BOOKS AND THEIR AUTHORS

If you like to read books—and book reviews—you should pick up Art & Craft, Thirty Years on the Literary Beat, a collection of reviews and writer interviews by Bill Thompson, former book review editor at Charleston’s Post and Courier. From 1980 to 2012, Thompson conversed with some of the most distinguished writers of our times.

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These handpicked essays— over 90 of them—are literary gems in their own right. Genres include travel, history, biography, documentaries, mystery and more.

Rejecting appeals to confine his reviews to local writers, Thompson interviewed such luminaries as Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, Edward Albee, Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Theroux. Still, he didn’t neglect the South or Charleston. (Josephine Humphreys, in the foreword, calls Thompson a catalyst for local writers—“the observer who electrified the observed.”)

Every article reveals Thompson’s uncanny ability to get his subjects talking. Norman Mailer (Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery) articulates his belief that “we can learn as much from evil people as from good people”; Mickey Spillane talks about the value of characterization over plot (The Ship That Never Was); and New Yorker John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) reveals that he can “see things more clearly” in slower-paced Savannah. All speak freely about what inspires their work.

Find Art & Craft, Thirty Years on the Literary Beat (The University of South Carolina Press, 2015) online or at your local bookseller.