Harold Holzer was interviewed on June 19, 2014.  Mr. Holzer appeared on the Booknotes program on August 22, 1993 where he discussed his book The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Interview Transcript

Today is Thursday, June 19, 2014, and we are interviewing author Harold Holzer, who appeared on Booknotes on August 22, 1993, to discuss his book, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.  Hello, Mr. Holzer. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this oral history.

It's my pleasure. I can't believe it's been 21 years. It's been a long time. You were not one of the earliest, but certainly one of the earlier interviews.

Now how did your book come to be on Booknotes?

According to Brian Lamb, with whom I'm happy to say I've become close friends over the years principally because of this interview, and we can get into how Booknotes really affected that friendship and sort of changed my life in many ways. But my understanding is that Brian Lamb was at a Washington bookstore and simply found it and was looking at it and bought it and had his people call me. And it was as simple as that.

So how did you prepare for your appearance on Booknotes?

Well, I had watched  Booknotes of course, and I knew the routine. I didn't do much in the way of preparation because I knew the subject cold, I felt. And the subject was the Lincoln-Douglas debates, as you mentioned, but I had done something a little bit different in my version of the story, and that is what made the book unique was that I printed not the official version of the debates as recorded by the Republican and Democratic Party stenographers, as edited by Republican and Democratic editors, I printed what I called the reverse transcripts. That is the Republican versions of what Democrat Douglas said and the Democratic versions of what Lincoln said, because my theory was that they weren't sanitized as much. They weren't filtered or fooled with much, and they might offer a really clearer historical record of what actually was said on the stump in 1858. And I think Brian was intrigued with that, and that was the story he wanted to tell on Booknotes. So I didn't do much preparation, but I did know from friends of mine who'd been on the show that there will be one Brian Lamb-type question that you won't expect. So I don't know how you prepare for the unexpected. I simply told myself psychologically, be prepared for one unexpected question, whether it was about the bookbinding or the glue or the ink or something.

I'm going to ask about that in a few moments, but I'm curious about the reaction of scholars in the field to your technique of how you did your choice in terms of which version of the speeches you used.

Well, it's a very good question. In fact, it was not warmly received by many scholars at the time because they said, they contended that there were so many inherent flaws and lapses in the opposition transcripts, if you will, that they were in a sense as unreliable as the sanitized transcripts. What I felt was something of a triumph was that they admitted that the sanitized transcripts were inherently flawed also. And interestingly, one of the critics who was most vociferous about the fact that these transcripts were not really acceptable later published his own version of the debates, which used them. So we made a breakthrough. It took a while.

Do you think that your own experience as a political speechwriter and as a, you know, I don't mean the word in a derogatory sense, a political operative gave you some sort of insight as to what to look for?

I think so. I think I brought that to the project and was proud to bring it. I was actually intrigued by how many people in 1992 were talking about Lincoln-Douglas debates as this sort of an apogee of American political discourse. My own boss at the time, Mario Cuomo, who was considering a candidacy for the presidency, was always talking about Lincoln-Douglas debates. Let's do Lincoln-Douglas debates. Let's not have one minute answers and 30 second rejoinders. Let's do an hour and then an hour and a half. Admiral Stockdale, remember him? He was Ross Perot's vice presidential candidate in 1992, said, why are we doing these debates? Let's not do, Let's have Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Let's not do these silly little answers. Well, the truth of the matter is that there isn't much that's truly admirable or elevated in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. They could be very petty. They were very personal. They were all on one issue. And 21 hours on one issue is a bit much. They were all widely reprinted. So people did have a sense that they were repetitive, even though they weren't broadcast. So I think using the modern political analysis and the period debate model and going back to the pros and cons of extended debate made the perspective a little bit different. And we, of course, haven't heard the end of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We saw them brought up again in, I believe, the 2012 Republican primaries. Yeah. The fact is, of course, you can only do it with two people in primary campaigns, except potentially for the 2016 Democratic primary campaigns. There's not going to be two people. But you know, one wonders, could a candidate speak for one hour today, basically with only a few notes? Could a candidate speak for 90 minutes in rebuttal? Maybe Ted Cruz could, because he's a filibusterer. But you know, it would be interesting to see it happen again. It takes a certain kind of stamina. Absolutely. And remember, these guys did it outdoors in the heat, in the cold, as the weather changed from summer to fall in Illinois, and without amplification.

Absolutely. Without a crowd sitting in the, in comfort. They were standing. They were, many of them could barely hear. And I'm sure there was, you know, as you describe in your book, so much noise going on in the background.

Absolutely. Which is not to say that these people weren't interested, because events like this were really the equivalent of, you know, the World Cup, which as we speak today, people are, you know, attending the 150,000 people at a time in Brazil. This was intense community interest in extravaganzas that were very, very big.

Well, getting back to Booknotes, I would like you to describe your experience on the show. I know you, after this appearance in 1993, you were a very frequent guest, because as we have heard from one of the staff members, you ignited Brian Lamb's Lincoln mania.

It seems to have been, well, you know, I don't give myself credit for igniting his mania on the show, because in fact, I tell this story to people all the time. I do it in my speeches around the country, and I do it whenever I'm with Brian or with Steve Scully or anybody else on, you know, on Washington Journal or any other program, if they'll listen to me. I got a softball question from Brian that would, that should have set me up for life, and the fact that I messed it up could have unset me up for life on C-SPAN. Brian asked at one point, toward the end of the show as I recall, maybe the very end, he said, "Do you think people would convene again today in Prairie Town to listen to the Lincoln-Douglas debates?" And I said, "Are you kidding?" Well, not quite. I wasn't disrespectful. But I basically said, "Never. People's attention span, where political discourse is concerned, has become so constrained and so limited that they're used to sound bites, they're used to 30 or 60 second commercials, and they tune out. It would never work."

The show ended on that silly note. Oh, dear. And Brian said, "I think you're wrong, and I'm going to prove it." It was off camera, as I recall. And I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I want to do the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the towns that they occurred. If I can get the towns to do it, because C-SPAN doesn't create events, we cover events. But if we can instigate or stimulate or inspire Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Quincy, and Alton, and all of the towns to repeat..." I think I left one out. Galesburg. Galesburg, yeah. Yeah, I used to have a way to do it. I had little initials in my mind on how to do it. I can still do it now that I remember I left out Galesburg. We're going to show you. And we're not being punitive. You come on and be a guest on the bus and cover it with us. And so I got to do three of the seven debates, because I always felt I should have done all of them, but that's another story. I got to go on a C-SPAN special train from one debate to another from, let's see, I think from Charleston to Quincy. A special train with my wife and my younger daughter and kids and John Splane, the wonderful John Splane, the resident historian of C-SPAN in those days, engaging the kids as any great teacher can in history games on the train. I'll never forget that ride or those events. It was just thrilling and memorable. I made friendships on that journey that have lasted all these 20 plus years. The mayor of Quincy, Chuck Schultz is a good friend of mine. George Buss, who with the late Richard Soakup did Lincoln and Douglass at two of the debates, has become a friend and a performing partner all over the country. And so it's just the beginning of a very exciting journey.

Well, I would like to ask, since we're speaking about long format speaking, Booknotes hour-long format differed greatly for most of the network television interviews, which lasted three minutes or less.

Absolutely. Yeah.

What do you think are the benefits and/or drawbacks of this longer format for the author and for the viewer?

Well the viewer certainly gets a chance to hear in depth, not to be flippant about the title that reigns today on C-SPAN, but they get to hear everything from inspiration to technique to point of view. And I think the fascination with technique, how do you write, when do you write, where do you write, is of very deep interest to people. People who are dedicated readers, and I count them among the base of that story-chose audience, are all either functioning or frustrated writers, and they like to know whether people use writing tablets or laptops. I don't think we had laptops then. Or in the case of a guy like Robert Caro, one particular model of Smith-Corona typewriter. After he did one of Brian's shows, he got dozens of people sent him spare parts from their Smith-Corona so that he could sustain his own ancient typewriter for eternity. So that's definitely an advantage. It's what always fascinated me. The disadvantage for the guest is that you've got to have intense concentration to stay with Brian, who always looks tremendously relaxed, but is really actually in a strange sort of non-obvious way very intense. That is, he's planned his questions, he's an extremely attentive listener, he has really probing follow-ups, but then he can very easily abruptly go to some other completely different subject and catch you off your guard. I don't think he is in any way a gotcha kind of reporter or questioner, but for the person who's not used to being on for an hour, you have to stand your ground, you have to make sure you don't scratch your face, which I do all too often, and you got to pay attention. So it can be a challenging and exhausting experience, although in all my one-hour things or half-hour things, I've always thought they went really quickly anyway, at least for me.

Judging by the extensive marginalia in his books, it appears Mr. Lamb read them thoroughly before the interview.

Oh, I've heard.

Yeah. Do you find...

And they're all at George Mason now, right?

They're all downstairs, I was actually reading through the copy of it, so I can see what...

And I've never seen it, so it would be one day I'll go and look at the library.

We'd love to have you down here, and we'll be very happy to show you the copy. But I would like to know that in reading through the books as completely as Brian Lamb does, I mean just inhaling them, is this normal for interviewers, and how does it change the interview experience?

Well, it's gratifying, enormously gratifying for an author to know that somebody can pick out something on page 205 and say, "What did you mean by that?" All too often, reviewers and interviewers, and I'm finding this increasingly, and I know that people on Face the Nation and all these shows are really busy, and they have four stories for every hour, and their producers are busy, but more and more likely people read the introductions and the last 10 pages of a book. It makes authors, I think, miss focus on introductory material, knowing that, and this is not just interviewers, but it's also book critics. You sort of disproportionately weight your book toward the part that you know people are gonna read. And I increasingly write more and more discursive books. My next one is monstrously long, I'm afraid. And people need to get into the story, and Brian was the one person who reliably went into the story, and in the case of the debates book, he wanted to know about the political culture in each of the towns, he wanted to know about the audience response, he wanted to know what geographically which towns were Republican, which were Democratic, and which were in the middle and therefore in contention, and the places where the politicians, the candidate focused, because that's where the swing votes were.

By the way, the other lesson one learns, and this is what I did, you asked about preparation and I sort of neglected to say this, maybe even, I guess I forgot it, but one thing that authors, and I've spoken to many authors who did follow this principle and those who didn't, that is the wisest thing you do before Booknotes is to read your book before you go on the show, because you don't want, you want Brian, you always wanted him to know the book, but you wanted to know it as well as he.  

You never want to have to come out with a, "Did I write that?"

Exactly. That would be embarrassing.

I've seen it, I've seen it happen. You see the glazed look in an author's eyes when he's found something and they don't remember reading it. Well I have a follow-up question to this, and it's about titles. On your book, on this particular book, you list yourself not as the author, but as the editor.

Right. And that's probably because of the roughly 400 pages of the book, maybe 75 to 100 were mine, the introductory essay and the introductions to each of the debates. But again, the idea, and you can see that from the subtitle, the first complete unexpurgated text, was to give these reverse transcripts an airing and have them weight equally with the transcripts that had been accepted for so long. But as...

It was fine to be the editor.

Because it's not like you just pulled the newspaper articles out and typed them up and that was that. I mean there's... No, which was not an easy thing to do anyway.  Because there's the days before scanning and some of these newspaper Xeroxes were really... So I'm not meaning to tout my own effort, but no, I think editor was appropriate for that.

I was curious about that. Lincoln and Douglas were still the main authors.


And Brian probably would have had them if they were around.

Oh, definitely.

Well, Mr. Lamb asked about an author's research and writing methods. Do you believe the reading public finds these details about the practice of writing interesting? And do you think other authors or publishers find them interesting?

Well, yeah, as I said, answering this before I got the question, typically, I do think that audiences find it interesting because as I say, my feeling about the Booknotes audience based on reaction that I would get on the phone or later on email or later still on my website whenever there was a rerun of something on C-SPAN including that Booknotes program, was that the audience was people who were very, very deep readers. They were very prolific and wide ranging readers, but in your own field of expertise, they were particularly deep diving readers and often fellow writers and frustrated writers or writers with ambitions to publish. So I do think they were very interested. I know over the years, I've written an email to people who are on the show to comment on revelatory discussions of their own technique, particularly Bob Caro. We go back to Bob Caro who talks about his methodology. I think people are interested in, particularly in research, maybe not so much in typing versus scribbling, but in where do you get this stuff? That's one of the questions that people want to know about. It's great to share because as I found out in doing my latest book, there's always more to find. I think there's a difference today. I think that web research with all of its necessary and appropriate limitations has changed the way research has been conducted for all these decades and generations. There is not so much the thrill of the chase and the uncertainty of the chase when you can just type a keyword in and get 50 clues, but still it's better. I think people are always interested in where the information comes from. So I do think that that made Booknotes unique and it was very appealing. Well, I would like to know about the question that surprised you. What does your mother do? That was the question. And I said she was a housewife. I worked for Bella Abzug. I was her press secretary in the '70s. So I should have known better to say housewife. And she was not happy. Oh, no. She said, "Couldn't you have said homemaker or something?" Housewife is a terrible word. We don't use that word anymore. But that was his little gotcha moment. My mother is still around at age 98 and still watches C-SPAN, so it didn't turn her off to the station. But I'm sure it made for an uncomfortable Thanksgiving. It made for... I don't remember what period the show was broadcast. The show was broadcast in August. Okay. So it might have been the Jewish holidays that were uncomfortable in September.

Oh, there you go. Okay.

But yeah. Oh, no. I mean, Brian always is interested in whether authors have literary antecedents and is interested in both sides of that story, whether people are descended from writers or... My own son-in-law is a third generation book critic, which is pretty interesting. But I come from a long line of business people and shtetl dwellers who did heaven knows what. I don't know how far... I don't go back too far in knowing what, beyond my grandparents, what people did, 'cause I don't have any way to track the European side. But Brian was interested in that part too.

Well, we already established that you did watch Booknotes before and after you were in there in your view. Did your experience on the show change your impression of it?

What made me more interested, I suppose? I mean, one looks at these shows and you usually get very good reaction. People don't call you up and say you really look fat or something like that. But when you watch it, and I think I watched it a couple of times, you do notice the imperfections and you wish you could have done some things over again, have been more articulate or certainly in my case have thought of a way to answer the will people stand for the debate again question a little more intelligently and ambitiously. But it changed the way I felt about long interviews. And as you noted, I've had my share of them. I'm very grateful for that on C-SPAN. So it made me more relaxed also. And I think that was a pretty exciting gig. It still would be today, you know, because Brian had this outrageous rule that you could only do the show once, which I hated.

Well, I was going I'm going to skip around and ask that question. OK. Because you know, you've obviously been on the show set on different shows several times and different permutations. But my question is, I'm going to change it around a little bit. Is this the book the Lincoln Douglas debates that you would prefer to be known for through the Booknotes legacy? Or do you have another book that you would wish Brian Lamb had interviewed for?

Well, I have mixed feelings about it. I mean, the book that I think has been my most popular and, you know, honored book and the book that most people know me for was a 2000. I don't even remember the year 2004 book called Lincoln at Cooper Union. And I would have loved to have done that story on Booknotes. But you know, on the other hand, in getting me in '93, when I was really had just only been writing for eight or nine years in books and making me into a more notable person by virtue of that show and having been inspired to do 21 hours of programming really more because they were tops and tails to all of those shows in Illinois. I mean, Brian and the show and the network did enormous things for me. I mean, opened doors. And it's conceivable and I candidly can see that if it hadn't been for Booknotes, I wouldn't have gotten the contract to write Cooper Union or wouldn't have gotten a major publisher to do Cooper Union. So you know, it's, you know, there are pluses and minuses. But I wouldn't change it at this point. I wouldn't have wanted to wait another 11 years. So I think it turned out fine.

Well, for Booknotes, Mr. Lamb intentionally worked on a minimalist studio setting so that the viewers focused entirely on the author being interviewed. And it's very different from network television. What do you think are the pluses and minuses of such an approach for the interviewee and for the viewer?

Well, it's, you know, it's, you know, if you it was I remember being very dark. I was afraid of stumbling around. But I think it makes it more private. You know, it really becomes a conversation between Brian and the guest. Because it's so dark around the set, as I remember it, that you're not aware of technicians and you're not aware of crowds. Doing a show like the Today Show, which is, you know, pretty thrilling in its own way, although very, very fast, you're aware that you're sitting in a very false kind of oasis kind of atmosphere within a gigantic, swarming mess of cables and cameras and people running around and carrying papers. And it's very distracting. Yeah. And you have to. It's one of the things they don't warn you about, but it is distracting to be on a network thing for a few seconds because, you know, you've got to get it right. Maybe you can't be distracted. So the Booknotes thing envelops you, envelops you in a very, almost like a womb-like atmosphere. It was you and Brian and a table or, you know, chairs and table and not much else. It was very quiet. And you didn't hear countdowns. You didn't hear commercial cuts, obviously. So I think it makes one relax and relate to the interviewer much better.

Well the Booknotes series, the entire 800 book series, focused entirely on nonfiction books published between the late 1980s and 2004. So what do you think might be the advantage of an 800 book collection with this sort of focus?

Well I think what the advantage was in terms of both history and current events, political writing, is that it traced, especially in my field, historiography, it traced the evolution of thinking about the Civil War and presidential history. When the show began, there were still disputes about the reasons for the Civil War. I mean, I'm not saying they've been completely eradicated. There's still debates, although I think that there are more fringe-directed debates. But I think the show brought such a panoply of accomplished historians repeatedly on the air that one was able to trace all of the new trends as they evolved and introduce them to a public that's probably a broader public than was reading the books. Because they were watching this show that became such an institution and such a cult show among so many people. A non-miss, what is it called, can't miss Sunday. It was Sunday, wasn't it?

Yes, it was Sunday evenings.

Sunday event. You know, things in my field like the contributions of African American troops, which was a fringe aspect of Civil War history in the '80s, became deeply part of the relating of the story over the years that the show ran, and you got to see that evolution. And in terms of analysis of elections and election cycles and politicians, it played an enormous role in helping us rethink, as in the '60s, Theodore H. White used to help us rethink the elections of '60 and '64 and '68. This was the place, this was the stage where you rethought in detail what had happened and heard it from people who had spent a considerable amount of time writing and researching.

Well, during the course of the interview, Mr. Lamb asked you quite a bit about the book sales. And I would like to know, was there a difference in sales or national attention for your book after you discussed it with Mr. Lamb on book notes? And what about critical reception?

It's an interesting question. Brian, as I recall, got me on the not immediately after publication. Now, I think it would have made more difference to sales had he happened upon the book earlier and had me on nearer the publication date. But it happened, I think it was a spring book and he had me on in the late summer. But I think it had more of a long-term impact on the sales because there was no Amazon to do bumps and to take stock of where you were after an appearance in those days. But because the debates then happened in '94 in seven towns and because I was on the scene in a few of them and was autographing books and Brian was continually talking about the book, I think it kept it in print for a couple of more years than it would have been. So it absolutely, ultimately did have an impact on the debates book. There have been so many collections of Lincoln Douglas debates, it's hard to know what the standard one is and there were several even in that year. But I think he helped make this one the standard for a good long while.

Did your experience with Brian Lamb and Booknotes cause you to rethink any of your own approaches or assumptions regarding your research or writing?

I think in the Hope Springs eternal mode, that is you always hope you can do something on C-SPAN, it made me more aware of keeping track of my process as opposed to just taking the process and applying it to the narrative and then forgetting about where it came from. I don't particularly like lectures where an author will talk about how brilliantly he found an attic or a family member or a trove of letters and dwell on it as if he's a great detective and had made this triumphant discovery. I mean unless you find the Dead Sea Scrolls, these discoveries are not really that important to many people. But I think there is a balance and I think you can keep track of these events and wait for the right opportunity to discuss them. But you know it is important, it tells you a lot about how the process works and about how the people work. But in the end it's all the book, it's all what's published and it's all what's left. So what Booknotes uniquely did is focus on the book but have enough time to instruct people and enlighten people about the process as well.

Well I'd like to know what you've been working on after this book, you talk about Lincoln at Cooper's Union and what are you most pleased with and why are you most pleased with it?

Well I was very pleased with Lincoln at Cooper Union because it was a New York book, because it was almost an accident. I pitched it at Gettysburg really out of frustration and it worked. It did very well. But Lincoln President Elect, my next big book for Simon & Schuster did well too and I was very proud of getting that out at the time when we had a transition between Bush and Obama. But it's always, I think for people who keep writing, it's always the next one. And I'm excited to be coming out in a few months with a book called Lincoln and the Power of the Press, which would have been a great Booknotes show because it's about journalism and politics and how they were both different and the same in the partisan 1850s and 60s as they were, as they are in the partisan second decade of the 20th century. It makes Abraham Lincoln seem a bit prophetic when he talks in the first Ottawa debate. About public sentiment. Exactly. Absolutely. That's the epigraph of the book. But he was not a passive politician who waited for journalists to react. He became so deeply a part of the newspaper process himself. Practically his own press secretary that I think it's going to be an interesting story for people. Also to hear about the big newspaper titans of the era who published the big New York papers and had such different opinions of Lincoln and the role of the press. Well, Lincoln was such an autodidact. Where did he... Now public opinion is a specialty. It's a science of its own. He was conscious of that back in the 19th century. Where did he learn that? He learned that the way he learned, as you say, he was an autodidact, but he learned everything from reading. And one of the early things he had, the earliest things he had to read, and they were things that molded his life and his narrative style and his view of life were Shakespeare and the Bible and newspapers. There were newspapers around and his step-sister, I used this early in the book, wrote very memorably about how he used to turn a chair upside down, lean on the back of the chair near the fireplace and read these newspapers and often read them out loud. So he developed his interest in politics early from the press and became aware that much of the argumentation in politics was not done through debates or obviously no television commercials or email. It was done through argumentation in newspapers and that newspapers were either Whig or Democratic. And if you establish yourself within the firmament of one of those political organizations, you would get a newspaper as your backer and become deeply involved with the newspaper. Lincoln got that and practiced it from the first time he ran for the legislature in the 1830s. Interesting. I'm going to have to get your new book. In fact, the newspaper where he published his first public statement making his own case for the state legislature, it was in that newspaper's office that he was sitting in his favorite chair waiting for the telegram that confirmed that he had been nominated for president almost 30 years later. The same newspaper was his ally for three decades.   Ally and advocate, I should say.  Well, he, by the way, was an ally and advocate of the newspapers. If you were a newspaper man who was good to Abraham Lincoln, then Abraham Lincoln was good to you. Couldn't see it happening today. I mean, Barack Obama is not going to appoint Rachel Maddow as ambassador to Paris to thank her for her kind words. But Lincoln gave 20 or 30 newspaper editors major and lucrative political positions throughout his presidency, either in the army or in executive posts, postmasterships and ambassadorship. They weren't called ambassadors and consulates. It was good to be a loyal newspaper advocate for someone because if they won, you got political advertising, for example, you've got government printing orders and you've got jobs and you can still have your newspaper and have a federal job.

 Wouldn't happen today.

No. I don't think. Unless they could get away with it. No, I think there would be a few questions, but. Yes. Fascinating. The world has changed.

Well, may I ask in your estimation, what has been the lasting impact of Booknotes while the series was running and perhaps in subsequent times?

I think Booknotes created a real sustained interest in history books. It helped sustain interest in the Civil War and Lincoln, my own field, but also other aspects of history. I think it created a generation of readers that has been loyal to print. It sounds counterintuitive that broadcast could enhance print, but it's very interesting that since Booknotes went off the air, we keep reading about the decline of the book. So I think either Booknotes held off the decline of the book or Booknotes was responsible for the biggest blip in the history of the book, and we need more of it or something of it again, that melding of the deep dive you do in a book and the deep dive that networks like C-SPAN do in discussing books to bring people together who are not satisfied with soundbites and talking and screaming heads. And I think that will do a more discursive discussion or read. So I think it really built a generation of readers who were just fascinated with Brian's wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and eager to pursue the books of the authors that interested them on the air. But at the same time, it wasn't a book review. It was never a book review. There was never a condemnation or criticism. It was a forum. It was a place where an author could tell his or her story, how a book was constructed and inspired. That's another thing. We didn't touch on that. What inspired you to write this book? Why did you write this book? That was always a big question. And if you told the story the right way, I think you got a batch of admirers that you wouldn't have had otherwise. And I know that a lot of my loyal audience over the years was built on this C-SPAN model of people who become attached to you from the broadcast, but also are willing, because they are obviously more curious people than watch a fleeting news report, want to know more about the books themselves.

Well, Mr. Holtzer, I have gotten to the end of my scripted questions, save to ask, is there anything that you would like to add regarding the Booknotes program, C-SPAN or Brian Lamb?

Well, if I hadn't made it clear already, I'm happy to say it again, that Booknotes was life changing for me in my career and for interest, I think, in Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln-Douglas debates and really all of Lincoln. C-SPAN is the incubator for ideas and authors. It remains so in different formats, whether it's Q&A or in depth or Washington Journal or allowing so many authors to speak on their subjects as we speak. Today I'm very interested in the fact that for the first time ever, C-SPAN 3, which we haven't mentioned, but as a breakout institution that's kept that tradition going, C-SPAN 3 is going to broadcast the Civil War Institute from Gettysburg College live for the first time. I don't think that's ever happened before. And that's going to be exciting as authors who are specializing in various areas of what was happening 150 years ago get together with a group of 300 or so Civil War aficionados and tell their stories, but also just covering lectures around the country and teachers talking about their books and doing lectures about their new books. Only C-SPAN does that. It's such a marvelous part of this broader world of passing along information. Every publisher should, I think, not only should the broadcast networks be supporting C-SPAN, the publisher should be supporting C-SPAN. And Brian. That's a very good point. Yeah. Brian is a genius at what he does. He is probably the most trusted and reliable and nonpartisan, curious person on any air. I know he does less now, which I regret, but I've gone to many a meal and dinner and lunch with Brian and people just treat him as if he is part of their family. And I think he had that impact on the air. He was an essential part of the national family for a long time. My favorite of those occurrences, and I'll leave it at this, is this is the longest I've talked since I hurt myself two months ago. My favorite was at the Mayflower Hotel. We were leaving a lovely dinner and as we got out of the restaurant, which used to be deep in the lobby, I understand it's been moved now. I haven't seen the new configuration. As we got into the lobby, one of the diners raced out into the lobby. I think he was wearing his napkin and his shirt. But he saw Brian and he had to come up and say something, he said, "You are Brian Lamb, aren't you?" And he said, "Yes." And he said, "Oh my God, I'm so excited to meet you. I can't go to sleep unless I see you on the air." He collected a lot of those. People coming up and saying, "John Glenn, thank you for your service to me." I've seen them happen. Oh dear. His modesty and his curiosity and his straight shooting and a little bit of his impish unpredictability. I think it was endearing and inspiring to people and has really created the kind of bond between broadcast and books that should have happened everywhere. There are very few left who do that or who did that. We just lost, in New York, we just lost Richard Hefner. I know Brian knew him, who was the host of The Open Mind in New York City for almost 60 years. Right. And it's hard to find the moments when you can explicate on books. And it's certainly not as... Going on television and talking to a live person and having the sort of instant gratification that you know it's going to go out on the air is a little bit different than doing webcasts and Skypes. So I'm just grateful that I was part of the generation where that intersection was thriving at its apogee.

Well Mr. Holtzer, I'm going to finish off this portion of our interview by saying thank you for agreeing to do this oral history interview and for sharing with us your experience on this groundbreaking television interview program.

Well as someone who had such a wonderful experience I can only say it was the least I could do and again, a cherished moment and a cherished hour and a cherished residual that keeps reverberating for many authors including myself. Thank you.