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Posted August 3, 2005
Jim Person, who has written three books and over one hundred articles, has a gift when it comes to analyzing, comparing, and critiquing works of literature. In this book he is also gifted with his subject, Earl Hamner. Largely because he is such a humble man, most people do not know much about Earl¿s career or the extent of his works. If his name sounds familiar, it is because it appears in the opening credits of one of the most beloved series ever on television, The Waltons. Not only was Earl the creator and one of the principal writers of the show based on his life growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Great Depression, it was his distinctive voice that opened and closed the show. But The Waltons was a mid-career project you will be surprised to learn in this book how much Earl has done before and after it, across genres. After keeping a journal while he was growing up, he started his career writing radio scripts, has penned nine books, wrote eight Twilight Zone scripts, was the creator of another long-running series Falcon Crest, and was the screenwriter for the animated film Charlotte¿s Web. In addition, Earl produced or, according to Person, was the ¿guiding hand¿ for a number of other series and specials including Brewster Place, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, and a PBS presentation called The Ponder Heart. As Person describes in this critical biography, much of Earl¿s work is influenced by his upbringing. Throughout Earl Hamner¿s award-winning career, he has maintained his personal integrity, an air of gentility, and even that distinctive Virginia Scotch-Irish accent. But despite his conservative roots, he embraces all aspects of life. He has spent most of his life on the west coast, has traveled extensively, and clearly loves people. He is a sensitive writer who is not afraid to write heartwarming and inspiring stories from which, although he maintains that it has never been his intent to instill lessons, you will learn none-the-less. Throughout the writing of this biography, Jim Person and Earl Hamner apparently became fast friends, and it¿s easy to see why. Earl was amazed that Jim was able to capture the essence of him so easily but, in my opinion, it¿s because the two men are so much alike. At this point I must confess that I am friends with both of them and it¿s easy to see why they ¿get¿ each other. Both are great writers but, more than that, they are great guys: fun-loving, hard-working, principled, and above all, humble. Cumberland House did an outstanding job putting the book together with photos of Earl, his childhood home, and his beloved mountains on the cover, and many never-before-seen photos sprinkled throughout the book. This is a great read. If you are not already familiar with Earl¿s works, Earl Hamner: From Walton¿s Mountain to Tomorrow will make you want to investigate them, and to check out more of Jim Person¿s writings as well.
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Posted June 9, 2012