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Images of the Southern Writer

This is a book of photographs and essays that I published with the University of Georgia Press some years ago (Images of the Southern Writer, 1986). It has become something of a classic and is often referenced in the literature of the South. The picture on the cover is of Walker Percy taken on my 30th birthday at his house in Covington, LA. He and I became great friends and we corresponded regularly until his death.
 Producing this book was a four year project that took me into the homes of some of the most famous and not so famous writers who call the South home. I spent a day with Tennessee Williams in Key West, Florida just a few years before he died. Although I took a lot of photographs of Tennessee that day, the photograph used in the book was taken in his bedroom moments after he woke up, his thinning hair still flying out in all directions and his pet bulldog stretched belly up on his bed getting his morning rub down. During and after lunch, Tennessee and I consumed a few bottles of red wine sitting under a gazebo in his back yard. His handsome young roommate who was in his early 30’s dropped me off at my hotel late in the afternoon, my head still spinning from the wine and the excitement of my good fortune.
 One of the reasons this was a four year project is that some writers were reluctant to see me. After all, I was under 30 and had no book contract or reputation for taking pictures of writers. It took me two years to finally get an audience with Eudora Welty in Jackson, Mississippi. Welty only agreed after another writer friend convinced her that I was a "nice kid." Robert Penn Warren, one of my literary heroes, agreed straight up to a sitting at his home in Fairfield, CT, but getting the interview turned into a two year letter writing journey as well. I also became friends with a writer, Cormac McCarthy, who held a large but mainly academic reputation at the time. I visited Cormac a few times in Knoxville, TN when he was living in motel room on the outskirts of town and later when he moved to El Paso, TX. We became pen pals of sorts and I have dozens of long letters he wrote me, some giving me advice on a worthless girlfriend I had at the time and writing advice in other missives.
In retrospect, my time with Cormac is likely the most coveted among literary types. We talked about what many consider his most brilliant novel, Blood Meridian (my photograph of him was used on the cover of the first edition), and about a trilogy he was working on, the first of which he would call All the Pretty Horses. Considering the fame he has attained with later novels, what is most interesting about our conversations and my relationship with Cormac is the fact that my interview/essay in the book is one of only a handful he has ever given. One of my Knoxville photographs of Cormac is used in this online biography next to the section about Blood Meridian.