How to Win the Ryder Cup

We’re taking a break from the seriousness of our last post to chat about the Ryder Cup, which kicks off its opening ceremony from Newport, Wales, today.

If you’re a golfer, you’ve got to check out former U.S. team captain Paul Azinger’s detailed description of how the United States won the 2008 Ryder Cup in Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy–Make It Work For You, published by Looking Glass Books. Under Paul’s leadership, the U.S. Ryder Cup team ended nearly a decade of European dominance in 2008 by laying aside their individual pursuits for a single week to overcome their underdog status and bring the cup back to America.

Inspired by team-building techniques used by Navy SEALs, Paul Azinger divided the 12-man team into small groups with guidance from corporate team-building specialist and licensed family therapist Ron Braund. He placed golfers together based on their personality types, rather than their golf games. The relationships among teammates created an atmosphere where Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, and the other U.S. golfers could perform at their highest levels, overcoming their underdog status to bring the cup back to America.

Hear what Paul has to say about his Ryder Cup win in an interview with Golf Magazine. When they asked him if either of this year’s captains should read Cracking the Code, Paul responded:

I don’t think it would hurt. There’s a thin line between winning and losing, razor thin. The important thing to learn from this book is that the relationships trump the assets. It’s learning who these guys are and communicating with them according to their personalities. You don’t say the same thing to everybody and expect them all to react the same way.

Read more at Golf Magazine’s site. You can also find links to more interviews with Paul on our Web site.


Celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Book Week

Did you know this week is Banned Books Week?

Since 1982, Banned Books Week has been a national celebration of the freedom to read, launched in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982,  ranging from books that explore contemporary issues and controversies to classic and beloved works of American literature.

Banned Books Week is a chance for all of us to bring attention to the harms of censorship. ALA President Roberta Stevens said it best in a recent Huffington Post article: “Not every book is right for each reader, but we should have the right to think for ourselves and allow others to do the same. How can we live in a free society and develop our own opinions if our right to choose reading materials for ourselves and our families is taken away? We must remain diligent and protect our freedom to read.”

Want to know what kind of books have been banned or challenged over the past decade? Here’s ALA’s list of top contenders:

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl series by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Even one of our upcoming distributed titles has been banned in the past: the combined volume of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Schools across the nation still bar these American classics for their racial epithets, which Twain used to reflect the societal standards of the nineteenth century. NewSouth Books and Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben will offer this volume with the racial slurs removed completely.

This new edition will be the first of its kind to make this substantive change. Dr. Gribben explains that Mark Twain’s novels “can be enjoyed deeply and authentically without those continual encounters with hundreds of now-indefensible racial slurs,” and he hopes this volume will increase readership of Twain’s two masterpieces. You can read more of Dr. Gribben’s own words on the subject in this drafted excerpt from his edition.

Good or bad, this new edition is sure to stir up some buzz. What do you think? Will this new edition introduce both books to a wider readership?

Author Chris Hartley kicks off his book tour in a big way

Last Thursday, we at Blair celebrated the launch of Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, with author Chris Hartley at Old Salem Museums & Gardens. This wasn’t just any old launch party–a Moravian brass band played Civil War-era music, guests enjoyed Moravian cookies and wine, and the team at Old Salem raffled off a 1860 cavalry sword replica.

Some of the Blair staff got some great photos of the big event. Enjoy!

Moravian brass band plays for the crowd that came out to meet Chris Hartley.

Moravian brass band plays for the crowd that came out to meet Chris Hartley.

Chris Hartley signs a copy of his book for a fan.

Chris Hartley signs a copy of his book for a fan.

It was standing room only at Chris Hartley's presentation.

It was standing room only at Chris Hartley's presentation.

A reader enters the raffle for a 1860 cavalry sword replica.

A reader enters the raffle for a 1860 cavalry sword replica.

Little Chloe wins the sword for her father. Congrats, Chloe!

Little Chloe wins the sword for her father. Congrats, Chloe!

Thank you to all the Civil War fans who came out to learn more about Stoneman’s Raid. And many thanks to Old Salem for throwing a great party–we certainly couldn’t have done this without you!

We’re off to the SIBA trade show for the weekend

Things at Blair might be a little quieter today and this weekend–Jaci, Angela, and I are off to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in Daytona. We’ll be exhibiting our upcoming spring titles and showing off some of our distributed lines’ authors at signings at our booth. You can pick up a signings schedule at our booth, but if you can’t wait until then, here’s a preview:

10:30-11:30 a.m.
Michael Carlebach, author of Sunny Land (Safe Harbor Books)

1:30-2:30 p.m.
Dale Brakhage, author of ABCs of Selling With Etiquette (Canterbury House Publishing)

3:00-4:00 p.m.
Lou Dischler, author of My Old Sunshine (Hub City)–Learn more about this Okra Pick in an earlier blog post.

And booksellers, don’t forget to take advantage of our trade show special: 50% nonreturnable and 46% returnable discounts and free freight on orders of five or more books. We can’t wait to see you there!

Rick Rothacker, author of Banktown, fills us in on his book tour

Rick Rothacker is touring North Carolina and parts of the Southeast over the next couple of months, and he’s been so kind as to share a little bit about how it’s going. Check out what he has to say below. To see if Rick will be having a signing near you, see the list below or check out our events page.


Rick Rothacker signs a copy of Banktown for a reader.

Rick Rothacker signs a copy of Banktown for a reader.

The Banktown book tour is off to a great start. It began last week at Park Road Books in Charlotte, where a big group of Charlotte Observer colleagues, friends, and readers came out for the launch party. As a nice surprise, my high school English teacher from Pennsylvania sent flowers. She has an impressive history of turning out writers, including a novelist and an award-winning Washington Post reporter. At the signing, I got some great questions from the crowd and then got to work practicing my signature.

Last night, the tour went to Greensboro, N.C., where another inquisitive group came out at the Friendly Center Barnes & Noble. One question I had was about the future of the banking industry in Charlotte. It’s taken a severe blow, of course, but there are some signs of hope. We looked at this topic in-depth in a recent Observer article.

Next up is a stop in Winston-Salem, followed by a trip to Wilmington and the Triangle and more appearances in Charlotte and Atlanta after that. I hope to see you there.

If you can’t make it – and even if you can – you can also learn more about the book from the media coverage the book has generated in recent weeks. This includes national write-ups and excerpts in the New York Times,, and, as well as local coverage in the Observer, WFAE, WCNC, WGHP and others. Look for more coverage as the tour continues. The reception for the book has been great so far, and I appreciate everyone’s support.


Upcoming book signings with Rick Rothacker

Wednesday, September 22 at 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
Friendly Shopping Center
3102 Northline Avenue
Greensboro, NC 27408
Phone: 336-854-4200

Thursday, September 23 at 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
1925 Hampton Inn Court
Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Phone: 336-774-0800

Tuesday, September 28 at 7 p.m.
Pomegranate Books
4418 Park Avenue
Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: 910-452-1107

Wednesday, September 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Quail Ridge Books
3522 Wade Ave
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-828-7912

Thursday, September 30 at 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
New Hope Commons
5400 New Hope Commons
Durham, NC 27707
Phone: 919-489-3012

Monday, October 4 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
Town Square at Biltmore Park
33 Town Square Blvd., Suite 100
Asheville, NC 28803
Phone: 828-687-0681

Thursday, October 7 at 7 p.m.
Friends of the Library of Queens University in Charlotte
Sykes Auditorium
Queens University
1900 Selwyn Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28274
Phone: 704-785-7367

Thursday, October 14 at 7 p.m.
Blue Elephant Books
407 West Ponce De Leon Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030
Phone: 404-373-1565

Saturday, October 16 at 2 p.m.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Southpark Mall
4345 Barclay Downs Road
Charlotte, NC 28211
Phone: 704-602-9800

Thursday, October 28 at 5 p.m.
The Country Bookshop
140 NW Broad Street
Southern Pines, NC
Phone: 910-692-3211

Monday, November 1 at 7 p.m.
Gaston County Public Library
1555 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC 28054
Phone: 704-868-2164

Saturday, December 11 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
Forest Acres/Richland Fashion Mall
3400 Forest Drive
Columbia, SC 29204
Phone: 803-787-5600

Q&A with Chris Hartley, author of Stoneman’s Raid, 1865

We’ve got so much going on this week, I’m not sure where to start! For our local readers, please be sure to check out Rick Rothacker’s signing of Banktown at Friendly Center’s Barnes & Noble in Greensboro tonight at 7 p.m. You can also catch him at the Barnes & Noble in Winston-Salem tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Find more details on his signings here.

But if you’re interested in something a little more historical, join us tomorrow night to celebrate the launch of Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, by Chris Hartley, a local Winston-Salem author.

Old Salem
Lecture from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m. in the Single Brothers Workshop
10 Academy Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Reception following at T. Bagge Shop’s Garden Courtyard
626 South Main Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, covers the story of Federal major general George Stoneman, who launched a cavalry raid deep into the heart of the Confederacy in the spring of 1865. Over the next two months, Stoneman’s cavalry rode across six Southern states, fighting fierce skirmishes and destroying supplies and facilities. When the raid finally ended, Stoneman’s troopers had brought the Civil War home to dozens of communities that hadn’t seen it up close before. In the process, the cavalrymen pulled off one of the longest cavalry raids in U.S. military history.

Based on exhaustive research in 34 repositories in 12 states and from more than 200 books and newspapers, Hartley’s book tells the complete story of Stoneman’s 1865 raid for the first time. To get things started before the big event tonight, we chatted with Chris to learn a little more about the man behind the book.


1. You’ve said that many Civil War books “explain how battles affected the war. Very, very few of those books explain how the events they describe affected the peace.” How does Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, do that?

Most Civil War studies talk about how the events they describe affected the course of the war. That is unquestionably important to answer, but the effects of many battles often linger after the shooting has stopped. That is especially true of Stoneman’s 1865 Raid. Although it was designed to help end the Civil War, in the end the raid did not do that. Instead, the raid’s destruction made it much harder for many Southern citizens to recover from the war and start over.

2. What is one of your favorite/most interesting tidbits from the book?

Many of my favorite raid stories come from the files of the Southern Claims Commission. After the war, anyone who suffered private property loss at the hands of the Union army was eligible for compensation, but only if they could prove their loyalty to the Union. To get compensated, each individual had to file a claim, complete with multiple eyewitness affidavits. Those files still exist today in the National Archives, and they are a treasure trove. One story from those files is about Yadkin County widow Sarah Dalton. At about 7 a.m. one April morning, she heard a knock on her door. A Federal officer stood on her doorstep. Mrs. Dalton later stated that he “asked in a very respectful manner for breakfast for fifteen (15) officers.” She agreed and went to work, but to her chagrin, hungry guests continued to arrive. Federal soldiers also used her corn crib. By 4:00 that afternoon, Mrs. Dalton had fed about one hundred Yankees and her corn crib had supplied three or four thousand horses. It is but one telling example of the cost the raid exacted from local citizens.

3. When did you first learn of or become interested in Stoneman and his raid?

I grew up in the area that Stoneman’s cavalry raided in 1865, and today I still live there, so I could not help but be drawn to this event. It is hard to miss the historical markers commemorating the raid – they seem to be everywhere. As an undergraduate student at UNC, I decided to write a paper about the raid for a history class. That only sparked my interest even more. After graduation, I began researching and writing about Civil War events. Eventually I decided to revisit the raid in earnest. It’s been over twenty years since I first wrote that paper, but Stoneman’s Raid, 1865 is the result.

4. What was your favorite part of researching/writing the book?

Without a doubt, it was the thrill of discovery. Researching any event, especially one that is little known and not well documented, is hard work. You have to look under a lot of rocks, so to speak, to find pertinent info. While researching the raid, more often than not I spent hours sifting through books and documents only to turn up nothing. But the moment I found anything important, it was exciting. Sometimes it was hard to contain my excitement in the confines of a quiet library!

5. You give many talks and lectures to various groups around the area. What are some of the best questions you’ve gotten about your work?

I’ve had the privilege of speaking to many types of groups, most of whom have a deep interest in the Civil War, so I’m always struck by the wide variety of questions. Questions about uniforms, weapons, money, stamps, and all sorts of things reflect how wide and varied the interests related to this important conflict are. My favorite questions, though, are the ones that kids have asked me when I’ve spoken to younger audiences–such as, “Would the Confederates have won if they had laser guns?” Or “Wouldn’t the war have been much simpler if they had just tried playing rock, paper, scissors instead?”

6. What are your top must-read books?

Given the vast amount of literature about the Civil War, that’s a tough one to answer. There are so many great books to choose from. I cut my teeth reading about the Army of Northern Virginia, so my personal list includes Edward Porter Alexander’s Fighting for the Confederacy; Douglas S. Freeman’s multi-volume series Lee’s Lieutenants and R.E. Lee; and Heros von Borcke’s Memoirs of the Confederate War of Independence.

7. Now that Stoneman’s Raid, 1865 is published, what’s next for you?

I’m working on a new expanded edition of my first book, Stuart’s Tarheels: James B. Gordon and his North Carolina Cavalry, which has been out of print for over a decade. I’ve also started researching a book about my wife’s grandfather, who was killed in World War II. Further out, I am in the very early stages of a new biography of Confederate Gen. D.H. Hill. Hill was a prolific writer, so that one is going to take a while.

8. What does Stoneman’s Raid and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” have in common?

The obscure 1865 cavalry raid of Maj. Gen. George Stoneman serves as the unlikely backdrop for that hit song of the 1960’s. It is surprising that The Band did not choose a more famous Civil War battle such as Gettysburg, but it is also fitting because Stoneman’s raid did, in some ways, “Drive Dixie Down,” as I explain in my book. The song went on to great popularity, and was later covered by many other artists, including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, and the Black Crowes. Later versions of the song often omit the Stoneman reference, possibly because the phrase “Stoneman’s cavalry” sounds like “so much cavalry.”

It is also surprising that Stoneman’s Raid showed up in a 1970 made-for-TV movie titled “Menace on the Mountain.” Starring Mitch Vogel and Jodie Foster, the Walt Disney film tells the story of a teenage boy who struggles to protect his family from Yankee deserters who have seized the family’s home while their father is off at war. The movie was based on the true story of an outlaw gang who ravaged western North Carolina in the spring of 1865 from a stronghold called Fort Hamby. The real outlaws were led by a deserter from Stoneman’s cavalry, as I related in my book.


Learn more about Chris Hartley on his Web site.

Q&A with Rick Rothacker

Rick Rothacker will be celebrating the release of his new book Banktown: The Rise and Struggles of Charlotte’s Big Banks at 7 tomorrow evening at Park Road Books in Charlotte. (Want to go? Find more details here.) We know some you won’t have the chance to meet Rick while he’s on tour, so we decided to ask him a few questions to share with you. Enjoy!


You’ve been writing about Charlotte’s banks for the Charlotte Observer for nearly a decade. What made you decide to put it all in one book?

Since starting the beat, I’ve been interested in the history and the personalities behind the creation of these two banking giants. A lot of the executives are still around Charlotte, so when I talked with them I would often ask them for their war stories from the deal-making days of the 1980s and 1990s. There have been a number of good books about the rise of Bank of America, but less about Wachovia and First Union and the competition between the two banks. I already was thinking there was room for another book on the subject when the financial crisis came along, adding a lot more drama to the story and more reader interest. I would have been kicking myself if I didn’t try to write a book about it all.

When did you first notice something was wrong in these banks?

The Observer did a good job of looking at problems with subprime lending and foreclosures as far back as 2005, so I think we had a basic understanding of some of the pitfalls in mortgage lending and the housing market. In the case of Wachovia, starting in January 2008, I started hearing concerns from the bank’s own loan officers about some of the alternative mortgages the bank was selling after its Golden West acquisition. I started writing about these concerns, and the stories spurred more calls from loan officers and customers. In April 2008, we wrote a story that said Wachovia faced a “Moment of Truth” from rising loan losses and literally the next day the bank disclosed much higher-than-expected losses, and the bank’s troubles really started to come out into the open. I can’t say I could have predicted how bad things got, but we were among the first to raise red flags. In the case of Bank of America, the bank seemed to be one of the stronger players after buying Merrill Lynch, but obviously a few months later, a lot of problems started spilling out.

What do you think the rest of the nation will find most shocking in this book?

I think people will be fascinated by how deeply involved the government became with these banks when they ran into trouble. Wachovia was the fourth-biggest bank in the country and essentially became a bystander to its own sale and its potential dismemberment. Bank of America was told in pretty uncertain terms to go ahead with its Merrill Lynch deal, although the regulators seemed to truly believe it was necessary for the financial system. The government also isn’t one uniform entity – there were a lot of different regulators involved and they weren’t always on the same page.

What are you filling your time with now that Banktown is published?

I’m staying pretty busy trying to get the word out about the book. I’ve heard from a lot of people already who have bought the book or who are interested in it, so that has been gratifying. The banking beat has also stayed pretty hectic, as we try to keep up with financial reform and other developments. And of course, my wife and I have two boys, so school is starting, and T-ball and soccer and all of that. Also, the Phillies are trying to get to the World Series for a third straight year….

What are you reading now? Or, what’s the last book you read?

When I was working on the book, I didn’t have much time to read, other than books that I needed to research for the book. So I’ve really been enjoying having time to read all kinds of things. I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I read a neat book called “The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.” I also read “Game Change” about the 2008 campaign and am now reading a really gripping book about the Martin Luther King assassination called “Hellhound on His Trail,” which was recommended by one of my colleagues at the paper.

Are there any recent books or authors that you admire?

I mostly read nonfiction – history, military, business books. This may be a little insular, but I really enjoy books by journalists. They usually bring a fresh look to a subject, and some of them are just amazing writers. People like David Maraniss, Mark Bowden, Rick Atkinson, David Wessel, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Hampton Sides. There are a lot of good ones out there.

Ever read a book that changed your life? What was it?

That’s a tough one. I think I would go back to being a kid when everything from the “Call of the Wild” to the Lord of the Rings to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Isaac Asimov to C.S. Lewis to the Hardy Boys showed me how great books and reading could be. They made you want to go write stories of your own. I think in the business world, books like “Barbarians at the Gate” and papers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times show how you can make business writing interesting to the masses, while still shining an important spotlight on the practices that affect the economy and society.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want to have with you?

That’s an even tougher one. Maybe “Rabbit, Run.” Updike is pretty amazing, and he’s a Pennsylvanian. Faulkner is also pretty hard to beat.


If you’re in the Charlotte area, your chance to meet Rick and ask him your own questions is tomorrow night at Park Road Books. You can find more details on Rick’s upcoming tour of the Southeast here, and he’ll also be appearing at a few other spots in Charlotte:

Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7:00 p.m
Park Road Books
4139 Park Road
Charlotte, NC 28209

Thurs., Oct. 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Friends of Library of Queens University in Charlotte
Sykes Auditorium at Queens University Campus
1900 Selwyn Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28274
Tickets: Free for members, $10 for guests

Mon., Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
“Bibliofeast” for the Women’s National Book Association
Sante Restaurant
165 North Trade Street
Matthews, NC 28105
Tickets: $35

Sat., Oct. 16
2 p.m.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
4345 Barclay Downs Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28211