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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Campfires and Conundrums

This week we welcome back Philip Lee Williams to Cover to Cover. We’ll be talking about his latest book, The Campfire Boys. It’s a wonderful comedic novel about reluctant rebels during the American Civil War who moonlight as entertainers for their fellow soldiers. The Celebrated Blackshear Brothers are three siblings who honed their musical talents and their knack for comedic sketches by performing for the gentry of their well-to-do Southern town as youngsters. The town is modeled after Williams’ hometown, Madison, Georgia.

What Williams accomplishes in this novel is a seamless meld of sometimes opposing forces—historical fact with contemporary commentary, warm emotion with calloused characters, horrific battlefields with witty quips—all within the lives of Confederate soldiers who abhor the institution of slavery. It all works because Williams never compromises his role as a storyteller in order to make a point.

It was an absolute delight to talk with Philip Lee Williams. Like him, I am also from Madison, and I’ve followed his career for some time now. Not only is he a wonderful writer, he’s also an incredibly insightful man with a passion for the arts. I’ve interviewed Williams twice now and each time I’ve come away thinking I’ve just learned something invaluable about what it means to be a writer in the South.

In addition to the new book, we’ll also talk about Williams’ selection to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. That honor was announced earlier this year and in my opinion they couldn’t have picked a more fitting inductee.

Listen to this episode