Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Legendary Kentucky journalist Al Smith tackles the state's public figures over 50 years in new book

Kentucky's most famous community journalist has completed his second memoir, this time focusing more on his journalism and the state's public figures than on his life and victory over alcoholism. Al Smith's Kentucky Cured: Fifty Years in Kentucky Journalism (History Press, $19.95) is on bookshelves now.

The book "says a lot more about Kentucky than it does about Al Smith," writes Tom Eblen of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The book is a collection of new and updated essays, many first published in the Herald-Leader or The Courier-Journal of Louisville. But most of them are about "some of Kentucky's most fascinating public figures of the second half of the 20th Century," Eblen writes. "Smith got to know them all, and many more, during his varied career."

Stories in the book are about many familiar Kentucky names: Gov.s Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, Bert Combs, Louie Nunn, Edward "Ned" Breathitt and Earle Clements; political figures Ed Prichard, Georgia Powers, Larry Forgy and Gatewood Galbraith; writers Robert Penn Warren and John Ed Pearce, and "the crafty politician/educators who transformed Kentucky's state 'teacher colleges' into dynamic regional universities," Eblen writes.

Author Don McNay writes in the Huffington Post that Smith's book is a "must-read for students of Kentucky history, journalism and politics," and calls it "the book that I thought Smith would write as his autobiography." It's "loaded with insight about Kentucky and Kentuckians," he says. Where Smith's first book, Wordsmith, was "raw" and dark, Kentucky Cured "reflects the upbeat, spellbinding and positive side of Smith's personality, laced with colorful characters, both well-known and unknown," McNay writes.

"Kentucky Cured by legendary Kentucky journalist Al Smith is the book his followers, fans and friends wanted," writes journalist Ferrell Wellman, who succeeded Smith as host of Kentucky Educational Television's "Comment on Kentucky," which Smith co-founded (as well as the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog). In his first book, Wordsmith, Smith wasn't as honest about his encounters and impressions of the powerful and rich-and-famous whom he's met over the years, Wellman writes, but the new book "corrects that, and is proof, at 85, Smith can still bite when he turns a phrase." He lauds the state's political leaders' accomplishments, but is also critical about their lives and careers. Smith writes in Kentucky Cured: "In a state like Kentucky, leadership often falls to political hacks or fresh faces with painless promises, which fail."

Smith "is a gifted writer of tight prose, a storyteller with a good ear for a quote or a telling anecdote," Eblen writes. "But more than that, he is a keen observer and analyst who understands the historical and cultural forces that make Kentucky tick." (Read more)

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