NC author Bland Simpson to speak at Prologue Book Club StarNews / WQHR

Bland Simpson is something close to a legendary figure in North Carolina.

He is the longtime pianist of the North Carolina roots group, Red Clay Ramblers; co-author or contributor to musicals and magazines such as “Diamond Studs”, “King Mackerel and the Blues are Running” and “Pump Boys and Dinettes”; and a Kenan professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In his spare time he has written a shelf of books on eastern North Carolina including “Into the Sound Country”, “The Inner Islands” and “The Coasts of Carolina”.

Now, however, Simpson has gone further. His latest book, “North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky,“covers not only the coastal plain, but also the mountains and Piedmont.


He will speak about the new book on Monday January 10 for Prologue, the monthly book club sponsored by public radio StarNews and WHQR. Simpson will discuss the new book and answer questions starting at 7 p.m. in a free live webinar. Readers can log on to or broadcast the event live on the WHQR Facebook page.

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Why did Simpson diversify?

“Well, I live in Piedmont,” he said in his unmistakable drawl.

In fact, David Perry, the former director of the University of North Carolina Press, had been pressuring Simpson to write a big book on North Carolina since 2009.

Simpson, however, had other titles he wanted to tackle first, including “Two Captains from Carolina,” the parallel biography of two Tar Heel sailors: blockade runner John Newland Maffitt, who made Wrightsville Beach. his home, and Moses Grady, an African-American slave Handler who made enough money to buy freedom for himself, his wife and children and who wrote an important memoir about his experience as a slave.

Simpson tackled his new book with the help of three remarkable photographers: Scott Taylor, Simpson’s wife and frequent collaborator Ann Cary Simpson, and Tom Earnhardt, the producer and host of the PBS-NC series ” Exploring North Carolina “.

“I knew that everything I wrote could be illustrated by them,” Simpson said. “It was incredibly self-confident.”

As for the subjects, “I laid out a road map of the state on the table at my home in Beaufort,” said Simpson. “I had a magnifying glass and chose all the places I wanted to explore.”

Some places, of course, are better known or bigger than others, and for those, Simpson tried to take a different approach.

“I mean, there are ten thousand things to write to Charlotte,” he said. “I chose to watch the music.”

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Specifically, he chose to focus on legendary music producer Don Dixon and his Reflections Studio, who has worked with such legendary musicians as REM, Hootie and the Blowfish and The Smithereens.

Charlotte is not considered a music mecca, Simpson noted. The radio stations there, such as WBT, were broadcasting “hillbilly” groups long before Nashville got there. Arthur Smith, who achieved national success with “Guitar Boogie”, made Charlotte his home base and hosted a television show there for years. (Smith’s “Feuding Banjos” were later remade as “Dueling Banjos” for the movie “Deliverance”.) And James Brown recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” at Smith’s Charlotte studio in 1965.

Simpson said he already has enough material for three books of his travels and that a sequel to “Land of Water, Land of Sky” is on the way.

Jason mott

Wilmington author Jason Mott, who won the 2021 National Book Prize for his novel “Hell of a Book”, will give a special reading and signature at 2 p.m. on Sunday January 23 at the Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S. 17th St. in Wilmington.

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Entrance is free, but pre-registration is required. Those interested can pre-register at A donation of $ 10 at the door is suggested.

Jason mott

A native of Bolton, Mott received BFA and MFA degrees from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her 2013 debut novel “The Returned” was adapted as an ABC miniseries “Resurrection”. Mott also won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction at the 2021 North Carolina Book Awards presented by the NC Literary and Historical Association.

For more information, call the Cameron Art Museum at 910-395-5999.

Sale of Friends of the Library books

The pandemic has shaken up the schedule for the sale of second-hand books from the friends of the New Hanover library. In the past, the sales were held in the spring and fall, with a one-day “beach readings” sale in the summer.

Now, however, the Friends are holding a winter used book sale, starting this week at the Northeast Library, 1241 Military Cutoff Road.

Officially, the sale starts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday January 15th. Informally, it opens with a “preview” reserved for members from 5.30pm to 9pm. Friday January 14. Non-members, however, can enter by joining the gate; basic contributions are $ 20.

The book sale continues on January 16-17, 21-22 and 23. Proceeds from the event will benefit the county library system. After that, the next book sale is scheduled for August.

For more information, call the library at 910-798-633 or 910-798-6371.

Lola R. McClure