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Posted July 8, 2004
40 years of a novelist's work in journalism
North Carolina writer Lewis W. Green writes distinguished novels of mountain life and is an accurate, careful reporter as well as political observer, undercover government investigator, satirist and dispenser of personal invective. His most recent book, OF HUMAN INTEREST shows the author doing doughty battle in all six arenas. * ** OF HUMAN INTEREST in 248 pages presents 57 narrative pieces, including near the end a few book reviews of Mr Green's novels by others. Many are selections from the author's 40 years of reporting for various periodicals (some his own) in Buncombe County (county seat Asheville) in the lush green mountains of Western North Carolina. *** Most selections are from the earlier years, 1961- 1980. In these appears Green the classic journalist, acknowledged by friends and critics alike, as an honest, painstaking narrator of the facts. *** Included here are the story of Clyde Leeson who sold to greedy con men very old deeds to most of the Great Smoky National Park; various black men and politicians who told Lewis Green that he wasn't much but was all they had to speak for them; Grand Duke Zeno Ponder of the Kingdom of Madison (County); mountain Nazis; and how Lewis Green helped raised money to help 79 year old George Holmes buy a new mule. Humor abounds. Invective is scarce to non-existent. This period also produced interviews with and insights into Carl Sandburg, Martin Luther King, Jr. and youthful heiress Mamie Reynolds. There are rich nuggets to be mined by biographers and historians.*** In more recent years the author's style changed and grew darker and more heavy handed. Factual reporting retained its understated humor but also became mixed with editorializing, commentary and weakly justified personal attacks on and name calling of politicians, churchmen and other writers. *** It is to Mr Green's inclusion at the end of his book of an essay by Gary Carden, an author living not far away in Sylva, NC that the book's single most shocking fact is reported. That is the creation in Asheville in the 1930s of the pro-Hitler, anti- semitic Silver Shirts by William Dudley Pelley (p. 242). *** The vignettes presented in OF HUMAN INTEREST are about a narrow slice of the admittedly highly fragmented social strata of Mountain North Carolina. You read much of lawyers, sheriffs, police chiefs and law enforcement officers unknown elsewhere, but very little of doctors, craftsmen, painters or school teachers. Of religion there is material on Episcopalians, snake handlers, a word or two about the area's most famous resident Billy Graham, but not much on other Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics or Unitarians. A Jewish rabbi is, however, included among Mr Green's four mentors. Lewis Green, like so many in and around Asheville, moves in a few circles and ignores most others. OF HUMAN INTEREST is a rollicking good read for its accuracy, humor and flashes of compassion for the down and out and the forgotten. -OOO-Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.