Book Beat: The Podcast

Previous postings on Don Swaim's Book Beat: The Podcast Site
ARCHIVES #2 — 2011-2012

Wired for Books

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Mississippi-born, Ellen Douglas' highly-regarded novel Can't Quit You, Baby examines the relationship between an aging white woman and her black maid. Don Swaim interviewed her on the occasion of that book: LISTEN.

Best known for her 1952 novel Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, Han Suyin was born in China to an Asian father and a Belgian mother. She lived in Switzerland and wrote in English and French. Don Swaim interviewed her on the occasion of her book The Enchantress: LISTEN. For the unedited interview on Wired for Books listen here.

A little-known reviewer in The New York Times Sunday Book Review of August 17, 2012, launched an ugly, mean-spirited attack on author Alix Ohlin, whose new novel and a short story collection were just published. Read Don Swaim's case for literary civility HERE


Montreal-born Alix Ohlin is the author of the novel The Missing Person and the story collection Babylon (both Knopf). She earned a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. Ohlin teaches creative writing at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania. To hear Don Swaim's 2009 interview with Ohlin click LISTEN


A Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan, running mate of Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, once claimed to be an ardent devotee of Ayn Rand. Now, Ryan says it was just a youthful fling -- because Rand's atheism and her pro-choice positions are anathema to the right-wing elements Ryan/Romney need as their base. The Ayn Rand story below:

October 2009 marked the publication of two definitive biographies of Ayn Rand [New York Times Reviews], author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and whose "Ojectivist" philosophy led to a cult-like following. Don Swaim interviewed the three most influential people in her career.

  • Nathaniel Brandon, Rand's leading advocate, intellectual heir, and lover: listen
  • Barbara Brandon, early Rand disciple and husband of Nathaniel. His sexual relationship with Rand led to a self-destructive denouement: listen
  • Leonard Piekoff, Rand's literary executor, on the philosophy of Ayn Rand: listen
  • Leonard Piekoff, Rand's literary executor, on the early writings of Ayn Rand: listen

  • GORE VIDAL (1925-2012)

    Don Swaim interviewed Gore Vidal twice, the first sometime in the 1970s for a CBS-FM broadcast called "Crosstalk." The interview went so badly -- Vidal being intimidating and insulting -- that it was broadcast only once and then destroyed. The second interview in 1992 went much better. For the actual broadcasts: LISTEN. For the raw, unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here

    Ray Bradbury was more than a science-fiction writer. He was also a literary treasure. Don Swaim interviewed Ray twice: >
  • Green Shadows White Whale. 7/20/92. Listen
  • 40th Anniversary of Fahrenheit 451. 9/18/93. Listen
  • UCLA 90th Birthday Tribute in 2010 HERE
  • Don's unedited 1992 Wired for Books interview HERE
  • Don's unedited 1993 Wired for Books interview HERE

    Ray was wonderfully generous with his time and signature. Above is a pen and ink sketch he sent to Don Swaim

  • The great Mexican author -- and diplomat -- Carlos Fuentes, who died in Mexico City on May 15, 2012, at the age of eighty-three, published some twenty books. But for Ambrose Bierce fans he'll always be known for Old Gringo, in which the fictional Bierce is caught up in a love triangle in revolutionary Mexico. In the film version, Bierce was portrayed by Gregory Peck, Jimmy Smits as one of Pancho Villa's generals, and Jane Fonda as the love interest. Ambrose Bierce Site founder Don Swaim interviewed Fuentes in 1992: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen HERE

    Fuentes was an extraordinary man who spoke flawless English. He told me that long after being barred from the U.S. as a "subversive," he was finally permitted to enter, but restricted to Manhattan. Norman Mailer invited him to dinner at Mailer's home in Brooklyn Heights, so Fuentes hid in the trunk of Mailer's car in order to cross the East River hidden for the evening.

    Who were (are) the subversives? Not Fuentes. But those who aid and abet ruthless dictators, bomb and occupy helpless nations, commit kidnapping and torture, willfully despoil the environment, deny assistance to the impoverished, intimidate the powerless, deprive the innocent of due process, prohibit a woman's right to her own body, destroy the economy with nineteenth-century notions of economics, threaten the unarmed with guns, and appoint courts that ignore judicial precedent to elevate delusional halfwits to a presidency. Not only subversive but un-American. Carlos Fuentes a subversive? (DS)

    To visit the Original Ambrose Bierce Site click HERE


    The Alden Library published a profile of Don Swaim and "Book Beat" in its quarterly publication Gatherings. To read the article click HERE


    Charles Osgood (CBS News), Don Swaim -- October 20, 2012

    Drawing of Ambrose Bierce © Matthew & Eve Levine 2012.
    Limited edition prints and licensing opportunities available through D. Levine Ink


    HARRY CREWS (1935-2012)

    Delightfully profane, deliciously Southern, Harry Crews was one of a kind. While not to everyone's taste, Harry -- with his hard drinking, troubled life -- was virtually a cult hero among writers. Don Swaim interviewed him on the occasion of his novel Body. LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here


    Don Swaim's decade-long search for an elusive variant of a famous John Steinbeck title was published as an illustrated essay in the March 2012 edition of The Steinbeck Collectors Gazette. The entire issue of the magazine can be read HERE.

    The Baltimore-born feminist poet won the National Book Award and a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. Don Swaim interviewed her on the occasion of her book Blood, Bread, and Poetry: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here.

    BARNEY ROSSET (1922-2012)

    As head of Grove Press, Barney Rosset was one of the most courageous men in America. He openly defied the censors -- risked fines and imprisonment to beat them all in the courts -- and went on to publish Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Che Guevara, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and William Burroughs. He was undeterred even as his office was firebombed and he received death threats. Don Swaim interviewed Rosset in 1984: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here

    The Russian-born author's greatest champion may have been his son Dimitri, who died in February 2012 at the age of seventy-seven.
  • Don Swaim spoke to Dimitri about the elder Nabokov's heretofore unpublished novel, The Enchanter, thought to be the forrunner of Lolita: LISTEN
  • In 1993, Don interviewed Brian Boyd, author of the definitive two-volume biography of Vladimir Nabokov: LISTEN

    The famed photojournalist, whose subjects ranged from Marilyn Monroe to Malcolm X, was born in Philadelphia. A leading light in the golden age of news photography, Eve Arnold died in London at the age of 99. Don Swaim interviewed her twice:    
  • On the occasion of her book In America, 12/23/83: LISTEN
  • On Marilyn Monroe: An Appreciation, 10/14/87: LISTEN

    The Czech dissident writer survived the Nazi occupation only to defy Soviet tanks and Communist censorship. He found academic freedom in Canada and earned an illustrious career as an author and publisher. Don Swaim interviewed him in 1984: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here

    Hoban was known for his innovative sci-fi novel Riddley Walker and for his children's books, such as the "Frances" series. Although he lived in London, Hoban was born in Lansdale, PA. Don Swaim interviewed him in 1988: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here

    Journalist and novelist Tom Wicker, author of twenty books, was a political cluminist for The New York Times for twenty-five years. Don Swaim interviewed him in 1984: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here


    And So It Goes -- Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields is the first major biography of this popular writer. Even though Vonnegut's family withheld permission to quote directly from Vonnegut's letters, Shields' bio is more than 500 pages.

  • Don Swaim's 1981 interview with Vonnegut: LISTEN

  • As a science-fiction writer, the Hugo and Nebula award-winner Anne McCaffrey was best known for her series of young-adult novels, "Dragonriders of Pern." Don Swaim interviewed her in 1988: LISTEN. For the unedited interview from Wired for Books listen here

    Catch-22's 50th Anniversary

    Joseph Heller graced the world with his satirical anti-war, anti-bureaucratic novel -- and gave the English Language a new word. Fifty years after the book was first published, comes a trade paperback anniversary edition, a first biography, and a memoir by Heller's daughter.
  • Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition by Joseph Heller. Introduction by Christopher Buckley with accompanying essays. Simon & Schuster
  • Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller by Tracy Daugherty. St. Martin's Press
  • Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22 by Erica Heller. Simon & Schuster
    Don Swaim recorded two multi-part broadcasts with Heller plus a special report on Catch-22's 25th anniversary:
  • God Knows10/8/84. listen
  • No Laughing Matter (with Speed Vogle) 3/24/86. listen
  • 25th anniversary report on Catch-22 (1986) listen
  • Swaim's uncut CBS interview with Heller, 1984 (length: 33:43): here
  • Swaim's uncut CBS interview with Heller & Speed Vogle, 1986 (length: 23:43): here

  • __________________

    click to enlarge

    Steinbeck, Holicong, PA


    by Don Swaim

    "...somewhere in Pennsylvania..." was the way John Steinbeck put it as he decamped in the rural Bucks County home of famed playright George S. Kaufman in 1937. How Steinbeck and Kaufman crafted the award-winning theatrical version of Of Mice and Men at Barley Sheaf Farm is detailed here



    Swaim, Kaler

    Dr. Anne Kaler made the presentations under a portrait of Pearl S. Buck at the historic Buck house on April 10, 2011. Three others won prizes in the youth division. Swaim is the editor of the Book Beat site. His winning short story, "Dearest Friend, Annie," focuses on the relationship between Walt Whitman and Anne Gilchrist. Buck, author of The Good Earth, won the Nobel Prize for literature, and her Perkasie, Pennsylvania, home is a National Historic Landmark. She is buried on the grounds. Pearl S. Buck International

    Don Swaim's definitive article, "Ambrose & Henry," is in the spring 2011 edition of the online scholarly publication Menckeniana, all about H.L. Mencken, published by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore. To read the actual issue go to: Menckeniana. Courtesy Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore.

    Don interviewed the North Carolina novelist and poet three times:
  • Good Hearts 7/4/88. listen.
  • The Tongues of Angels 7/10/91. listen.
  • Blue Calhoun 7/6/92. listen.

    The critic and essayist, author of Essays in Disguise, tells Don about a pingpong game he had with J.D. Salinger: listen.


  • Pal of Lawrence of Arabia
  • Intimate of Ernest Hemingway
  • Hero of the Spanish Civil War
  • Lover of Tokyo Rose
  • Defier of the communist witch hunts

    to read his incredible story click HERE

    Independent filmmaker Alexander Roman is working on a documentary about Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, the Ripley novels). His demos include a montage -- showing Matt Damon and Jude Law -- of questions Don put to Highsmith in a Book Beat interview. Go to: YouTube. To hear the actual broadcast(s) with Highsmith: listen. And for the raw, unedited Wired for Books interview: listen

    A serious novel and a fixture at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Bourjaily founded the magazine Discovery. Don interviewed him about his 1987 novel The Great Fake Book: listen.

    Recent books about Norman Mailer

    Norman Mailer was more than a writer. He was also a legend. Three significant memoirs about Mailer have been published so far in 2010.
  • Mornings with Mailer by Dwayne Raymond, Mailer's personal assistant in the author's final years. [Polished, informative account of Mailer's last years.]
  • Loving Mailer by Carole Mallory, sometime actress and model, who details her alleged affair with the author. [Trashy, poorly-written hatchet job.]
  • A Ticket to the Circus by Norris Church Mailer, the author's final and most significant spouse.
  • Don Swaim's 5-part broadcast with Mailer in 1991. listen
  • Swaim's uncut 56-minute interview with Mailer: here About the photo of Mailer above. It was originally published in Publishers Weekly. I was edited out of the picture -- but at least they got the WCBS logo in. --DS

    author that “time and the Internet forgot”?

    Neglected Ohio novelist Jack Matthews still raises his voice
  • Don Swaim's interview with Jack Matthews: listen
  • Don and Jack debate Ohio's Ambrose Bierce: listen
  • Definitive profile of Jack Matthews by Robert Nagle at TeleRead: here
    photo of Jack Matthews by Dinty W. Moore


    The former British jockey, 1920-1010, captivated mystery fans on both sides of the Atlantic with his well-crafted novels, all with a horse-racing motif. Dick Francis, who credited his wife, Mary Margaret, with the actual writing, braved no fewer than seven interviews with Don Swaim:

  • Twice Shy  4/28/82:  listen
  • Banker  4/18/83:  listen
  • The Danger  5/7/84:  listen
  • Proof  5/10/85:  listen
  • Break-in  5/30/86:  listen
  • Bolt  6/12/87:  listen
  • The Edge  4/7/89:  listen

  • A "discovery" of the prominent editor Gordon Lish, Hannah's wildly stylish prose wasn't for everyone. In 1993 Don interviewed him on the occasion of his story collection Bat Out of Hell: listen.


    No, Book Beat, never interviewed Salinger, who died on January 27, 2010, at the age of ninety one. But Don Swaim did interview two important figures in the reclusive author's life and career:

  • Joyce Maynard, Salinger's young live-in lover: listen
  • Ian Hamilton, who was sued by Salinger for using unauthorized quotations in a biography: listen

  • The premier New York City novelist chronicled the patrician world of WASPS. In 1986 Don spoke to Auchincloss about his life, career, and Yuppies: listen.


    Patterson's so successful he has a stable of writers to write his books for him, nine published in 2009 alone. Click here to read a cover-page article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine [January 24, 2010]. Don Swaim interviewed Patterson for Book Beat before he made it big: listen. Wouldn't it be great to be so successful that you can pay scribes to write your books for you?

    The prolific, Edgar Award-winning crime writer penned thirty-seven novels starring his Boston-based detective Spenser. Don Swaim interviewed Parker twice: 6/20/84 listen -- 7/21/86 listen

    Archive #1 2008-2009
    Archive #2 2010-2012
    Archive #3 2013
    Archive #4 2014
    Archive #5 2015-2016

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