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Book notes: Not making this up 

Fort Smith editor entertains with short, first-person stories, from Bonnie and Clyde to Earl Long to Bill Clinton.

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Jack Moseley, the longtime newspaper editor and community fixture at Fort Smith, has published a plucky and entertaining little auto-biographical memoir titled “Up From Haggerty Hill: A Journalist’s Journey.” It’s from Xlibris Corp, the Internet publisher, in both hard cover and paperback, the hardcover selling on the net as of last week for $24.79.

Moseley’s newspaper work goes back to the John F. Kennedy assassination, which he covered for a Fort Worth paper, his first-person sto-ries going out worldwide on the wire services, and over the years he has known and palavered with some colorful characters, from Bonnie and Clyde to one-armed safe crackers, many of them remembered here in short light takes. My favorites who wander through the pages are Earl Long, for whom Moseley flunkied and served as a kind of spokesman for a very short time, and Bill Clinton when Clinton was a first-term governor stressed to the max and fixing to get his ass beat over Cubans and car tags.

The Earl Long story has the brilliant and wacked-out Louisiana governor monologuing about minority virtues with an uncomprehending Chinese restaurant owner in Fort Worth. Such things as he told the poor man are these days unprintable in the newspaper, but it started typi-cally with Earl saying, “I like you chinks.”

The Clinton story has the young Arkansas governor blistering Moseley in a late-night phone call about an editorial in the Fort Smith paper about Clinton’s management of the Cuban refugee situation at Fort Chaffee.

Moseley writes: “In the middle of a blue streak of profanity, Clinton stopped abruptly. ‘Oh, Good Lord,’ he said. Noting the change in his tone I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ ‘It’s the baby [Chelsea]; she just rolled off the bed,’ he replied.

“I heard the now-concerned father telling his infant daughter that everything would be OK. The crying stopped. ‘Now where was I?’ the governor said, turning his attention back to me.

“‘How’s the baby?’

“‘She’s all right; she fell on a thick carpet. Hillary’s out, and I’m babysitting. Now where was I?’

“I explained that he had just called me several less than flattering names. Without missing a beat, he resumed his tirade …”

Stuff like that gives credibility to a book like this. You know it’s not made up.


<span class="square"></span> Most of the postcard illustrated histories in Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” picture-book series are place specific. The 3,000 titles have included histories of Little Rock, Hot Springs, Eureka Springs, Pulaski County, Conway, even Jacksonville. There’s a new one in the series that’s what Monty Python called something completely different. It’s called “Remembering Arkansas Confederates and the 1911 Little Rock Veterans Reunion.”

A hundred thousand people were in Little Rock for that convention 50 years after the war – the biggest crowd ever to assemble in Arkan-sas up to the 1992 presidential election – and it was surely the most photographed event of the state’s first century. The photos still tell a poignant story of forgiving old men coming together as friends who as youngsters had done their damnedest to exterminate one another.

The book is by Ray Hanley and Steven G. Hanley of Little Rock, brothers who authored and supplied the pictures for several of the other Arkansas entries in the “Images of America” series. They have perhaps the best historical picture collection in Arkansas outside the state History Commission’s.

One quibble over the title is that the book is conscientious about remembering not only the Confederates but also the Union men who fought in Arkansas and got together here 50 years later to reminisce about it.

Arcadia Publishing is a South Carolina firm. “Remembering Arkansas Confederates and the 1911 Little Rock Veterans Reunion” is a pa-perback of picture-book quality, and sells for $19.99.

<span class="square"></span> Miller Williams, the great Arkansas poet, has a new poetry book out from Louisiana State University Press at Baton Rouge. It’s not a book of poems; it’s a book about poems, about how to make them, if you’re bound and determined to. It’s titled “Making a Poem: Some Thoughts About Poetry and the People Who Write It,” and like most poetry books it’s a slender thing with a paper cover and it costs $18.95.

There’s a how-to component in the book. There are some straightforward chapters of poetry appreciation. Williams makes the case one more time that Poetry Still Matters, and he does so with such admirable vigor that you don’t go woolgathering, wondering whether Mak-ing the Case That Poetry Still Matters still matters.

There are a few good books about writing poetry that really aren’t about writing poetry. What they really are about is something else again, like the elephant in Groucho’s pajamas. You can add this one to the short list.

<span class="square"></span> There’s little hope of breaking the Republican stranglehold on American politics and government in the coming election, or in the coming decades. That’s the gloomy assessment of “One-Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century,” by Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, from John Wiley & Sons, hardcover, $25.95.

If it’s uplift you need, and think the country needs, don’t look for it in these pages. The authors are political writers for the Los Angeles Times, and Arkansas readers may recall that Hamburger was a longtime writer on national politics for the late Arkansas Gazette.

<span class=square"></span? Charles Hughes, a retired English professor at Henderson State University at Arkadelphia, has published “Accordion War: Korea 1951 – Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company,” a memoir that leads Hughes into a meditation on later American wars and on war generally. The book is a quality paperback, $27, from Trafford Publishing.


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