Book Beat: The Podcast

Previous postings on Don Swaim's Book Beat: The Podcast Site
ARCHIVES #1 — 2008-2009

Wired for Books

find the hundreds of authors on Don's site using the above search box

Detective novelist and screenwriter, Kaminsky was a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America. Don's broadcast with Kaminsky on the occasion of his Edgar Award-winning novel A Cold Red Sunrise: listen.

Speechwriter, language expert, novelist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, William Safire was a conservative even the Left could admire. Don's broadcast with Safire on the occasion of his Civil War novel Freedom: listen.

Poet and punk rocker, whose chaotic life blended sports, drugs, and verse, died of a heart attack at the age of sixty. Poignant article about the end of his sad, near poverty-stricken life by Alex Williams in The New York Times here. Don's broadcast with Jim Carroll: listen.

Imprint of an American Literary Icon

  • Doctorow, celebrated for Ragtime, publishes Homer and Langley (Random House, September 2009), his sixteenth book
  • Don Swaim's five-part interview with Doctorow: listen
  • Doctorow vies with John Updike, International PEN Congress 3/10/86: listen
  • Doctorow receives 1986 American Book Award: listen
  • Doctorow publishes classic essay about a failed president, Easthampton Star, 9/9/04: here
  • Doctorow booed by George W. Bush supporters at Hoftra University, Newsday, 5/24/04: here
  • Doctorow at home, The New York Times, 9/2/09: here
  • Don's unedited Wired for Books interview with Doctorow: listen

    Pluck & Scholarship

    The noted black studies scholar was caught in a firestorm when he was arrested for being impertinent to a white cop in Gates' Cambridge, Massachusetts, home. But far more important is that Gates unearthed what is believed to be the first novel written by a black woman in America. Hear Don's interview with Gates at Wired for Books -- and the actual broadcast listen.

    Schulberg shook up Hollywood with his novel What Makes Sammy Run, and he won an Oscar for On the Waterfront. Hear Don's 1990 interview with Schulberg at Wired for Books -- and the actual broadcast listen.


    Coloful writer and lawyer, whose daughter's untimely death led to major improvements in working conditions at New York hospitals. Hear Don's 1991 interview with Zion at Wired for Books -- and the actual broadcast listen.

    Richard M. Nixon discusses books, authors, and his own writing
    in an interview with Don Swaim on February 6, 1984. listen.


    Arguably, the acclaimed Pennsylvania-born novelist should have won the Nobel Prize. Don Swaim interviewed Updike in 1984. Listen to the unedited interview at Wired for Books. For the actual broadcast: listen.


    WILLIAM L. SHIRER, pioneering news broadcaster and author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, talks about the first days of CBS News and Edward R. Murrow, godfather of broadcast journalism in a thirty-minute interview with Don Swaim on July 7, 1984. listen.


    DAVID SCHOENBRUN, one of the original CBS News correspondents in World War Two, talks about the old radio days in an interview with Don Swaim on October 6, 1984. listen.


    Definitive biography of EDWARD R. MURROW and the history of CBS News by Ann Sperber. listen.


    Hard to categorize although with a cult following, the Ohio-born Purdy never enjoyed a wide audience, but he was truly an original. Despite his severe image, Purdy was friendly and courtly. Don Swaim interviewed him three times. The unedited interviews can be heard at Wired for Books. Purdy's obit here. Gore Vidal's profile of Purdy: The Novelist as Outlaw.

    Comeback for a Forgotten Writer?

    by Don Swaim

    Liveright Publishing (bearing the hallowed name that dates to the 20s and 30s and now an imprint of W.W. Norton) has published The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy. Purdy died nearly forgotten in 2009 at the age of 94. Yet in the 1950s and 60s he was celebrated for his often bizarre, sexually violent stories. His novel Malcolm was adapted by Edward Albee for the Broadway stage.

    You see my books are really all underground in that they are about things people don't want to hear expressed. And though the critics would like to carry them off to the shit-yard, they can't seem to get rid of them because they haunt people. --Purdy

    I got to know James Purdy in New York. He was more than an acquaintance but something less than a close friend. I first met him in 1984 when his novel On Glory's Course was published, and went to a party for him at the home of Vassilis Voglis at 30 East 20th Street. I believe the incredibly chain-smoking writer Fran Liebowitz was the co-host. James didn't smoke, and barely drank.

    I would meet Purdy in Brooklyn Heights for lunch, and once visited him in his home, literally a garret, an attic room in a five-story walkup at 236 Henry Street, where he did all of his writing. On a manual typewriter, he would sometimes type out his poems for me and autograph them. Within the fringes of the gay world, he never married, but after he suffered herpes of the eye that temporarily blocked his vision, he was helped by a woman friend named Elaine to Manhattan where we had drinks. When I asked Elaine what she did, she replied, "I take care of James."

    He was said to be extremely difficult. One of his former editors told me that Purdy would phone in the middle of the night, enraged about something or another. I never had to work with him, of course, but I always found James courtly and polite, and flattered by my interest, understandably as I was one of the few major media entities to promote him. I took him at his word that he was born in 1923. He was actually born in 1914.

    I interviewed James Purdy three times for CBS. Here are the actual broadcasts:
  • On Glory's Course: listen
  • The Candles of Your Eyes: listen
  • Garments the Living Wear: listen (trashes his publishers)

    Ohio University posted Don's complete and unedited interviews with Purdy at Wired for Books:
  • 1984: listen
  • 1987: listen
  • 1988: listen

    A beautifully done tribute site by the director, actor, and editor John Uecker is called James Purdy Memento Mori, which uses his own words and photographs: here

    There's also a James Purdy Society website, to which I contributed, but it hasn't been updated since 2004: here

    Early Enthusiast of Personal Computers

    Crichton (1942-2008) was the Harvard Medical School-trained writer who blended science and technology into thrillers and sci-fi, such as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. In 1983 -- before Macs, Windows, email, and the Internet -- he published a ground-breaking non-fiction book aimed at educating Americans about personal computing, Electronic Life: How To Think About Computers, and how, as he put it, "everybody's going to have to learn." He was prescient. In a two-part series, Don Swaim spoke to Crichton about computing: listen. For Don's four unedited Wired for Books interviews with Crichton go here. Unfortunately, in his last year, Crichton's fiction was used by the presidency of George W. Bush in a crude effort to prove that global warming is a hoax.


    Archive #1 2008-2009
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