Authors’ series begins with Gerard

by Shannon Rae Gentry
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Supplied photo by Ashley Marie Leahman 

Philip Gerard will read from his book, “Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina,” on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Northeast Regional Library.

Friends of the New Hanover County Public Library are co-sponsoring three free book readings and discussions by local authors throughout the month of May at the Northeast Regional Library on Military Cutoff Road. 

Starting the series will be department chair of creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Philip Gerard, with his book, “Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina” next Tuesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. 

Published by The University of North Carolina Press, “Down the Wild Cape Fear…” is a non-fiction work that Gerard said in an interview last Thursday, April 25 he hopes will take readers on a true journey to get to know the river.

“This was a great adventure … and if I’ve done one thing well in the book, I hope that I’ve communicated to the reader a sense of adventure and that he or she is going down the river, discovering things as we go,” he said.

A long time in the making, Gerard said the book is the result of about two and a half years or more of research and expeditions along the river with various guides and local river experts, including the Cape Fear River Keeper, a field biologist, a local birder and many more.

“There were lots of other hours spent in archives and interviews, tracking down people on the river, and revisiting places that we passed on the boat to get more information,” he said. “I was just amazed that every time we pulled a little thread of history it turned into this gigantic tapestry of all the wonderful things that went on along the river.”

Historical voices also contribute to understanding the Cape Fear River’s ongoing role in commerce, culture, settlement and war for the entire region. Gerard explores environmental and political issues being played out along the river, as well as private rights versus the public good. 

Gerard said that the river actively contributes to these happenings, such as the plantation culture in the lower regions and the many conflicts along the river during the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

“I think the Cape Fear River is maybe the best eastern river to look at if you want to look at the maximum impact on everything from settlement patterns to the kinds of industry, politics, wars, environmental issues, natural history issues, all of that happens on the Cape Fear,” he said.

Gerard said that since living in Wilmington, he’s always been intrigued by the river and realized while writing this book that despite the human impact and growth over the years, it truly is wild, as the title suggests.

“It’s been engineered all the way up and down from the Brooklyn Dam to the mouth of the Cape Fear, nonetheless the river stubbornly resists,” he said. “You look in any direction and all you see is dark, deep, lush undergrowth, animals and birds, and you realize that this is what the river looked like in the 1700s.”

The next reading in the series is planned for Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m., where Rhett Johnson will talk about “Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North America’s Richest Forest,” also sponsored by Cape Fear Audubon. Closing the series on Tuesday, May 14 at 7 p.m., Clyde Edgerton will read from his new work “Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages.”


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