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Saint Hal and the Hellraiser

Journalist Hal Crowther and former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms

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You'd be hard pressed to find two more dissimilar North Carolinians than journalist Hal Crowther and former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. One's a left-leaning, uber-literate, erudite man of the world. The other's a far-right, ill-informed, race- and gay-baiting provincial. They represent two sides of North Carolina that have been in opposition for well over a hundred years: higher education vs. Bible-thumping; tolerance vs. prejudice; progress vs. backwardness.

Lo and behold, both of these men have new books. Crowther just published his third collection of essays, Gather At the River: Notes from the Post-Millenial South, while Helms' book, Here's Where I Stand: A Memoir, was released early this month.

In this issue, we take a look at both men. We interviewed Hal Crowther and got his take on the South, his new book, Southern literature, New Orleans and, yes, Jesse Helms. CL contributor Barry Yeoman looks at Jesse Helms' memoir and compares its assertions about the senator's life and politics to the actual facts. It makes for a fascinating contrast and gives a good idea of the variety of world views in North Carolina -- and a good idea why so many statewide races here turn out to be so close.

-- John Grooms

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