Roy Morris Jr. on The Making of Mark Twain & Diane Wilson On Pollution in The Gulf

Roy Morris, Jr.

Roy Morris, Jr. talks about LIGHTING OUT FOR THE TERRITORY: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain. And Diane Wilson talks about AN UNREASONABLE WOMAN: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas. A shrimp boat captain turned environmental warrior, she went up against one of the biggest polluters in America to save the waters of the Gulf.

The Mark Twain of the flowing white hair and big mustache we all know was made, not born. His real name was Samuel Clemens and, as a youth, he tried his hand at a number of trades, from printer to river boat captain and even gold miner. He was clever but  didn’t much like hard work. And when war broke out between the states, he found he didn’t much like the idea of fighting. He grew up in the slave state of Missouri and when the conflict began heating up, he went gallivanting off to the Wild West, out to the Nevada territories, joining the stream of Americans going west to make their fortunes. There he learned to bend his story-telling talent to the professional life of a writer.

Clemens got a job as a reporter for a newspaper — although it was more entertainment than journalism. “Never let the facts”, he was wont to say, “get in the way of the story.” He created himself as a character, the character Mark Twain.

Roy Morris, Jr.’s book about Sam Clemens and how he became Mark Twain is LIGHTING OUT FOR THE TERRITORY:  How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain. He’s the editor of Military Heritage magazine and the author of four books on the Civil War and post-Civil War eras, including Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876 and The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War.

Read The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Diane Wilson on her shrimp boat

Diane Wilson

As we find ourselves riveted by scenes of BP’s epic oil spill catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico — the spreading plume, the dying birds, the grieving fishermen — it may come as a surprise that toxic pollution is not new to the area.  Long before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, chemical plants have been spewing poisons into the Gulf, threatening shrimp fisheries, wildlife, and residents.

Diane Wilson started shrimping on Texas Gulf Coast with her family at the age of 8 and became a shrimp boat captain when she was 24. She’s been an environmental activist since 1989, when she took on Formosa Plastics, one of the biggest polluters in the US. Her 2005 book, AN UNREASONABLE WOMAN: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (Chelsea Green Press), describes her struggle to preserve a way of life that is now even more endangered and may never recover.

Writers Voice spoke to her in October of 2005, not long after Hurricane Katrina hit the coast — that was the last time the shrimp fishing industry was devastated. I was joined by Daisy Mathias, who was WV co-host at that time.

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