D.G. Martin

His most hopeful book, says Ron Rash

Ron Rash, Western Carolina professor and author of five previous novels including “Serena,” captures his beloved North Carolina mountains at their best. And their worst. In his new book, “Above the Waterfall,” his main characters, though possessing overwhelmingly positive qualities, have flaws that complicate our admiration for them. For instance, there are two narrators. One, Les, is a respected and effective sheriff. However, he takes small but regular payoffs from the local marijuana growers. The other, Becky, is a park ranger, whose love of nature and service is clouded by psychological damage that occurred when she was a child...

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Not over until it’s over

Are the legislators really going home soon? Finally! Over the weekend at the UNC-Chapel Hill vs. N.C. A&T football game, House Speaker Tim Moore was all smiles as he confirmed news reports that legislative leaders had struck a budget deal that could lead to passage of a state budget this week. Getting a two-year budget for the period that began July 1 is the one thing that the legislature has to do before it goes home. Once the budget passes and is signed by the governor, everything else can wait until next year. At least theoretically. Actually, there are...

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A baptism stirs memories, 135 years afterwards

When would a baptism in a small church in Wilmington be so important that it gets reported in the newspapers? It happened in 1880 at Fifth Street Methodist Church and again at the same church 135 years later on August 30, 2015. Here is the report from the November 7, 1880, Wilmington Star announcing an event that would ultimately change the course of Chinese history: “Fifth Street Methodist Church: This morning the ordinance of Baptism will be administered at this church. A Chinese convert will be one of the subjects of the solemn right [sic], being probably the first...

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Eating with the locals near the water

How do you find a home cooking restaurant that is both near an interstate highway and on or near the water? It is not easy. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about one of them, Holland’s Shelter Creek Restaurant near I-40 and adjoining a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River near Wilmington. There are lots of other great restaurants along our Outer Banks, Crystal coasts, and other coastlines, but, except for I-40, none of the state’s interstates passes near our coastline. This means that interstate travelers looking for a local eatery near the water are out of...

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Trump, Romney, and Terry Sanford

How did Donald Trump make Mitt Romney president in 2016? That is the question some pundits could be asking each other next November when they try to figure out how the president-elect, who had taken himself out of consideration for the Republican nomination in early 2015, became a winner. What will be the answer to that question? It could go something like this:  Romney still wanted to be president when he dropped out. But he was smart enough to know that many Republicans viewed him as damaged goods, a loser, and outdated. He saw many of his 2012 supporters...

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“Little Rivers” meets “Interstate Eateries”

How is Bland Simpson’s upcoming book, “Little Rivers and Waterway Tales: A Carolinian’s Eastern Streams,” helping me write my book about local eateries near interstate highways? I will tell you in a minute. But first a few words about the author and his book, which comes out next month. The multi-talented Simpson is a professor of writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, a long-time performer and songwriter for the Red Clay Ramblers, and a prolific author of fiction, coastal memoirs, and what he calls “non-fiction novels.” In earlier work he combined his memories and story-telling gifts with the experience and knowledge...

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Worrying About Trump

What did Hillary Clinton tell Donald Trump when he invited her to his wedding? She said, “I will come to the wedding if you promise to run for president.” This joke from Winston-Salem’s Steve Porter made me laugh, and it reminded me that we owe Donald Trump a thank you. Why? He has got us interested in politics again. His presence on the political scene requires us to think seriously about what qualities we most want in our country’s president and those we most want our president not to have. For me, I want a president who is calm,...

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Summer’s Final Reading Assignments

A classic love story full of mountain music from one of North Carolina’s greatest living balladeers, a loving portrait of a North Carolina beach by a modern prophet of coastal catastrophe, a fictional look into the recent past in small eastern North Carolina towns, and a novel that explains an old marker in a Beaufort graveyard. These are the latest and the final summer reading assignments (I mean suggestions) for your vacation reading. Madison County’s Sheila Kay Adams is a living legend among the fans of the music of the Appalachian mountains. Thanks to Doug Orr’s and Fiona Ritchie’s...

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Hero on the Wrong Side of History

Can Atticus Finch still be our hero? After Harper Lee, who created the saintly Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has now given disturbing details about him in her newly released book, “Go Set a Watchman”? We learned through the eyes of Jean Louise, his adoring eight-year-old daughter called Scout in “Mockingbird,” how Atticus stood up to most of his small Alabama town’s white community and earned the devotion of the blacks by vigorously, but unsuccessfully, defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. Almost 20 years later, shortly after the 1954 Brown v. Board decision,...

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Finding Food and Human Fellowship at the Haymont Grill

What is more important than politics and books? These two are often the topics of my weekly column, but many things are more important. Including food, and the human fellowship that accompanies it. These two topics will be central to this column. Earlier this year I wrote about my search for old-time, locally owned, restaurants that are community gathering places, ones that are close enough to the big highways for travelers to find them and, rather than loading up with franchise fast foods, have a meal with the locals. These thoughts are connected to the new book I am...

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