Early Reviews: ‘Give It a Permanent Spot on the Shelf’

Here are early reviews of my new Ryder Cup book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World (cover image at right). The book, which includes a foreword by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, will be in bookstores on Tuesday (September 9). It’s also available online for pre-order, and come Tuesday, for order, as books will then be released from warehouses.

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1969 Ryder Cup press badge and other materials. (Paul Trevillion)

From Gary McCormick of San Jose Golf Examiner:

“In Draw in the Dunes, Neil Sagebiel has once again brought a significant moment in golf history to life, combining the results of exhaustive research and extensive interviews with his prodigious storytelling talent to paint a complete and very satisfying portrait of a complex series of events. In his skillful hands the events and personalities that comprise the story step off the page in a lively manner, and as he did in The Longest Shot, Sagebiel manages to keep the reader engrossed in events the outcome of which they are probably already quite familiar with.” Read entire review

From Ed Travis, published at The A Position, New England Golf Monthly and Bunker Shot Magazine:

“Stirring stuff to be sure and Neil Sagebiel in his new book, “Draw In the Dunes – The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World,” recounts the times, the circumstances and perhaps best of all, the background needed for readers to put the 1969 Cup and Nicklaus’ concession into perspective….Bottom line—if you are interested in golf, the Ryder Cup, its history and its personalities, you will enjoy this book and give it a permanent spot on the shelf.” Read entire review

From Mike Southern at RuthlessGolf.com:

“Neil’s prose is never boring. Personally, I thought his decision to frame the story itself within another related story that happened 30 years later really made the importance of this event clearer. And if you want to know how the book is being received by the folks involved, consider that Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin themselves wrote the book’s foreword….I can tell you this firsthand: If you enjoy golf history, his book is definitely one you’ll want to read.” Read entire review

From Dan Smith at Valley Business FRONT:

“The event itself is at the center of the book, but it is Neil’s understanding of the period, the culture, the golf culture and the importance of the Ryder Cup that give the book its irresistible flavor. His first major non-fiction work was The Longest Shot, the story of Jack Fleck’s victory over Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open and like his newest, it was a sit-on-the-edge-of-the-chair read.

“Neil, who writes a nationally prominent golf blog, takes golf out of the realm of sport and into something more akin to anthropology with his works. The Longest Shot was named one of the best sports books of 2012 and my guess is Neil’s new work won’t be far behind that.” Read entire review (page 52)

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How 1969 Changed a Boy’s Life and the Ryder Cup

(Friends and readers: Following is a preview of my article that will appear in the St. Martin’s Press history blog and newsletter next month after the publication of my new book.)

1969 was a big year in my life and the life of my family. Natives of Indiana, we moved from the Hoosier state to “The Golden State.”

California, here we come!

A cross-country move is a significant life event for anyone, and especially for a boy of 11. I said goodbye to my friends and traveled 2,000 miles to a strange new world in the back seat of our blue 1965 Plymouth Belvedere, my older brother alongside.

The changes were extreme: from the Ohio River Valley to the Mojave Desert, from a brick house with a walk-out basement to a one-level home made of stucco painted yellow, from neighborhood buddies to the new kid on the block who, I later found out, was supposed to get beat up not long after arriving in Palmdale. I somehow dodged that fight.

NeilArmstrongMy few memories of the summer of ’69 are blurred. They include a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim. The third week of July also stands out. That was when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step onto the surface of the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. My family watched the historic moment in black and white on our Zenith television.

Armstrong famously said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” The “a” wasn’t audible, but an audio analysis nearly four decades later confirmed that he did, in fact, say the “a.”

The astronaut with whom I shared a first name also was quoted as saying, “It’s good country for golf up here…you could drive a ball 2,000 feet.”

I don’t recall any of Armstrong’s words from that long-ago summer.

Golf?

That was a game my dad sometimes played on his day off. My sports were basketball and baseball.

But within two years of moving to California, I was playing golf with my dad and brother. And now, 45 years later, I’ve written a golf story that took place during the summer of ’69 and involved Hall of Fame players such as Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino, Peter Alliss, Raymond Floyd, Neil Coles and Billy Casper.

That would have seemed far-fetched to the 11-year-old boy, but so did a moon walk until that other Neil visited the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

Eight days before Armstrong walked on the moon, Tony Jacklin, a 25-year-old from the industrial town of Scunthorpe in northern England, became the first British golfer to win the British Open since Max Faulkner in 1951.

It changed his life and it changed golf, for Jacklin would go on to lead his British teammates that September against the mighty Americans in the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England.

Great Britain had lost 14 of 17 Ryder Cups dating back to the official beginning in 1927 when English seeds tycoon Samuel Ryder donated the gold trophy. In September 1969, few people, British included, held out much hope for the 12 men playing for Great Britain, even though they were the home team playing a familiar style of golf on a seaside links course.

Just like America was first to the moon, it was also first in golf. In fact, at the time, the United States was seemingly first in everything.

This time, however, led by new Open champion Jacklin and fiery Captain Eric Brown, the British players didn’t bow to American supremacy. What followed, according to many who witnessed it, was the most controversial and compelling Ryder Cup ever played.

All tied up after three days and 31 matches, the 1969 Ryder Cup came down to the last two men in the last match putting out on the last green. The matter would be decided by Jacklin and Nicklaus. That’s when one of the most famous moments in golf occurred, a rare act of sportsmanship that sealed the first tie in the 42-year history of the Ryder Cup.

Great Britain rejoiced, for a draw was nearly as sweet as a victory. The United States was far from enthusiastic about the stunning outcome. Yet, in the ensuing years and decades, most would agree the 1969 Ryder Cup had a perfect ending.

Eight players from those two 1969 teams went on to become Ryder Cup captains, including Jacklin (four times) and Nicklaus (twice).

The summer of ’69 that changed one boy’s life also forever changed the Ryder Cup.

The epic battle at Royal Birkdale breathed life into the matches during a period when they were struggling to survive. It also helped make the Ryder Cup what it is today–the biggest event in golf and a biennial sports event that attracts worldwide attention.

Neil Sagebiel is the author of DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World (September 9, 2014). It includes a foreword by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. Sagebiel is also the founder and editor of Armchair Golf Blog. He lives in Floyd, Virginia, with his wife and daughters.

Celebrating ‘Factory Man’ By Beth Macy

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Buy at Barnes & Noble.

It’s July 15, publication day for FACTORY MAN: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town by Beth Macy, an award-winning journalist and former reporter for the Roanoke Times. Anyone who lives in my region and has been even a casual reader of the Roanoke Times through the years is surely familiar with Macy’s excellent work as a reporter and storyteller who, as her bio says, gives voice to outsiders and underdogs.

That’s certainly the case in her authorial debut. FACTORY MAN is the story of John Bassett III and his quest to save his furniture company, his employees (and their jobs) and his town (Galax, Virginia) against the fierce Asian competition that was decimating a once-strong and proud American industry.

This factory man is a gritty, determined David against a cunning, overseas Goliath. Unfair or not, Bassett chose to fight.

By intricately telling us about wooden furniture, hard-working men and women, a fiercely stubborn company owner and a small Virginia town, Macy, through FACTORY MAN, has delivered a large American story. There’s much more to the Bassett tale, including a family feud. I can’t do it justice.

What I can tell you is that outstanding reviews have been spilling out of the literary world like finely crafted cabinets rolling off the Bassett assembly line.

The New York Times’ Janet Maslin compares Macy’s debut to Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. Publisher Weekly and Kirkus offered starred reviews. Jonathan Alter wrote, “Beth Macy has done a masterful job in personalizing the biggest American economic story of our time….”

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Beth Macy.

An admirer of her work from afar, I’ve had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Beth Macy the last few years as our paths have crossed at writing events.

Last Saturday at the Radford Reads Literary Festival, she lamented a missed anecdote that she would have weaved into FACTORY MAN. Despite countless interviews, she couldn’t have known about these particular details because they didn’t surface until well after her copious research and writing were complete.

Nonetheless, it bothered this reporter who, I’m guessing, is every bit as tenacious about telling human stories as John Bassett III is about making quality furniture. FACTORY MAN is a finely constructed and polished American story you don’t want to miss.

Inaugural Radford Literary Festival This Saturday

radfordreadssplash-272x300The Radford Reads Literary Festival debuts this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Glencoe Museum (600 Unruh Drive) in Radford, Virginia. The event will include readings, storytelling, music and fun activities for children.

And it’s free.

Presenters include:

Charlotte Rogan
Jan Neuharth
Bill Lepp
Tim Jackson
Michael Abraham
Fred First
Squire Bin Forever
Tim Poland
Beth Macy
Philip Kent Church
Lou Gallo
Ralph Berrier
Charles Lytton
Roland Lazenby
Donald Secreast
Kathryn Jordan
Kathryn Starke
Mara Eve Robbins
Java Brothers

My Agent Answers: Why Did You Become a Literary Agent?

My literary agent, Rick Broadhead, specializes in non-fiction and works with the top publishing houses in North America. Rick has represented non-fiction books that have appeared on bestseller lists. His clients’ books have also been shortlisted for literary awards, translated into multiple languages and optioned for film and TV development.

By Rick Broadhead

Copyright © Rick Broadhead. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I love the business side of publishing–finding great authors and book ideas, pitching book projects, negotiating deals and being a part of an exciting and dynamic industry.

I became a bestselling author early in my career and eight years later, after several successive bestsellers, I decided to put my business savvy and passion for publishing to work for other authors.

I love what I do, and I love getting excited about a new book project that I can pitch to the editors I work with. There’s something special about holding a book in your hand and realizing you played a part in its creation.

VA Festival of the Book Announces New Program Director

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Jane Gulow.

Jane Kulow is the new program director of the Virginia Festival of the Book. Kulow is a longtime Festival volunteer, most recently serving as assistant to the Virginia Foundation president. Her professional career and personal interests revolve around literacy and literary culture, including her current tenure as trustee of Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

Kulow replaces Nancy Damon, who retired after two decades with the Festival.

2015 Festival Information

The 2015 Festival will take place March 18-22.

The application form to be a presenter at the 2015 Festival is at vabook.org. The deadline is October 1. Previous presenters must reapply.

Those wishing to host or create a Festival program should consult organizers. Reservations for space at the annual Book Fair will be available online in mid-September.

Top 10 Best-Read Cities

An Associated Press story in my June 1 (Sunday) Roanoke Times ranked the best-read cities, according to Amazon.com. The list included cities with a population of 100,000 people or more. Not coincidentally, several of the best-read cities are college towns.

Alexandria, Virginia, topped the list for the third straight year.

1. Alexandria, Virginia

2. Miami, Florida

3. Knoxville, Tennessee

4. Seattle, Washington

5. Orlando, Florida

6. Ann Arbor, Michigan

7. Berkeley, California

8. Cambridge, Massachusetts

9. Cincinnati, Ohio

10. Columbia, South Carolina