Art and Craft: Thirty Years on the Literary Beat

Art and Craft: Thirty Years on the Literary Beat

Art and Craft: Thirty Years on the Literary Beat

Art and Craft: Thirty Years on the Literary Beat


Art and Craft presents the hand-picked fruit of Bill Thompson's three decades covering writers and writing as book review editor of Charleston, South Carolina's Post and Courier. Beginning with a foreword by Charleston novelist Josephine Humphreys, this collection is a compendium of interviews featuring some of the most distinguished novelists and nonfiction writers in America and abroad, including Tom Wolfe, Pat Conroy, Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Bragg, and Anthony Bourdain, as well as many South Carolinians. With ten thematic chapters ranging from the Southern Renaissance, literature, biography, and travel writing to crime fiction and Civil War history, Art and Craft also includes a sampling of Thompson's reviews.Featuring: Jack Bass, Rick Bragg, Roy Blount, Jr., Robin Cook, Pat Conroy, Patricia Cornwell, Dorothea Benton Frank, Herb Frazier, Sue Grafton, Carl Hiaasen, Sue Monk Kidd, Brian Lamb, Bret Lott, Jill McCorkle, James McPherson, Mary Alice Monroe, Joyce Carol Oates, Carl Reiner, Dori Sanders, Charles Seabrook, Anne Rivers Siddons, Lee Smith, Mickey Spillane, Paul Theroux, Tom Wolfe


When I first started writing, right around 1978, I wasn’t part of a writer’s community. There wasn’t one—I didn’t know any other novelist working in the lowcountry, or any writers’ groups or workshops. There were only a couple of book clubs. By the time I finished my first novel and found a publisher for it, there was no bookstore!

Then a new independent bookstore opened in 1983, just in time for me, and for Harlan Greene and Padgett Powell, whose first novels appeared the same month mine did. Other writers sprang up in succession over the years; today we have maybe 60 people working and publishing, and more on the way. I’d say Charleston now qualifies as a hotbed, a place where organic matter ferments and generates heat and nurtures new seedlings. Whether our growth spurt might eventually lead to a second Charleston Renaissance, nobody knows. But it’s definitely been a good time for writers.

Do writers really need community? I think so. Not so much for the critiquing and encouragement and advice on how to get an agent (although those things are welcome) but more for the laughs, the commiseration, and the happy but often shocking discovery that someone else thinks the same way you do. Writers are surprisingly similar whether they’re writing fiction or poetry or history or magazine articles. We’re loners by necessity; there’s no job more solitary. At the same time, we need human connection, or we lose the very thing that makes us writers.

A community may well germinate organically wherever there are writers and readers, but in Charleston the process was sped up by a catalyst—Bill Thompson—whose newspaper reviews and interviews sparked our energy and made us aware of each other, generated the warmth we needed. As book review editor at the Post and Courier from 1981 to 2012, Bill Thompson was the observer who electrified the observed. and because he was a writer himself, and a really good one, he knew what we were about and what we were after.

Interestingly enough, Bill decided he would never actually review the books of local writers in the region. His reasons for this decision boil down . . .

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