw Sound may revolve around the story of the Tybee Bomb, but it’s about much more than just that; as the publisher’s letter that accompanied the ARC states, the book is about “the power of lifelong friendships, the pain of unrequited love, the fruitlessness of unfettered hatred, and the magnificence of faith and its power to overcome.”

As I mentioned earlier, the Georgia coast in the environs of Savannah has a special place in Harris’s heart. In his earlier books, readers are treated to vistas of the built environment of Georgia’s First City. Now in Wassaw Sound he reveals the beauty and splendor of the marshes, rivers, and islands that lie to the east of the city.

So be prepared for March 2008 and the publication of Wassaw Sound, William C. Harris’s new and much-anticipated novel. He is a masterful storyteller, and another three hundred plus pages of his writing are sure to please readers both in Savannah and elsewhere.

[As always, if you have comments or questions about this blog entry, please email me at Thank you for your feedback.]