Sunday, May 21, 2017

America lost another hero this week in James Gabour

James and Ruth Gabour, center, with author
Christee Gabour Atwood at right
Being an author sounds glamorous but there are days when you wonder why you started in the first place. The Alexandria Mall was one of them.

Bookstores plop you down in front of the store when signing books and most of the time you’re either scaring customers or helping them find Cinnabon. On this particular Saturday, when it was clear the town was at some other function and the few who wandered out to the mall were of the “Where is the bathroom?” kind, I was feeling pretty low. I hadn’t sold one book and I was 15 minutes away from ending my two-hour twiddling of thumbs.

James and Ruth Gabour of Pineville, parents of my good friend and author Christee Gabour Atwood, took the time to come out to my signing, buy two books and keep me company until the shift ended.

Here’s the cool part. James and Ruth owned and operated the Pineville News and Patriot-Tribune newspapers from 1958 through 1969, then continued with Gabour Printing Company, the longest continually run business in the City of Pineville. Since we were all writers and editors, we talked shop and I loved every minute.

I was honored to have been at James Gabour’s 100th birthday party, which occurred just before Ruth’s death in 2014. Jimmie Gabour died last week at age 103. He was a long-time volunteer at the Pineville Senior Citizens Center, Grand Marshall of the Pineville Christmas Parade in 2012, honored to be a recipient of a Quilt of Valor in 2016 for his military service and a member of St. Frances Cabrini Church since 1956. He has been featured in numerous interviews, including an Oral History Project by the VA Medical Center in Pineville and a video by the World War II Museum in New Orleans.

What a treat to have known them both.

Their daughter, Christee, is an author of wonderful humor books, including “Journal of a Midlife Crisis” and “In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands: Episodes of Imperfection, Insanity and Occasional Enlightenment.” She talks about her parents in both and relates the joys and challenges of taking care of elderly parents but with heart and soul. You’ll laugh and cry at the beauty of it all. I highly recommend both books.

So long James and Ruth. We’ll miss your contribution to the newspaper world.

In more news
I was sad to learn that Maple Street Book Shop of uptown New Orleans will close June 17. The bookstore has been a stable of Maple Street for the past 53 years and I spent many days, when living in New Orleans, perusing its bookshelves. Owner Gladin Scott told the Uptown Messenger that technology was a prime reason. Students who used to buy books at the store now get them online. The store was founded by Mary Kellogg and Rhoda Kellogg Norman and one of its longstanding mottos was “fight the stupids.” Good words to live by, especially in these trying days. Keep reading!

In better news — the American Writers Museum, funded by retired executive Malcolm O’Hagan, opened on May 16 in Chicago, offering multimedia exhibits, displays and other interactive displays.

In case you didn’t know, there’s an American Women Writers National Museum in Washington, D.C. Glad we came first in something.

In other news, the memoir “Growing Up in Lake Charles” by Katherine Krause Blake, Katherine Maloy Newell and Jeanette Plauche Parker has been selected for the 2017 Best of Lake Charles Award in the Stores and Shopping category.

New releases
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, and Memorial Day approaches. N. Jack “Dusty” Kleiss offers a firsthand account of the Pacific War with “Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway” with naval historians Timothy and Laura Orr. Kleiss fatally struck two Japanese carriers and one cruiser, the only pilot from either side to land hits on three ships during the Battle of Midway. Kleiss worked on this book for years with the Orrs but passed away at age 100, the last surviving dive-bomber pilot to have fought at Midway.  In a starred review, Library Journal calls the book “A standout autobiography for anyone interested in bravery, courage, and first-person accounts of military heroics during World War II.”


James Nolan turns from novel writing to memoir in his latest book, “Flight Risk.” Nolan, a fifth-generation New Orleans native and award-winning author, holds nothing back as he relates escaping from the mental hospital his parents committed him to in 1968 and his later “flights” from experiences overseas and then Katrina. Andrei Codrescu said of the memoir, “Flight Risk graces New Orleans with one of its most enduring literary portraits. There’s suspense and beauty on every page.”


Alys Arden of New Orleans, author of “The Casquette Girls” saga, continues the young adult tale with “The Romeo Catchers.” Tormented by the fate she condemned her mother to, and by the lies she’s forced to tell to cover it up, main character Adele scours storm-ravaged New Orleans for the truth about her family’s magical past. But every turn leads her back to the one person she’s determined to forget. Arden will read from and sign copies of her books at 6 p.m. Thursday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.

Yvette Johnson traveled to Mississippi to uncover the true story of her grandfather and why he was murdered — a case that became the basis for the documentary “Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story,” which the Los Angeles Times called “a powerful personal portrait.” Johnson has since published a memoir titled “The Song and The Silence: A Story about Family, Race, and What Was Revealed in a Small Town in the Mississippi Delta While Searching for Booker Wright.” Publisher Weekly said that Johnson in her latest book, “brilliantly constructs a complex and empathetic look at racism in the South.”

Lynn Frierson Faust, known as “The Lightning Bug Lady,” has spent decades researching these bugs and has published what her publicist claims is the first comprehensive firefly guide for eastern and central North America, “Fireflies, Glow-Worms, and Lightning Bugs.” Sounds like a great resource for the upcoming hot nights.

Book events
The Faulkner’s Society’s Readathon will be from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Faulkner House, 624 Pirate’s Alley in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Featured authors of new novels include James Nolan (“Flight Risk: Memoirs of a New Orleans Bad Boy”), Brenda McClain (“One Good Mama Bone”), Johnnie Bernhard (“A Good Girl”) and Sanem Ozdural (“The Dark Shall Do What the Light Cannot”). RSVP at faulkhouse@aol.com. Nolan also reads from and signs copies of his memoir “Flight Risk: Memoirs of a New Orleans Bad Boy” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie.

An adult creative writing group has been formed by Emily Shotwell, author of “Blackbird Summer,” and it will meet from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Zachary Branch Library, 1900 Church St. in Zachary. Pre-registration is required; call (225) 658-1840.

Dorothea Benton Frank signs her latest book “Same Beach, Next Year” at noon Wednesday at Square Books in Oxford, Miss., and at 6 p.m. Friday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans. New York Times bestseller Frank was born and raised on Sullivan’s Island, S.C. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

A free fiction writing workshop will be Thursday and Friday at the Alexandria Museum of Art in Alexandria. Sessions on both days are from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Novelists Ashley Weaver will lead the first workshop on Thursday. Billy Fontenot, editor of Louisiana Review, will lead the second workshop on Friday. Interested parties should contact either Bernard Gallagher at bernardg@lsua.edu or Eric Alai at Ealai@lsua.edu.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.