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, January 26, 2010

America's Lost Musical Genius

In The Ballad of Blind Tom, Australian author Deirdre O’ Connell describes her subject as “The most famous black performer of the Civil War generation.” Was he a naive genius or a freak? Was he a gifted, original American composer or a mere mimic of the reigning piano styles of the day? O’Connell wades through 50 years of press clips and testimony searching for the answer to the question, “Who was Blind Tom?”

He was born a slave in Columbus, Georgia. Despite his autistic condition, he made his guardians piles of money, perhaps, by today’s standard, millions of dollars, of which he and his family saw almost none. It would be story of overpowering sadness had Blind Tom not been so full of life. He took great delight in playing piano up to 12 hours a day, never regarding it as work even in the midst of a staggering itinerary. (In 1999, the pianist John Davis recorded a selection of his songs, John Davis Plays Blind Tom.)

Full of wit and wild anecdote, The Ballad of Blind Tom has an astonishing cast of characters. It is Deirdre O’Connell’s first book, and she spent a good deal of time in Georgia conducting research. She has also made documentaries for the Jimi Hendrix Estate and the United Nations Environment Program and has worked in news at SBS Australia.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Step Out On Nothing

Byron Pitts has welcomed the challenge of covering a multitude of stories in his television journalism career – everything from the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, and just this month the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake.

But overcoming challenges in his personal life may be his greatest achievement. Pitts grew-up with a debilitating stutter and kept an embarrassing secret for years –he was functionally illiterate. A recipe for failure was heightened by his parents’ separation when he was 12.

But in his book Step Out On Nothing, Pitts details how a few key people took the chance and the time to make a positive difference in his life.

His push through the obstacles has earned him a successful journalism career. After a 15-year run in local television which included a stop in Atlanta, he joined CBS News in 1998. Pitts serves as a chief national correspondent for the network, and is a contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes. He’s won a national Emmy Award, and six regional Emmys.

The Baltimore-native was in Atlanta recently to chat with GPB’s Edgar Treiguts.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Fear Came to Town

Doug Crandell is an award-winning author of fiction and memoir, who ventures into the genre of True Crime with his latest book, Fear Came to Town, the disturbing true story of the Santa Claus, Georgia, Murders.
Years ago, Danny and Kim Daniels had taken in Jerry Scott Heidler through foster care. Kim had grown up within the foster care system herself, and she sympathized with the troubled boy. But it soon became clear that Heidler’s problems were far more disturbing than they had thought – and they cut him from their lives.
One terrible night in December 1997, Heidler broke into the home of his former foster family and with methodical madness short Danny and Kim, teenage Jessica, and eight-year-old Bryant. He then kidnapped and brutalized three surviving children, abandoning hem on a remote dirt road in the dead of winter.
Man Martin interviews Doug Crandell about his process of researching and writing this chilling true story and the remorseless sociopath who destroyed the family that tried to rescue him.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With The President

Taylor Branch is the award-winning author of the great historical trilogy, America in the King Years, but his latest book is an unusual combination of history, biography, and political memoir about the nation's 42nd president.

The Clinton Tapes rests upon a secret project, initiated by Clinton, to preserve for future historians an unfiltered record of presidential experience. During his eight years in office, between 1993 and 2001, Clinton answered questions and told stories in the White House, usually late at night. His friend Taylor Branch recorded seventy-nine of these dialogues to compile a trove of raw information about a presidency as it happened. Clinton drew upon the diary transcripts for his memoir in 2004 and remains in possession of the tapes.

Branch recorded his own detailed recollections immediately after each session, covering not only the subjects discussed but also the look and feel of each evening with the president. Branch's firsthand narrative is confessional, unsparing, and personal. The author admits straying at times from his primary role -- to collect raw material for future historians -- because his discussions with Clinton were unpredictable and intense.

The Clinton Tapes highlights major events of Clinton's two terms, including wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the failure of health care reform, peace initiatives on three continents, the anti-deficit crusade, and titanic political struggles from Whitewater to American history's second presidential impeachment trial. Along the way, Clinton delivers colorful portraits of countless political figures and world leaders from Newt Gingrinch to Nelson Mandela to Pope John Paul II.

At the end of the interview, I asked Branch if having been given this extraordinary and unprecendented access to a sitting president, he found himself with more or less respect for President Clinton. Did he say to himself, "how did this guy get this job?" Did familiarity breed contempt? Or just the opposite? Tune in to hear his answer.

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