Local Interest

06 Apr 2020

Tales of radio announcing at Duke, Biltmore Estate, and Literary Trails including author Betty Smith

by Lewis Bowling


Valerie Raleigh Yow, Betty Smith: Life of the Author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“We walked home with Betty Smith from a football game one afternoon and sat talking until late that night about books and the writing of books.” Sam Ragan, the longtime Poet Laureate of North Carolina and the publisher of The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines, wrote. That beautiful house where Betty Smith lived in Chapel Hill still stands. What it would have been like to be a “fly on the wall” inside that house late on a cool October afternoon listening to Betty Smith and Sam Ragan talk about books and the writing of books. You will be the “fly on the wall” when reading Valerie Raleigh Yow’s splendid biography of Betty Smith. This is not just a biography of one of the most revered writers our state has produced, but a vivid look into the craft of writing. Within a year of its publication, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sold three million copies. Valerie Yow covers Betty Smith’s life in detail, and it is a fascinating read.

Georgann Eubanks, Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina

Eubanks, perhaps the leading authority on authors that North Carolina has produced, has written two other books about literary North Carolina. Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains and Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont. In each book, Eubanks is like a front seat companion as she and the reader drive through towns and counties of the state as she points out where well-known authors lived and worked. Not only is the book a great excursion into literary North Carolina, but the reader will learn some history and geography of our state. In Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina, there is information about Southern Pines and the Sandhills. Here is one example. “From Sanford, head south toward North Carolina’s Sandhills, a region unlike any other in the state, famous for its many golf courses, temperate weather, sandy landscape, and the Pinus palustris, the longleaf pine — a tree that can live 300 years and which tops out at 100 feet.” The reader will tour Weymouth Center and the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, and also the Old Bethesda Cemetery, where Eubanks will point out where many authors are buried.

Denise Kiernan, The Last Castle

By the time you finish reading this book about the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, you will feel like you have lived for some time in the 250 room, 175,000 square foot mansion. You will think you are eating sumptuous meals in the 70 foot high Banquet Hall, with a massive triple fireplace roaring next to Flemish tapestries dating from the 1500’s while listening to music from the 1916 Skinner pipe organ. Kiernan writes of the magnificence of America’s largest home, from its 65 fireplaces and 43 bathrooms, from the Winter Garden to the two-story library, where you will find over 10,000 book selections. But Kiernan also writes about the struggle to maintain this magnificent place after the death of George Vanderbilt and the valiant efforts by his wife Edith to live on in Biltmore, and the decision to open Biltmore to the public. If you have never been to Biltmore, read The Last Castle and you will be there as soon as possible. If you have been, like me, many times, read The Last Castle and you will want to go again.

Bob Harris, How Sweet It Is! From The Cotton Mill To The Crows’ Nest

“How Sweet It Is!” is what Bob Harris would exclaim in a game when Duke basketball or Duke football was about to experience another victory. Harris was the play-by-play radio announcer for Duke football and basketball for 41 years, and was there for all five of Duke’s men’s basketball national championships under coach Mike Krzyzewski. In this autobiography Harris writes about the not so good years of Duke football but also the winning years under Steve Spurrier and David Cutcliffe, and also of the great success Duke basketball has experienced since Coach K’s arrival in 1980. Harris was born in Albemarle, on a “cotton mill hill,” and worked for all those years from the radio booth, the Crows’ Nest, high above the playing floor of Duke’s home basketball arena, Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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