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North Carolina in the 1940s

This book is the first in a series of small, richly illustrated books about North Carolina history through the decades. Originally published as hugely popular serialized articles for Our State magazine, this book chronicles events in North Carolina in the 1940s—a decade which began with the state gearing up for war just as the last formerly enslaved person passed away. The volume is not a textbook overview of the state’s history. Rather, each chapter focuses on a lively and illuminating set of events in the era, such as the music explosion around John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk in eastern part of the state and Earl Scruggs and traditional string band music in the west, the polio pandemic, shipbuilding in wartime, a harsh era of hurricanes and floods, as well as tobacco as the king of the farming and industrial sectors.

To understand the long march of events in North Carolina from secession to surrender is to understand the entire Civil War--a personal war waged by Confederates and Unionists, free blacks and the enslaved, farm women and plantation belles, Cherokees and mountaineers, conscripts and volunteers, gentleman officers and poor privates. In the state's complex loyalties, its sprawling and diverse geography, and its dual role as a home front and a battlefield, North Carolina embodies the essence of the whole epic struggle in all its terrible glory.


Philip Gerard presents this dramatic convergence of events through the stories of the individuals who endured them--reporting the war as if it were happening in the present rather than with settled hindsight--to capture the dreadful suspense of lives caught up in a conflict whose ending had not yet been written. As Gerard reveals, whatever the grand political causes for war, whatever great battles decided its outcome, and however abstract it might seem to readers a century and a half later, the war was always personal.

In Down the Wild Cape Fear, novelist and nonfiction writer Philip Gerard invites readers onto the fabled waters of the Cape Fear River and guides them on the 200-mile voyage from the confluence of the Deep and Haw Rivers at Mermaid Point all the way to the Cape of Fear on Bald Head Island. Accompanying the author by canoe and powerboat are a cadre of people passionate about the river, among them a river guide, a photographer, a biologist, a river keeper, and a boat captain. Historical voices also lend their wisdom to our understanding of this river, which has been a main artery of commerce, culture, settlement, and war for the entire region since it was first discovered by Verrazzano in 1524.


Gerard explores the myriad environmental and political issues being played out along the waters of the Cape Fear. These include commerce and environmental stewardship, wilderness and development, suburban sprawl and the decline and renaissance of inner cities, and private rights versus the public good.

Meet the characters of essayist Philip Gerard’s world: a misguided sailor and his crew of rowdy teenage boys, an ancient nun, a nurse who believes the government has been secretly spreading the bubonic plague, a park ranger, jaded baseball players, a voice on a VHF radio far out to sea, a family of itinerant Mexicans camping dangerously in a dry riverbed, a famous alcoholic writer, and a few inexplicable ghosts. Gerard’s true stories are shot through with the uncanny and the mysterious—they are not quiet interior contemplations but instead are full of public events, remarkable encounters, life-and-death moments that both reveal and deepen the mysteries of our lives.

The Patron Saint of Dreams is a collection of fifteen narrative essays that address events in the world through the lens of personal experience, moments when seemingly small decisions have large consequences: enduring the terror of a direct hit by a hurricane, hiking through bear country and suffering a heart attack, hearing a disturbing secret from a old soldier who has kept it for sixty years, discovering an imposter who maintains his dual life long after death. Told by one of the South’s most acclaimed and masterful nonfiction writers, these are the stories we live, and the lovely and terrible people who live them with us.

Books for Writers

All writers conduct research. For some this means poring over records and combing, archives but for many creative writers research happens in the everyday world—when they scribble an observation on the subway, when they travel to get the feel for a city, or when they strike up a conversation with an interesting stranger.

The Art of Creative Research helps writers take this natural inclination to explore and observe and turn it into a workable—and enjoyable—research plan. It shows that research shouldn’t be seen as a dry, plodding aspect of writing. Instead, it’s an art that all writers can master, one that unearths surprises and fuels imagination. This lends authenticity to fiction and poetry as well as nonfiction.

Writing creative nonfiction intertwines journalistic truth and literary techniques to tell a story that is clear, accurate, and exploding with meaning. Philip Gerard artfully guides readers through the entire creative nonfiction writing process, going beyond the technical basics to address topics such as ethics, voice, and structural integrity. In response to the genre’s evolution, the latest edition includes examples to illustrate how cultural changes have influenced the way writers conduct research, approach writing, and communicate during the production of their projects. Timely, engaging, and poetic, Creative Nonfiction is the practical manual every novice and seasoned writer will want on their bookshelf.