Word Patriots – A Chat with Robert C.S. Downs
This week’s guest Robert C.S. Downs has published six novels, one collection of short stories, and written one television film. His novel “Going Gently,” published by Bobbs-Merrill in this country and Faber and Faber in Great Britain, was produced for television by the BBC. It starred Norman Wisdom and Judi Dench. The production won five British Academy Awards and was voted best television film of its year. His novel “Peoples,” also Bobbs-Merrill, was produced as a World Premier Movie by NBC-Television, “Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid,” that starred LeVar Burton, a drama about a ghetto youth’s efforts to escape his dismal existence and his chance at a future as a veterinarian’s assistant. Downs’ novel, “White Mama,” a story about a poor elderly white woman and a tough, streetwise black kid whom she eventually adopts, published by Ballantine, was a production of CBS television that was directed by Jackie Cooper and starred Bette Davis, for which she received an Emmy nomination. His screenplay of “White Mama” was a finalist for the NAACP Image award. His other novels are “Country Dying,” Bobbs-Merrill, “Living Together,” St. Martin’s Press,” and “The Fifth Season,” published by Counterpoint. His collection of short fiction, “The Cape May Stories,” was published in paperback by Orchard House Press in 2008 and in hardback in 2010. He has taught in and been director of the MFA programs at the University of Arizona and Penn State. A former Guggenheim fellow, he lives in State College, Pennsylvania. Bob taught my first fiction workshop, and I consider him a mentor. Join us as we examine Bob’s fiction and how two topics occur over and over again in his books: dying and surviving—surviving against all the odds through courage and quiet resistance. We also discuss the film adaptations of his novels, how deeply committed a writer must be to his vocation, and the long struggle an author usually faces to reach publication. On a personal note, just before taping this conversation with Bob, I learned of the death of another mentor—my uncle John H. Sinfelt, who invented a superior platinum-iridium catalyst that was important in the quest to produce lead-free, high-octane gasoline. He was the author of the book “Bimetallic Catalysts: Discoveries, Concepts and Applications” and the holder of forty-two U.S. patents. I dedicate this episode of Word Patriots to him. If you would like to know more about Mark Seinfelt’s books be sure to visit his website: www.markseinfelt.com. To learn more about Robert C. S. Downs go to his Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_tc_2_0?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3ARobert+C.+S.+Downs&keywords=Robert+C.+S.+Downs&ie=UTF8&qid=1307975164&sr=1-2-ent&field-contributor_id=B001K81JQ0a and visit the Amazon page for “The Fifth Season”: http://www.amazon.com/Fifth-Season-Robert-C-Downs/dp/B000H2MRR0/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307975170&sr=1-5 .