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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Mother-Daughter Road Trip

I first met Amanda Gable many years ago as a customer in my book store. She was, in the heyday of the used and out-of-print book business, the kind of customer that embodied the spirit of the whole enterprise. She couldn't ever satisfy her desire for more books. She bought a lot of books, sold a lot of books, traded a lot of books, and often came in to simply browse at books. She was, in the sense that I learned the phrase, a true "book person."

What I didn't know was that she was also a person who could create a fantastic book. All those books she'd been reading, much of them about the Civil War, helped her create one of the most precocious young fictional characters I've read in years, the heroine of Gable's debut novel, The Confederate General Rides North: 11-year-old Katherine "Kat" McConnell.

Growing up in Marietta, with a loving but very dysfunctional family, young Kat becomes a walking encyclopedia of Civil War history, like many kids her age are about baseball statistics or dinosaurs. When Kat's sensitive, artistic and unhappy mother decides to drive back to her native north for a fresh start, the two of them make an unforgettable duo on an emotionally moving road trip.

With her mother at the wheel, buying up antiques the whole way in hopes of opening her own business, Kat becomes the journey's navigator and ensures that they hit every Civil War battlefield and memorial along the route, and in Kat's mind, she is the commanding general at every stop.

The girl's imaginings combined with the mother's adult concerns combine for a bittersweet psychological family portrait that is completely convincing.

Gable's quiet, unassuming manner--the personality that allowed me to know her for years without imagining what a creative imagination she has--comes through in her Cover to Cover interview. But so does her seriousness of purpose and dedication as a writer and her desire to present her characters in the most realistic and sympathetic light possible.

In a year when so many debuts by Atlanta authors have been published, none that I have read is a more satisfying piece of fiction than Amanda Gable's The Confederate General Rides North.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crossing the Lines

Atlanta resident Richard Doster was in advertising for most of his career and currently edits a magazine published by the Presbyterian Church. Over the last several years, he has focused his writing and interest in spiritual matters, the South, race and culture in an intriguing approach to fiction.

His fist novel, Safe at Home, chronicled a fictional southern town in the 1950s experiencing the integration of its minor league baseball team.

Having covered that explosive story in his hometown newspaper, Doster's sportswriter hero Jack Hall caught the attention of editors in Atlanta and takes a job in the big city just as the Civil Rights movement was beginning to take shape. Thus the story of Doster's follow- up novel, Crossing the Lines, is set in motion.

Hall and others eventually start a magazine that celebrates all that is great about the South--its literature, its music, its culture-- while the region is being understandably ridiculed by the national media during the period for its racial intolerance. Through the journalistic travails, Hall, a man entirely of his times, experiences an evolution in his own race consciousness.

In his Cover to Cover interview, Doster talks about his inspiration for taking on such volatile subject matter and discusses his methods of bringing to fictional life such historical figures as Martin Luther King, Ralph McGill and Flannery O'Connor in his work.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Heart of a Patriot

By the time he had reached middle age, Max Cleland thought he had nothing to live for. A grenade explosion in Vietnam had left him a triple amputee. He had lost his seat in the U.S. Senate, and in the grip of depression he had lost his fiancée, too. But instead of giving up, Cleland reaches deep into his soul and discovers that he has what it takes to survive: the heart of a patriot.

Born and raised in Georgia, Cleland came back from Vietnam missing three limbs and was confined for months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Doctors didn't give him much hope of living an active life, but through the bonds he formed with other wounded soldiers, and through his own Southern grit, he learned how to be mobile and overcome his despair. He returned to Georgia and pursued his passion for public service by becoming the first Vietnam veteran to serve in the Georgia state senate. Jimmy Carter appointed him head of the Veterans Administration. Later he became Georgia's youngest secretary of state and then in 1996 was elected to the U.S. Senate.

But during his reelection campaign he is singled out by Karl Rove and the Republicans, who campaigned against him as "unpatriotic." He lost the election and sank into deep depression. A long-dormant case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, awakened after 9/11 by the invasion of Iraq, pushed Cleland to the brink. Forty years after Vietnam, having reached -- and fallen from -- a pinnacle of power, Cleland returned to Walter Reed as a patient, this time surrounded by veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. There he found the faith and endurance to regain control of his life.

In a memoir in which he pulls no punches about the costs of being a soldier, Max Cleland describes with love the ties America's soldiers forge with one another, along with the disillusionment many of them experience when they come home. He spares no one his humiliations and setbacks in this gut-wrenching account of his life in the hope it will keep even one veteran from descending into darkness. Heart of a Patriot is a story about the joy of serving the country you love, no matter the cost -- and how to recover from the deepest wounds of war.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

All Roads Lead to Rome (For the Georgia Literary Festival)

It’s been a good year for Raymond Atkins. After longing to be an author for much of his life, he finally published his first book in 2008. It was called The Front Porch Prophet, and won him recognition from readers as well as from the Georgia Writers Association. We were glad to have him on the show last year, and we’re even happier that we could welcome him back as he promotes his sophomore effort Sorrow Wood.

The back cover of Sorrow Wood brands the book as a murder mystery, though it reads much more like a congenial love story. Reva and Wendell Blackmon are the principals here, and Reva believes they have been lovers for many, many lifetimes. The book gives us glimpses into many of those lifetimes, taking the longest look at the late 20th Century edition. Atkins names the muse for this love story in our interview, even after mentioning on air that he is going to be in a load of trouble at home.

Atkins has also been busy lately planning to welcome literary lovers from around the south to his hometown of Rome, GA. Rome is the site of this year’s Georgia Literary Festival. (The folks at the Georgia Center for the Book put this on each year, and it moves around the state.) So please visit Rome for this fun and free event. I can almost promise you that one of your favorite Georgia authors will be there. You can find more details at:

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