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Baldwin, William 1944–

Baldwin, William 1944–

(William P. Baldwin, III)

PERSONAL: Born 1944, in SC; married; wife's name Lil; children: two sons. Education: Clemson University, Clemson, SC, B.A., 1966, M.A., 1968.

ADDRESSES: Home—McClellanville, SC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of South Carolina Press, 1600 Hampton St., 5th Floor, Columbia, SC 29208.

CAREER: Writer; formerly a commercial fisherman and a building contractor.

AWARDS, HONORS: Lillian Smith Award for fiction, for The Hard to Catch Mercy.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

(Author of text) Plantations of the Low Country: South Carolina, 1697–1865, photographs by N. Jane Iseley, research by Agnes L. Baldwin, Legacy Publications (Greensboro, NC), 1983, revised edition, 1987.

(As William P. Baldwin III) Lowcountry Daytrips: Plantations, Gardens, and a Natural History of the Charleston Region, Legacy Publications (Greensboro, NC), 1991.

The Visible Village: A McClellanville Scrapbook, 1860–1945, revised edition, McClellanville Arts Council (McClellanville, SC), 1993.

(With others) Picturing the South: 1860 to the Present, edited by Ellen Dugan, Chronicle Books, (San Francisco, CA), 1996.

(With N. Jane Iseley) Charleston, photographs by N. Jane Iseley, Legacy Publications (Greensboro, NC), 1997.

(With Genevieve C. Peterkin) Heaven Is a Beautiful Place: A Memoir of the South Carolina Coast, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2000.

Lowcountry Plantations Today, photographs by N. Jane Iseley, Legacy Publications (Greensboro, NC), 2002.

Inland Passages: Making a Lowcountry Life, History Press (Charleston, SC), 2004.

(With Neal Petersen and Patty Fulcher) Journey of a Hope Merchant: From Apartheid to the Elite World of Solo Yacht Racing, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2004.

(With V. Elizabeth Turk, Gary Bronson, and Aaron Baldwin) Mantelpieces of the Old South: Lost Architecture and Southern Culture, photographs by the Historical American Building Survey Photographers and Bernadette Humphrey, History Press (Charleston, SC), 2005.

Contributor of essays to Charleston magazine.

NOVELS

The Hard to Catch Mercy, Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill, NC), 1993.

The Fennel Family Papers, Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill, NC), 1996.

A Gentleman in Charleston and the Manner of His Death, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2005.

WITH EMILY WHALEY

Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden, Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill, NC), 1997.

Mrs. Whaley Entertains: Advice, Opinions, and 100 Recipes from a Charleston Kitchen, Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill, NC), 1998.

SIDELIGHTS: William Baldwin's first novel, The Hard to Catch Mercy, reflects many of the conventions rooted in the culture of the Deep South. Set in 1916 in coastal South Carolina, the story is told from the perspective of its fourteen-year-old narrator, Willie T. Allson. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "The rambling narrative plays fast and loose with nearly every Southern stereotype, including wounded Civil War heroes, loyal black servants, a dowry lost when it was hidden from the Yankees and the charred remains of a family mansion." The title refers to another character in the book, a local ne'er-do-well—one of the Mercy clan known as the Hard to Catch Mercy because of his expertise at retrieving lost animals. The adventures and misadventures that result when Willie's cousin arrives in town and courts Hard to Catch's sister Amy comprise the bulk of the plot's action. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that "family intrigue, post-Civil War history, race, religion, and superstition are all part of the mix in Baldwin's meandering first novel."

Baldwin's second novel, The Fennel Family Papers, provides a "raucous, funny, and decidedly off-beat" examination of Southern family life, noted a Library Journal reviewer. History professor Paul Danvers, desperately anxious to achieve tenure, starts an affair with his student Ginny Fennel when he learns of the historic significance of the Fennel family lighthouse (which they have managed since the American Revolution) and its corresponding private family archives. Believing that his ticket to tenure will be the publication of the family's historic secrets, he quickly, upon meeting Ginny's family, finds himself enmeshed in far more than mere research. Her unusual family members both enliven and threaten the professor's visit while offering readers "an odd splice, 'The Aspern Papers' meets The Sound and the Fury," according to David Galef in the New York Times Book Review. Sybil Steinberg described the book in Publishers Weekly as a "wickedly funny academic satire, grafted onto a manic plot featuring murder, madness, incest, a ghost and spirit possession." Joanne Wilkinson noted in Booklist that Baldwin "fuels his rollicking satire with large doses of anarchic humor and totally unpredictable storytelling…. A comic gem."

A Gentleman in Charleston and the Manner of His Death is a fictionalized account of the 1889 murder of Charleston, South Carolina newspaper editor Frank Dawson. Baldwin renames the man David Lawton and, via a mysterious narrator who claims to be writing in 1907, lays out the domestic intrigues that led to his death. A Kirkus Reviews critic described the book as a "pleasantly embellished and prettily fringed historical tale," but also noted that it "moves forward without building much dramatic tension." However, "Dawson's murder has everything to do with honor and the Old South, which Baldwin captures admirably," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 1, 1995, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Fennel Family Papers, p. 609; October 15, 2005, Sarah Johnson, review of A Gentleman in Charleston and the Manner of His Death, p. 29.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1993, review of The Hard to Catch Mercy, p. 472; September 15, 2005, review of A Gentleman in Charleston and the Manner of His Death, p. 989.

Library Journal, November 1, 1993, review of The Hard to Catch Mercy, p. 176; November 1, 1995, review of The Fennel Family Papers, p. 104; June 1, 2000, Jo-anne Mary Benson, review of Heaven Is a Beautiful Place: A Memoir of the South Carolina Coast, p. 176.

New York Times Book Review, February 4, 1996, David Galef, review of The Fennel Family Papers, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1993, review of The Hard to Catch Mercy, p. 56; October 30, 1995, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Fennel Family Papers, p. 44; September 19, 2005, review of A Gentleman in Charleston and the Manner of His Death, p. 44.

Washington Post Book World, June 27, 1993, David Streitfeld, review of The Hard to Catch Mercy, p. 15.

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