Up Front: April 2009

Serial filler

For most mass media, less is more. Racing like dinosaurs fleeing a comet, only this one hurtling from cyberspace rather than the heavens above, they seek salvation in brevity and immediacy. Call me a throwback, but I believe one of the enduring strengths of magazines is that we afford stories the time and space they warrant. It’s that, rather than glossy paper and slick covers, which sets us apart from newspapers. In some ways, we’re closer kin to books.

That’s one reason, when we come across a book we think will appeal to our readers, we run an excerpt, such as the one that begins on page 70. My Link in the Chain, Leonard Herring’s memoirs, deals with more than his four decades with Lowe’s, including 18 years as president and CEO. It traces his family’s roots in this state from the turn of the 18th century to its branches into the 21st, but the chapter we found fascinating focuses on 12 months in 1960-61, a span that began just five years after he answered a want ad and landed a job as financial manager with what was then a six-store hardware chain. When its founder died unexpectedly, the cover could have closed on what would be one of North Carolina business’ greatest success stories. Instead open scenes of high drama, staged from North Wilkesboro’s C Street to New York’s Wall Street, retold with great gusto by one of its leading characters.

The only problem was its length, longer than any excerpt BNC has run. We would have had to abridge it ruthlessly — cut it by half — more butchery than editing. Then Deni McIntyre, the Winston-Salem writer who worked with Herring on the book, made a suggestion: “Since there isn’t much good business news in 2009, why not run it serially over two months? 1961 is looking pretty good right now.” So we are.

That, no doubt, comes as a relief to the book’s collaborator, who with her husband, photographer Will McIntyre, is also its publisher. They started Loose Ends Press to publish All Over the Map: Travel Photographs & the Stories Behind Them, named Photography Book of the Year in 2001 by the Independent Publishers Association. The McIntyres have worked in more than 70 countries on six continents on assignment for magazines, corporations and picture agencies. Starting in 1985, she wrote Lowe’s annual reports for more than a dozen years and authored No Place Like Lowe’s, the history its first 50 years.

She recalls exactly when the meeting was scheduled with Herring, now nearly 82, on his book. “That morning I woke up with a sore throat. I thought, ‘Leonard won’t thank me for giving him a virus,’ so I called to postpone the meeting. While we were talking, my husband came into the room and turned on the TV. He said, ‘There’s something strange going on. A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.’”

For years, it was a back-burner project for both of them. “Leonard is a very modest guy. His main reason for writing the book was to communicate with great-grandchildren he’ll never know. I persuaded him that there was a larger audience. Once I had convinced him, the challenge was to get him to charge for the book, because he didn’t want anyone to think he is after more money. I came up with the idea of getting Wilkes County Public Library to handle the orders in return for all the proceeds from the book. Leonard and his wife, Rose, are big library patrons, so they liked that idea.”

Copies are available for a contribution of $25. Contact Jordan Welborn at the library, 215 10th St., North Wilkesboro, NC 28659 or e-mail her at jwelborn@arlibrary.org.