Book Beat: Hal Crowther explores H.L. Mencken’s fame

“An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken” by Hal Crowther.
“An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken” by Hal Crowther.

H.L. Mencken seduced the American public 75 years ago with his command of the English language and infuriated it with his columns. Journalist and essayist Hal Crowther shares the oddities of Mencken’s fame in his novel, “An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H.L. Mencken” (University of Iowa Press).

“There’s nothing I like so much about H.L. Mencken,” Crowther told The Charlotte Observer’s Dannye Romine Powell. “He was widely regarded as the most hated man in America in the ’20s and ’30s and that was long before they published his letters and journals, which reviled nearly everyone and betrayed most of his friends.” And yet as much as he was hated, Mencken was respected for his English prose and unprecedented readership.

Crowther, known himself for his provocative writing, is a past winner of the Baltimore Sun’s H.L. Mencken Writing Award. He lives in Hillsborough with his wife, novelist Lee Smith.

New titles

• “Wilhelmina: An Imagined Memoir” (Scuffletown Press), by

RJ McCarthy

of Henderson, is the story of Wilhelmina Johnson Hamlin, an African-American woman who died in 1930 at age 26. Told in her voice, “Wilhelmina” portrays an ordinary woman who created a legacy of love in her brief life.


Lynn Chandler Willis

shares gritty details of life in west Texas in the mystery “Wink of an Eye” (Minotaur Books). Willis, whose book won the Best First Private Eye Novel Competition, lives in Randleman.

• “The Six Notable Women of North Carolina” (CreateSpace), by

Jack J. Prather

, features Raleigh resident Millie Ravenel, executive director emeritus of the N.C. Center for International Understanding. It is Prather’s second book about remarkable residents of North Carolina.

First timers

• “Exile: The Tales of Terrowin” (aea Media) is the first book in “The Tales of Terrowin” trilogy and

Jerry Canada

’s debut novel. Billed for young adults, the story of the ancient society of Terrowin is packed with suspense, drama and action. Canada, a former attorney, is the head track coach at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh.

• “I, Horatio” (AuthorHouse), a first novel by

Donald Tortorice

, is the story of Admiral Horatio Nelson in his own words. The plot is taken from history, recounting Nelson’s assignments, missions and engagements with the enemy; major elements of the book, however, are fiction. Tortorice, a retired attorney, lives in Pinehurst.


Kim Church of Raleigh’s novel, “Byrd” (Dzanc Books), won the Crook’s Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South. Intended to encourage emerging writers, the prize is inspired by the literary tradition of the South and the literary cafes of Paris. Church was awarded $1,000 and a free glass of wine every day for a year at Crook’s Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill. Submissions are being accepted for next year’s contest. Info:



Karen Cox

, author of “Dreaming of Dixie” (UNC Press) and professor of history at UNC-Charlotte, will be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh at 7 p.m. Friday.

• North Carolina historian

Jim Leutze

will discuss his book “Entering North Carolina: Set Clocks Back 100 Years” (Nautilus) at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill at 7 p.m. Feb. 5.

Triangle-area authors: We want to hear about your new book. Send information to As space permits, we will mention self-published books by local authors that are for sale on commercial sites.