Why Old Men Plant Trees

Magnolia grandiflora. Even the name is beautiful, isn’t it? Never mind the fragrant blossoms with petals like white satin, or the shimmering green leaves, rusty on the underside. My wife Mary Leigh frets about the litter of big leaves and fruit, but I say no one complains about picking up after a successful party. Oh, […]

Grumpy Old Men?

Thursday morning, I’ll embark from the Raleigh, North Carolina, airport on a flight to New York City’s LaGuardia. There, Chris Kerr, my friend of 45 years, will meet me. We’re off to Somerset, New Jersey, for the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) meeting, and then on to Providence, Rhode Island, for a gathering of […]

Book Trailer

There are book trailers! Who knew? Certainly not me, wandering the savannahs of the Internet on my knuckles with my laptop in tow, like the apes in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But my publisher, NewSouth Books’ Suzanne La Rosa, thought it would be a good idea for me to produce one. Of course, […]


Narrative choices often are conscious—a character needs to say this or the plot needs that. And sometimes they’re not. Dahlias were my mother’s favorite flower. She always planted two rows of them by our farm gate. When the school bus dropped me off, I’d stand for a moment, watching the white dust from the road […]