Buchan Comes to The Country Bookshop
BY KIMBERLY DANIELS
Special to The Pilot
The first time Jon Buchan was in Southern Pines, he had lunch with his cousin, Lena Stewart Brillhart, Sam Ragan and Tom Wolfe.
On Thursday, June 21, he will return at 5 p.m. to discuss his book, "Code of the Forest," at The Country Bookshop.
Touted by Ron Rash as "a novel that, once begun, is nearly impossibly to put down," Buchan's story is centered around a small independently owned newspaper named The Pilot.
The Pilot in his book is The Georgetown (South Carolina) Pilot, but the very newspaper you are now reading had a connection with the author.
"The Pilot has been my favorite newspaper since around 1990, when I came to know Sam Ragan," says Buchan. "I subscribed for years. The Pilot is just a great name for a newspaper because a newspaper should be your guide. It helps you to navigate through hard times and rough waters."
In the novel, it is 1995 and The Georgetown Pilot has broken a story about the magnetic and manipulative South Carolina Sen. Buck Ravenel.
Editor Wade McNabb has revealed that the senator was bribed to ignore environmental regulations and move forward on a bill to build a chemical plant on the coast of South Carolina.
Livid, Ravenal accuses the paper and its likable editor of libel. McNabb is haunted by what is at stake. Just a generation before, his father had lost the paper following a moral stance on racial issues.
This time, attractive lawyer Kate Stewart and the First Amendment of the United States of America are the only defenses for McNabb against the forces of power.
Conscious of newspapers' responsibility to hold the public and politicians accountable, Buchan delivers a novel with insight only experience can reveal.
A native of Mullins, S.C., Jon attended Woodberry Forest School. He began his career as a summer reporter for The Raleigh Times, and following graduation from Princeton University, he and friends started a small alternative newspaper called Osceola.
"We tried to write about political power in South Carolina - who had it and how they used it," he says.
He then attended Duke University law school and moved to Charlotte in 1978, where he still practices media law.
An accomplished veteran of his book's subject matter, Buchan was awarded the William C. Lassiter First Amendment Award in 2000, the N.C. Press Association's award for one who has put forth "tireless efforts to defend the First Amendment and to protect the public's right to know."
"I was privileged to help fight some of the great battles in the 1980s and '90s over access to courtrooms and court documents," Buchan says.
It is from these experiences that some instances in the book derive.
"This book is about doing the right thing," Buchan says, "but is also about the battle of the South. The culture is everywhere - this culture where loyalty or friendship bleeds over, sometimes, into cronyism, where we give personal favors to friends. It can sometimes bleed over to those in positions of power, where a person can try to help a friend in a really big way. (The book) is about the bad old culture and the bad old South."
Buchan has family buried in Old Bethesda Cemetery, and his roots are in Moore County.
For further information, call (910) 692-3211.
Kimberly Daniels is the manager of The Country Bookshop.
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