Sunday, May 26, 2024

Travel writer Richard Grant to headline Authors in April at LSUS

by BIZ Magazine

Esteemed travel writer Richard Grant is the featured author for Authors in April, which is the 30th edition in the event’s history.

Grant, a London native, has lived in various American locales and has written books or contributed to documentaries about his travels to Mexican mountain ranges and extensive trips throughout Africa among other places.

The April 27 event features a luncheon at Sam’s Town Casino Hotel & Casino in Shreveport. Tickets are $50 and serve as a fundraiser for the Pioneer Heritage Center at LSUS. LSUS student tickets are $30. Contact Marty Young at [email protected] or at 318-797-5339 to purchase tickets or for more information.

The Pioneer Heritage Center maintains seven historic structures on the LSUS campus and offers tours. One primary audience is school children who visit on field trips.

While Grant may be best-known for his adventures around the world, his time living in the Mississippi Delta has inspired his latest works.

His most recent book, which will also be the primary topic of the luncheon, is The Deepest South of All: True Stories From Natchez, Mississippi.

Newsweek writes that Grant “sensitively probes the complex and troubled history of the oldest city on the Mississippi River through the eyes of a cast of eccentric and unexpected characters.”

He’s also written the best-seller Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta. Grant moved to Mississippi and writes about the layered complexity of race relations.

“He has a little bit of a different look at race relations in the Mississippi Delta,” said Marty Young, director of the Pioneer Heritage Center. “Being from England and having lived in New York and now Arizona, he approaches it with a bit of a different eye.”

Grant’s first book, American Nomads, Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers and Bullriders, underpinned his wandering spirit and won the 2004 Thomas Cook Travel Literature Award.

He headed for the notorious Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in northwestern Mexico and penned God’s Middle Finger, Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre. That area contains cave-dwelling tribes, four canyons deeper than The Grand Canyon, and is one of the world’s biggest production areas of marijuana and heroin.

Grant’s third book Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa, chronicles his efforts to make the first descent of the Malagarasi River in Tanzania and includes subsequent projects in Burundi and Rwanda.

As a journalist, Grant writes for Smithsonian Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Telegraph UK among other publications.

With Authors in April celebrating its 30th author, including its second consecutive event after missing three years during of the COVID-19 pandemic, Young said Grant fits in nicely with profile of writers that’s appeared.

“It’s become a pretty anticipated community event, and the draw has been the quality of the author,” Young said. “We’ve had a good number of Pulitzer Prize winners and authors whose works have been turned into movies or television series.”

Author Geraldine Brooks learned of her 2006 Pulitzer Prize in fiction at dinner the night before her Authors in April appearance, announcing her win at the event the next day.

Authors whose works have been transformed into movies or television include Robert Edsel’s Monuments Men and Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. The latter is airing now on Paramount+ with Showtime.

Upgraded venues in Shreveport has also changed the feel of the event since its debut in 1992.

Originally at local country clubs, the entrance of casinos and the Shreveport Convention Center has offered attendees better atmospheres.

“At the beginning, space was pretty limited and inevitably you’d have guests stuck behind support columns or other obstacles that would obstruct one’s view,” Young said. “But the expansion of venues, especially ones that offer hotel space, valet parking and catering, it’s improved the experience and offers for easier scheduling and billing.”

In addition to the Center’s two main annual events – Authors in April and Pioneer Day (October), Young said the Center is partnering often with the state park system and showcasing the Center’s artifacts in other locales.

“We’ve done a lot of cross promotion and cross programming since we’ve gotten out of (COVID-19 pandemic),” Young said. “Fort St. John Baptiste and Cane River Heritage Center in Natchitoches have been two of our biggest partners.

“I’ll visit to talk about colonial life or do a blacksmithing demonstration.”

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