DG MARTIN COLUMN: North Carolina Bookwatch’s final season

Published 10:08 am Monday, November 8, 2021

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All good things have to come to an end.

And PBS-NC’s “North Carolina Bookwatch” television program has been a mighty good thing for me, and I hate to see it come to an end.

D.G. Martin

But it will end with a short season that began last week and features five important writers that every North Carolinian loves or will come to love.

On Nov. 7, columnist Barry Saunders shared some of his favorite stories. Viewers saw him poke fun at himself on TV the same way he does in his columns when he skewers politicians and rich and famous people,

Saunders’ columns were so popular that some people bought the paper just to read his provocative commentary. Nevertheless, the News and Observer had to cut out his column for economic reasons. But when his fans protested, the newspaper thought better of its decision and brought him back.

One of its best decisions ever.

On Nov. 14, at 3:30 p.m., viewers will get a chance to watch one of the state’s young bestselling and critically acclaimed writers, Wiley Cash. He will talk about “When Ghosts Come Home,” his latest and, arguably, the best of his four bestsellers. The new book is set in 1985 Southport and Brunswick County. The sheriff, Winston Barnes, who is running for reelection, hears a plane crash and rushes to the scene. He finds an empty aircraft and the body of a young local Black man dead from a gunshot wound just outside the plane. Barnes has a host of other problems that complicate and enrich the story.

On Nov. 21, viewers will meet the author of the first novel ever published by an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, “Even As We Breathe.” It is the debut novel of Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle.

Set in 1942, during World War II, the lead character, 19-year-old Cowney Sequoyah, takes a groundskeeping job at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn, where the Army is quarantining enemy officials and their families.

Joining him in his family’s Model T for the two-hour drive from Cherokee to Asheville is Essie, a beautiful young Cherokee woman who is anxious to break away from the Cherokee community.

Cowney and Essie become good friends. He wishes for more, but she develops an interest in one of the foreign detainees. On this situation Clapsaddle builds a poignant part of the book’s plot.

Clapsaddle’s story brings all these and many more engaging characters and situations together to make a compelling story that gives its readers a vivid experience in Cherokee culture.

On Nov. 28, Clyde Edgerton, sometimes called North Carolina’s Mark Twain, will be the guest. Like Twain, he has the ability to entertain his fans on the pages of his books and in person as he sings, strums his mandolin or guitar, and talks about the characters in his books.

Edgerton’s first book, “Raney,” was published in 1985. He will talk about that groundbreaking book, the rich career that followed, and some of the projects that keep him busy today.

On Dec. 5, Bland Simpson, longtime member of the Red Clay Ramblers, and an environmentalist, will talk about his latest book, “North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky.” It is full of color photographs of North Carolina sights taken by Simpson’s wife, Ann Cary Simpson, professional photographer Scott Taylor, and naturalist Tom Earnhardt.

The lovely photos supplement the book’s main attraction, a trip across North Carolina led by a master communicator thoroughly familiar with and deeply in love with his subject.

After a short conversation about his book, Simpson will lead a discussion with me about the history of “North Carolina Bookwatch,” its successes, failures, and why it had to come to an end.

Note: A preview screening of the program with Bland Simpson and an open interactive discussion about Bookwatch led by PBS North Carolina’s CEO Lindsay Bierman will be open to all 7-8:30 p.m. Nov. 18.

For information and registration go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pbs-nc-screening-of-north-carolina-bookwatch-retrospective-with-dg-martin-tickets-182583701767

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch” Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on PBS North Carolina (formerly UNC-TV). The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m. and other times.