Nov 15, 2022 - News

Remembering North Carolina writer Philip Gerard

Portrait of Phillip Gerard posing in front of a desk and bookshelf

Philip Gerard. Photo courtesy of UNC Wilmington

The great North Carolina writer Philip Gerard died last week at 67. If you love this state and endeavor to know more about it, you’ve probably seen his work:

  • His latest book, “North Carolina in the 1940s,” was published by Blair in August.
  • And his exhaustive Our State series about the Civil War in North Carolina is without question the definitive account of the matter in this state.

I worked as Philip’s editor at Our State from 2009 to 2012. He taught me two things I’ll never forget:

One was a writing tip, from the Civil War series. He wrote the entire thing in the present tense in an effort to put readers in the place and time. When he’d write about a person who died in war, he’d try to piece together a scene from the night before, or week before.

  • They may be dead to us now, Philip thought, but through his research and words they become three-dimensional characters doing ordinary things — they brush their teeth; they read a book — unaware that they are hours from death.

The second was a life lesson. Around 2010 we sent him to interview someone who was downright rude to him. We editors were aghast: Who could be mean to Philip Gerard?

  • But Philip didn’t mind because, as he put it, “You never know where you enter someone’s story.”

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