Interview with Hugh and Elizabeth Zachary, March 27, 1998 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Zachary, Hugh and Elizabeth Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 3/27/1998 Series: SENC Writers Length 120 minutes
Hayes: Okay. We're here today on March 27, 1998 and we're interviewing Hugh and Elizabeth Zachary today. Hugh Zachary is a well known writer from the southeast North Carolina region. The interviewers are Sherman Hayes and Madeline Bombell from UNC Wilmington. Welcome, and Hugh we're going to let you reminisce to start with. A writer is not just born one day and starts writing so there was perhaps a life and career prior to becoming a professional writer so you might set the stage for our listeners. What got you before you were a writer?
Hugh Zachary: Accident. You know, with a lot of people that's accident that decides what they're going to do with most of their life. When I came out of the Army, freshly married to Elizabeth we-- I was enrolled in school on the GI Bill and that $97 didn't quite cut it so I went looking for a part time job. And there happened to be an advertisement in the Ada, Oklahoma newspaper for a radio announcer at a little 250 watt radio station. So I went down and applied for the job, what'd I have to lose? They gave it to me so, I worked at the 40 hour a week job at night while I was in school and continued that through my school career, really. And when I first went out there having a nice Oklahoma accent, would say "beak" for "bank;" I didn't realize I was doing that. And I would say, "Cristal" for "crystal." And lots of other things too, so, yes, I was born in Oklahoma, down in the "Hoot Owl" and Coyote country on the South Canadian River in a county named for me, "Hughes County," but..
Hayes: Wait a minute, let's go over that. It was named for you?
Hugh Zachary: No, I'm just kidding (laughs).
Hayes: I thought we had a scoop here.
Hugh Zachary: Maybe my mother named me for the county, I don't know but that accident; the ad in the paper and the fact that they needed somebody badly determined what I was going to do for the next fifteen years of my life. And we spent that moving around over the southeast, working in Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida in radio and television stations, eleven jobs in fifteen years I think I held. Because the only way you could get a raise was to take a new job somewhere.
Hayes: So you really, had you finished college?
Hugh Zachary: No. I transferred-- I came out here to go to Duke because I've always heard about what a great school Duke was but the GI Bill only paid tuition at Duke; it didn't pay books and fees and all that so I went over to the people's college at UNC Chapel Hill, where I even got football and basketball tickets on my GI Bill so that's a good deal (laughs). I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 19, what, '51 I believe it was. Yeah.
Hayes: Fifteen years career in radio/television was also in North Carolina then, correct?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, I worked in-- well, I worked in Durham, while I was in school at Chapel Hill. A forty hour week at night again and then after; I graduated went to Knoxville, Tennessee and stayed there a whole year.
Hayes: Stayed there. (chuckles) You're in radio. You're in television. Now all of a sudden we're talking about writing a hundred books at another point so was there a juncture? Was there something that changed radio and television to becoming professional writer?
Hugh Zachary: Well, I had always wanted to write. On a porch swing just exactly like this one only a little older, I used to sit out on a summer day and read every one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan," and "John Carter of Mars" books and I would go to the movies. I worked as a ticket taker, a popcorn maker and masher in a movie theatre when I was in high school. And I would see these movies about writers and they always did exciting things; they lived in Penthouse apartments in New York City. And they traveled all over the world and this incidentally was when the Hemmingway and Fitzgerald mystique was still very much alive so, I thought it'd be neat to be a writer. And in the eleventh grade we had an essay contest, a patriotic essay about how you felt about the War. The War was just starting. It was just going on. And I won that and had my name in the newspaper and that cemented it, from then on I knew that I was going to be a writer. I started submitting poems for publication while I was still in the Army in 1946 and went on from there. Even when I was in radio and television I would have a little card table set up in the corner somewhere; most of the time in the bedroom because that's the only place that'd be out of the way and if I could find a little bit of time. I'd be in there pounding on an old fashioned typewriter.
Hayes: So even during the radio/TV days, writing still was kind of a driving force?
Hugh Zachary: That's what I wanted to be, yes. And I have 375 rejections before I ever sold one single thing; I was persistent if nothing else.
Hayes: Well, talk about some of those rejections. What was the, what were you writing early on then that you were trying to get in?
Hayes: That is hard.
Hugh Zachary: Some of those were poems and at that time there was a much bigger market for poetry if you could call it that. The first thing I ever sold was a poem to a magazine called, "Drift Word" and they sent me a check for $10 and they went out of business before it was published (laughs).
Hayes: Did the cash, did the check bounce?
Hugh Zachary: The check did not bounce so that was my first writing income; I didn't keep it. I spent it. I didn't keep the check as a souvenir.
Hayes: So poetry? When did you start science-fiction then? You said you had that early interest in science-fiction.
Hugh Zachary: Science-fiction came hard for me. I sold a bunch of books before I ever sold my first science-fiction book. The field was changing really. I had grown up with the hard science writers and space-opera writers who really told action adventure stories in space and this was beginning to change a little bit as fantasy crept into the field and began to take over true science-fiction. So by the time I got around to trying to write science-fiction it was a tough market and; I finally broke into it with a book called, "Rack the Healer." R-A-C-K, "Rack the Healer." And it was serialized in "If" and then published by a small paperback house and I thought that was great. I'd sold a lot of books before then but, science-fiction being my first love, this one really pleased me. And it's still a good book, I like it (laughs).
Hayes: Well, those same people that you grew up are still classics in the field so science-fiction doesn't necessarily go out of, out of vogue.
Hugh Zachary: But it has been just about taken over by fantasy, sword and sorcery and stuff like that.
Hayes: And you yourself never went in that particular direction?
Hugh Zachary: I tried one; I haven't been able to sell it so I must not be a good fantasy writer. I didn't try too hard really, I just sent it to one market.
Hayes: We're going to talk to Elizabeth in a few minutes and we'll ask you the same question. Very few people actually become full time writers so when you decided to do this was this a thoughtful process? Was this a risk? How did-
Hugh Zachary: We knew it was going to be a risk but we also-- Elizabeth was very instrumental in this. She said that one time or another in anybody's life; a person should be able to try to do the thing he wanted to do. So we had the opportunity, it's a long involved story; her father had died and there was a house on Long Beach. And we were in Florida and her mother was living with us and radio, Rock-and-Roll was beginning to creep into my disc-jockey shows and I didn't care for that. And my boss was a first class idiot and (laughs); let me tell you about him. Let me tell you bosses. He hired me in the first place because I knew music; the Swing Era music. I could tell you who was playing saxophone on this particular Woody Herman record, all that stuff-- that's why he hired me. So I go down there and start doing stuff like that and every time I would say something like that he'd open up the door and say, "Who the hell cares? Slab it." (laughs) So I went into a hospital with a budding ulcer and that was the thing that made our decision, we had enough money to last us we thought for three years so; we came up to Long Beach. The money was gone in one year and Elizabeth went to work. Bless her heart because she said, "Let's try it one more year. One more year," so we tried it one more year and I made $800. The next year $1600 and then the next year, I found a market and doing okay.
Hayes: What year was that because I think for people who with inflated dollars; that sounds almost like impossible to live on. But this was not-
Hugh Zachary: We (laughs) didn't live; we lived on Elizabeth's salary is what we lived on.
Hayes: But I'm saying, what year was it that you?
Hugh Zachary: We moved to Long Beach in February, of 1963.
Hayes: Sixty-three and we're in now, '98 so thirty-five years as a professional writer. Do you know of anybody else in this whole region that has attempted to really make their living as a writer?
Hugh Zachary: There's a guy upstate that writes True Crime. True Crime books, I imagine he makes enough money to live on his writing because he is a-- they sell real well. I think a couple of them have hit the bestseller list, others, I don't know. When I used to go Writers' Conferences and there would be self-published poets. Part of the program would be reading from a selection of an unpublished novel so that was my experience with writers in North Carolina. I don't know any of them. So I'm sure that there are some of the-- oh, some of the lady-- some of the lady romance writers in North Carolina do real well, yes.
Hayes: Why don't we jump into some of the works that you've done? If you could describe to the listen then, how would you categorize yourself and what genres have you worked in over this long career? I know it's not just one genre. I used those big words just to-
Hugh Zachary: Yes, yes, I've written in every field except bestseller (laughs), just about. I've done nurse-doctor romances; the last ten years from about 1980 on I was doing historical adventure romances and I have published a couple of non-fiction books. One of them was a book about Wild Card Poker and; I guess the best known book in North Carolina is "The Beachcombers Handbook of Seafood Cookery," which was published way back in the '60s wasn't it Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Zachary: Sixty-nine.
Hugh Zachary: And stayed in print until just last couple of years and..
Hayes: And that's your partner on that exercise is someone well known to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, John Blair, publisher. John Blair was a fine; he was a true Southern gentlemen. Did you ever get to know John Blair? One of the last of the Southern gentlemen; he was a great guy and he arranged to use Claude Howell's drawings and paintings to illustrate the book which really gave it a shot in the arm. I think that was one of the things that made it so popular. The other thing was that it was written in a very conversational, informal style, much more than a cookbook, just about living around here. Salt marsh river, ocean, how to peel a shrimp, very simple; it came about-- I thought this was interesting. Elizabeth went down to a local seafood market one day to buy some fish or something. And there as a lady from upstate in there that bought five pounds of shrimp and she said, "Is this going t be enough for two?" (laughs) Elizabeth came home and told me about that and I said, "We better do a basic book about seafood and how to eat and how to prepare it around here." So that was what-- we gathered up recipes from all the ladies in Southport and a few of them on Long Beach and just put basic stuff in there. A lot of these ladies in Southport have been here when things were hard. When you sold the best part of the catch and ate fish heads and grits for your own dinner so there's some real basic recipes in it.
Hayes: How many years was it in print?
Hugh Zachary: Sixty-three to about two years ago.
Elizabeth Zachary: Sixty-nine.
Hugh Zachary: Sixty-nine, excuse me, sixty-nine until about two years ago.
Hayes: That's amazing. I hope you had good residuals on that one over the years?
Hugh Zachary: Paid, I got two little checks every month. I mean, every-- two-- or twice a year, excuse me, not every month. It was John Blair's best selling book other than The Hattersman. The Hattersman was the only one that had sold more copies.
Hayes: So you had historical fiction, now that's some of those series like the Library is collecting all the ones that you did in "The White Indian Series." You might tell us a little bit about how that came about and what that process was like?
Hugh Zachary: Alright. "The White Indian Series," had gone through I think about eight books and the writer got tired of writing them. And the outfit that had created the series asked me if I would like to take it over so I started off with book nine, I believe it was. It was called, "War Drums." This is a-- it's an interesting thing when you jump in and try to make a continuity out of something that somebody else has done. I did a lot of reading, a lot of research and had a lot of fun with the book because Renno, the White Indian went through out; I don't know how many generations by the time I'd finished with him with a book called. What was the last one? I don't know. I'll get it later. He was a Seneca Indian who had moved south to live with the Cherokee's were the part of his tribe. He helped George Washington win the Revolutionary War for example, and then when I took over; he became involved with several Presidents. With Jefferson and Monroe and Adams and it was fun; Renno could run all the way from the start of the Saint Lawrence Seaway to New York without stopping to eat or drink water; he was a Superman. He never lost a battle. He always won no matter what the odds. But he was a human being at least I think I made him so and; I also got a chance to grind a few axes in two ways. "Lo, the poor Indian and to heck with poor Indian," (laughs), you know (laughs)? The Indians who were mistreated, like when Jackson moved the Cherokees and the Choctaws out of their home they deserved sympathy; their descendents are still living on the Federal Treasury don't deserve sympathy. They need to get out and work so that's why I say, "Lo, the poor Indian and to heck with the poor Indian."
Hayes: You said yourself, you have Indian heritage?
Hugh Zachary: Sixteenth Cherokee, yes. My uncle Bill Zachary was a Cherokee Chief, yes.
Hayes: You had to take over from the person, how soon before you felt it was your own character that you could slough off that previous eight or nine volumes?
Hugh Zachary: About the third book, I began to creep into it slowly to change things so that the people up at the company wouldn't be too upset.
Hayes: You said in one aside that you weren't "a bestseller writer," and yet that series has sold millions.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, well, they were always on the bookstore list, there are all kinds of bestsellers. Of course, the prime thing is to be on the New York Times bestseller list. That means, if you have a hardcover book; you've 30,000 copies isn't that terrific? You're a bestseller with 30,000 copies and then there's several others but then the bookstore bestseller list, that's what "The White Indian Series," always hit. Means it was in the big-big bookstores like, what? The two big ones in Wilmington, I can't even think of the name now.
Hayes: Barnes and Noble?
Hugh Zachary: Barnes and Noble and..
Hugh Zachary: No, the one out in Oleander.
Hugh Zachary: Waldenbooks and then the one in Independence Mall, whatever they are. Yes, they-- when they hit the bookstore list that means it's going to make some money.
Hayes: I read one of the covers and it said, "10 million sold," over the series.
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Hayes: That's a tremendous compliment.
Hugh Zachary: Probably much more than that- that 10 million was about mid-series so no telling how many finally sold.
Hayes: So, how do you feel? Do you feel good about so many people are enjoying what you're writing or do you have any connection to that? Maybe you don't as a writer ever experience that?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, I get fan mail and since I went on the Internet, I get a lot of e-mail from people who are still reading the books. Science-fiction books and whatever, I just had one just this morning. A lady was looking for two particular volumes that she hadn't been able to find. I happen to have one of them in surplus here so I mailed it off to her because; a good fan is hard to find (laughs). But I-- the books that I enjoyed writing most-- well, I enjoyed The White Indian Series, but I took over another series called, The Children of the Lion, and wrote three books, only three books in it and what it was mix Biblical characters with fictional characters. The same format that was used in The White Indian, and I really enjoyed that because I went over to the Bible bookstore and bought about $200 or $300 worth of Bible reference books and I just dived into the Old Testament. The Books of Judge-- no, the Books of Kings, really, in the Old Testament and found things in there. I've read the Bible many times but I found things in there that I've never found before that were so interesting. So many stories in the Bible just-- you could spend the rest of your life writing books that you get idea from the Bible like one of David's strong men went down into a pit one day and slew a lion. Now, man, there's a story there, you know. I never did write it but it's still there.
Hayes: We have historical type, talk a little bit about the science-fiction, you said that was later?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, I'd written-- I had sold a lot of books before I finally broke into the science-fiction market and what I was a "space-opera" writer mostly. Now the book of Rack the Healer, couldn't be classified as that. There's one called, The Legend of Miaree which flew in the face of convention at that time because it featured a race of women, very, very attractive not human but very attractive women who were dominated by a race of men. And one of the old time writers I think it's Theodore Sturgeon, I'm not sure, in his review he said, "Zachary's really got his nerve to write a book about women being dominated by men in this climate." You know this was after Rush Limbaugh's "Feminazi's" began to make so much noise. But I started a series of science-fiction books on- loosely, loosely, loosely organized. It didn't feature the same characters or anything like that but it was in the same time period called, The United Planet Series, maybe a takeoff on Asimov's Empire.
Hayes: Who was your publisher for that?
Hugh Zachary: Ballentine.
Hayes: Because it seemed like your science-fiction work were in a very strong well known publisher.
Hugh Zachary: Berkley/Ballentine. Latter years it was narrowed down to NAO but before that just about everybody had published science-fiction.
Hayes: And how did you do? Birdie has told me that those even within the science-fiction field were winning awards and nominated for awards.
Hugh Zachary: They always got nominated by the old timers, not the new breed. The "fanzines," are you familiar with "fanzines?" The little rags published by science-fiction fans. Fanzines tore me up because I wasn't into sword-and-sorcery. They didn't like the old fashioned "space-opera" stuff. But the Nebula nominations came from people that I really respected.
Hayes: Well that's good. Do you know who they were?
Hugh Zachary: Theodore Sturgeon was one of them. I'd have to check back into my scrapbook to see who the others were because..
Hayes: Was Asimov active still within this time period?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, I never had any contact with Asimov though; he was the "King," and he didn't have much time for the science-fiction world or for fans or anything else.
Hayes: He went onto so many other different things later in his career.
Hugh Zachary: Yes. I met some of the great ones at Fan-- at what they call "Cannes," the Science Fiction Conventions, Ray Bradbury. He was a nice fellow; a nice fellow. I can't-- met a lot of them but I can't remember who-- can't remember the names right. Now who's the young guy from California, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Zachary: Alan Dean Foster.
Hugh Zachary: Alan Dean Foster; he was another guy who was born just a little bit too late. Because he would have been one of the great-great ones if he had been around in the Golden Age of Science Fiction, still did alright. He-- Alan Dean has written some great books but-- they-- in general I had used a lot of pen-names as you have probably observed but..
Hayes: What are some of those? Tell us for the record here.
Hugh Zachary: Oh gosh, I don't remember them. Elizabeth, do you remember any of those? Yes, Elizabeth, I used some of those on romance books, I believe.
Hayes: And then there was, "The Porter," what was that?
Hugh Zachary: That was a house name on one of the series you know, that's an interesting story. You remember the American. What's the name of that America Series, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Zachary: The Kent Family.
Hugh Zachary: The Kent Family Chronicles. A guy named Lyle Engle established a book finding company and what his-- what he did was replace editors. The publishing industry was already beginning to cut down and count pennies and they dealt with these book finders. He picked up a science-fiction writer, not too successful and gave him an outline to write the first Kent Family book. That series made millions for everybody and all of a sudden, John Jakes this not too successful science-fiction writer who had been picked up by Lyle Engle to do the series decided he was a real writer. He didn't want to work with a-- he didn't want to work with a book finding company anymore. So he left them in midstream and wrote North and South, and because of the tremendous success of The Bastard series; North and South was an immense hit. And it was such a lousy, crummy, unreal book; I- it just-- I can't believe it.
Hayes: You used the term "book finding company," tell us that within the industry. What was that?
Hugh Zachary: Let me get finished this story first. How house names came about. When Jakes left they called me in and said, "I want you to take over this series." The Bastards series, I said, "Who-oui, now we're going to make some money." But Jakes wouldn't let him use his name and without his name; it wasn't the series. So he cost everybody millions there including me, that's the reason why I think he's such a poor writer because he (laughs).
Hayes: (laughs) At least you're honest about it (laughs).
Hugh Zachary: (laughs) But after that they would always have a house named-- they owned the name as in The White Indian series. I think that's Donald Clayton Quarter.
Hayes: That's right.
Hugh Zachary: The first Donald Clayton Quarter wasn't his-- he was somebody else and then I'm Donald Clayton Quarter and then I think somebody else has written a couple of books since I stopped so that's how house names came about. Now what was the question?
Hayes: You said a "book finder."
Hugh Zachary: A book finder, okay, that's the work that editors used to do. He finds a writer. He assigns him a subject. He sells the book or the idea to a publisher. His editors edit it and give the publisher a "printer ready manuscript," so that they don't have to hire editors any more, you know? And that's one of the things that's wrong with the publishing industry today too, the same old book; the same old authors. I was in a bookstore the other day and there were a bunch of ladies in there talking and they happened to be talking about romance novels. And they were saying, "Hey, I'm tired of the secret baby plot." And I said, "What's the 'secret baby plot?'" They say, "Well, woman has an affair; she has a baby. The man doesn't know about until ten years later." And she said, "We get into these books. We pay whatever romance books cost these days, five, six dollars, seven dollars?" They pay that for a book; they start it. They say, "Hey, I've read this book." S.O.B., same old book; go into a bookstore, thirty writers dominate the front racks. The same old writers a lot of times; the same old book, although, there are some of them who still have pride in their work and turn out a good book each time.
Elizabeth Zachary: Add in here?
Hayes: We're all set. Joining us now is Elizabeth and is that what go by, Elizabeth? I've been saying that.
Elizabeth Zachary: Well, generally, I go by "Liz," because I grew up with the nickname "Sugar," and I had visions. Everybody called me "Sugar," but I had visions of growing older and at eighty being you know, very old and decrepit and having people say, "Hi, Sugar, how are you?" And I thought, it's time my name is Elizabeth but now most people call me "Liz," and I'm comfortable with that.
Hayes: Down here in the South, that "Sugar" would have been fine, wouldn't it, or no?
Elizabeth Zachary: It was fine until I was forty.
Hugh Zachary: There are still a lot of people who call her that.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, there's still a lot of people that call me that and- but..
Hayes: Anyway, we're going to retread back to an earlier question which was the fact that the writing was a family business of sorts and talk to us, the two of you, about what it involved to sustain it? It isn't just a single person's effort to have a professional writer succeed.
Hugh Zachary: First of all, to give credit to Elizabeth, as I said, she-- when that first year ran out. I said, "I'm going to start looking for a job." She said, "No, you give it one more year, I'll go get a job." So throughout the last thirty-seven years off and on; she would go out and get a job and support the writer which I appreciated immensely. However, she gained something too because even though it was an up and down business; there were years when well for example; one year we'd go to Jamaica for not just a week but twenty days. Go out and pay cash for a new Fiat sports coup and two or three years later; we'd be selling furniture out of the house including the dining room table and chairs to keep a kid in college.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: So, I give Elizabeth very much credit for allowing me to do what I wanted to do.
Hayes: That's because the pattern of payments are so unpredictable. Is that the problem with the writing industry?
Hugh Zachary: And the fact that the industry decides it's going to go into a self made depression every now and then. In 1976- '77 it decided that nobody bought or read books but women; I was writing men's adventure stories. In 1977 I made $2200 writing, I had to go out and supplement it in other ways. I cleaned houses for builders for example, and I think Elizabeth was working again at that time too.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: We did whatever it took but most of the time, it was great. We had-- we always had one half, we always had one-half of the formula: Time plus money equals freedom. We always had the time and we had a little bit of money. Now, to use the time, I would things like build this brick patio behind me and then at one period of time we had a boat that we tied up at the dock there and for about, I think, five to seven years. Three to five times a week, we were out in the briny deep fishing so we had good times and we had tight times, but it was neat. I once sent Elizabeth up to New York to find me an agent and I would like to have her to tell you about that experience. How she became a New York streetwalker.
Elizabeth Zachary: Actually, he sent me to New York; I had a dollar and a quarter in my pocketbook.
Hugh Zachary: And a ride with a friend.
Elizabeth Zachary: I had a ride with a friend and a place to stay which was nice but..
Hugh Zachary: And we had money on the way too, so.
Elizabeth Zachary: But that was the reason I went was to try to get money out of the publisher and; when I got there I had a ball. I mean I had a fine time but I just-- well, y'all-- you'll have to-- the sense of humor. The publisher took me to a hotel lobby one day. You know, we live in the South; we didn't have hotels like this but we walked in. A very nice hotel and this nice little five piece-- what do you call them? Little band was playing, it was very nice and we were sitting there and he had brought the check. Now, I had been there almost six weeks waiting for the check; I couldn't come home (laughs).
Hayes: It took him six weeks for him to finally get the check?
Elizabeth Zachary: For me to get money that they owed us (laughs) and so we were sitting in there and; we had a couple of adventures together. He had asked me one day, "Have you ever," he said, "Have you." He said, "I know where you can get the world's largest martini," and I said, "Okay." This was back in the day when I would take a little sip and y'all remember, I'm from the South; my family taught me how drink booze and branch water, that's the way we did it. But we went to get "the biggest martini in the world" and I poured him into a cab (laughs) and, I had to find my way home. The next day he was so apologetic. I said, "Honey, I gotta tell you, I'm from the South. Most southerners can usually drink. We don't drink mixed-drink. We drink it straight" But when we went into this hotel, we were sitting in the bar at a nice table and he said, "Here's the check." And I looked at it, I could not resist this, I had to do it. And I looked at him and I said, "I want you to know; I'm not used to.."
Hugh Zachary: Don't go away from the microphone (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: Okay, excuse me. I said, "I am not used to taking money from men in hotels (laughs)." The poor man, he just turned red (laughs), you know. He took me to the Four Seasons and I let him. I thought, "Well, I know how to do this. I can be sophisticated and continental. I'll let him order, so he ordered shrimp and here I live on the coast. And I-- Hugh had written; we'd written the cookbook together (laughs) and I liked the idea. But I had great adventures and as far as "walking the streets;" I really literally had to do that because I didn't have money for the subway or the cab.
Hugh Zachary: But you lost twenty pounds.
Elizabeth Zachary: I did. I did. It worked well.
Hugh Zachary: It looked good when I got her back.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) and the amazing thing about it was as large as New York is, I found that people are so friendly. All you do is smile at them. They're just like everybody the rest of the world over, most people are lonely but..
Hugh Zachary: Get to the agent, Jay Acton.
Elizabeth Zachary: Oh, the, oh yes.
Hayes: Different story?
Elizabeth Zachary: The same time. I was there six weeks and I kept running into people I knew all over New York City.
Hugh Zachary: Get to the agent.
Elizabeth Zachary: Hugh is always editing me, y'all.
Hayes: That's the writer coming out.
Elizabeth Zachary: That's it. Edit, edit, edit. Finally it did make an appointment with a literary agent and his name was Jay Acton and he was over in the Old Dutch section of town. And lived in-I mean had his office was a fantastic historical building and when I went in and he had, amazingly enough; he had almost all of Hugh's books on his shelf. And so when I went in he said, "You did come in a Rolls Royce didn't you?" And I said, "No." I said, "I think I transferred buses three or four times to get here (laughs)." But that was-- it was fun. It was an adventure. I learned a lot of things.
Hugh Zachary: This was a big time lawyer-agent and I thought I really had it made. He was really going to put on top. He said, "Hugh, move to New York, and I'll have you a bestseller within two years." And I said, "Well, I can't move to New York right now. I just can't afford it." But he was going to handle me anyhow, until Helen Van Slyke hit. She was a writer of sort of turgid jet-set type novels. And she hit so big that she took up all of his time and he had to dump me so there went my big time lawyer-agent. And I was out in the field, people say I'm bitter when I talk about things like that but; luck has a bearing on just about anything you do.
Elizabeth Zachary: Timing.
Hugh Zachary: And I had one good agent who died, I had another good agent who had-- who got this multi-million contract in movies and all that and he had to spend all of time doing that so, there I was.
Hayes: Well, tell us a little bit about some of these agents, in other words, what was the role of an agent? What were they supposed to do for you?
Hugh Zachary: An agent is supposed to know the literary market and he's supposed to know editors and he goes to lunch with them and buys them drinks and tell them about his client's book.
Hayes: So they are salespersons almost?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, yes. They go between-- throughout most of my career I sold more books for myself than agents sold for me because..
Hayes: What do you have to pay an agent?
Hugh Zachary: Ten percent, fifteen these days but it used to be that you could submit directly to a publisher. They called it "over-the-transom." And they had readers there who lived to find a good book coming in over the transom. They really searched for them.
Hayes: When did that start to change, at what time?
Hugh Zachary: And- when the bean counters took over, when the conglomerates began to buy up all the publishing houses.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: It used to be that I could send a book of fiction to twenty-five to thirty markets. There were that many publishers of fiction. Nowadays, you can send them to only three to six depending on what type book it is because; they've all become conglomerated under one roof, like most of good paperback house are all under one roof: Bantam, Pocketbooks, Ballentine, a whole bunch of them.
Hayes: So the outsider doesn't realize those are really all the same company.
Hugh Zachary: That's right.
Elizabeth Zachary: Absolutely.
Hayes: They're the same people and then they just rename it? Are there editor teams for each of those divisions?
Hugh Zachary: They tell you that if you submit to one of them that the rejection counts for all of them, so (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: It's a tough market but it's a good life if that's the way you want to live; you can make it an adventurous one. We always did. We tried to because we knew that if we kept out attitude up-- it was like, "Hey, we were broke but we were never poor in spirit and attitude." And it was fun because we got to do a lot of things that other people didn't. Just like the day that we-- I'll throw in the Myrtle Beach story. Nicky Spillane lives down at Pawleys Island.
Hugh Zachary: Sherman (inaudible) and I believe it's Pawleys Island.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, and we were in Myrtle Beach and we said, "Let's just go see if Mickey Spillane is home?" We'd never met Mickey Spillane but we thought, hey, what in the world would we lose? So, we went and we knocked on the door and Mickey Spillane came to the door and; we told him who we were. And we said, "We don't want to take up your time. We just wanted to come, say hello and tell you how much we enjoy your writing and how much we've enjoyed your books." And he invited us in and I think we spent..
Hugh Zachary: He said, "I don't have too much time, now. I've got the-- got these things to do and we finally tore ourselves away from about three hours later, though (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: We had a ball. He's a-- we got to trade war stories.
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: Absolutely.
Hayes: Because you were doing some detective..?
Hugh Zachary: I've written a couple of them but I don't remember when-- you know the time period. One thing Mickey said that interested me very much. He has-- he was at that time and this has been years ago; he was writing children's stories and he said, "Children's books; I have made more money out of these children's books than I ever made out of Mike Hammer."
Elizabeth Zachary: Absolutely.
Hugh Zachary: And he said, "I've made more money out of my TV commercials than I ever made out of writing," (laughs) and so.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) So it sort of makes you understand the variances there because actually, as popular as Mickey Spillane was he was not overly wealthy.
Hugh Zachary: Well, he was writing Mike Hammer, back in the times when paperbacks sold for what, under about twenty-five cents?
Elizabeth Zachary: Twenty-five, fifty cents.
Hugh Zachary: So 10% of twenty-five cents is not a heck of a lot of money, even if it was 1950s dollars, you know.
Elizabeth Zachary: But he was like Hugh, it was something they had to do. It was-- they had to and..
Hayes: Well, how about overseas trips? You mentioned, Jamaica, what are some of the other places that this profession has taken the two of you?
Elizabeth Zachary: Well, we went to England in 1976, we thought we'd re-conquer, you know, the (laughs). But that one was-- we went over on a fluke. And we thought that this-- it would be great to get the experience and to live over there and we loved it. We were over there eight months and probably would have been over there longer if Hugh's tugboat that he was anchor handling out in the North Sea in the oil fields.
Hugh Zachary: Had to pay for the trip some way.
Hayes: Wait a minute, let's..
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Back up (laughs).
Hayes: We missed the point here, what? Tugboat, what did that mean?
Hugh Zachary: At one time the Army had a Navy over here in Southport. They had two round bottom harbor tugs that they took soldiers from Fort Bragg out fishing.
Elizabeth Zachary: R&R.
Hugh Zachary: This was the reward for being good boys and they Captain of one of them was a-- oh, he was a fine fellow. His name was Ray Lionberry and when he got out of the Army he went down into what is now Belize to look for gold and almost got killed down there. And the next time I heard from him, he was over in the Java Sea captaining a tugboat working in the offshore oil fields and he said; "Come on over." We go out and we spent six months at a time out on the Java Sea where the temperature is about 120." I said, "Ray, I don't believe I want to do that."
Elizabeth Zachary: You did too much adventure (laughs).
Hugh Zachary: He called me from the Bass Straights, down south of Australia, one of the roughest pieces of water in the world. He said, "Hugh, come on over. We only spend ninety days at sea over here (laughs)." And finally when he called from England, we were really ready for a change. The kids had gotten married and we were running a little, old flower shop that we got into without really intending to. Keeping it open six days a week and also running a cabinet business and doing the writing. We both were just about maxed out so Ray calls. He said, "I got you a job over here. We just spend thirty days at a time, out at sea. You'll be a trainee mate at $154 a day plus end of bonus, end of contract training- bonus, I get it right after a while. Well, $154 a day in 1976 was real money.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: It was good money so I said, "How soon do I have to be there?" He said, "As soon as you can." And I walked into the flower shop and said, "How'd you like to go to England?" Elizabeth created a little poster right quick and put it in the window, "Garage Sale, Going To England." We closed out that store in about two weeks.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Gone.
Hugh Zachary: So I spent thirty days at a time out on a tugboat and she ran around England having fun.
Elizabeth Zachary: I loved it. I loved it.
Hugh Zachary: Then when I would come home we'd hop over to Paris and see all the museums or get in the car. One month we did-- we got in the car. Bought a little car as soon as we got there, the banks loaned me the money on the basis of my job with the tugboat company. And we'd get in that car and just take off with maps, we were headed for Stonehenge but; we discovered so many fantastic things along the way. Like driving along the road and all of a sudden here's a Roman amphitheater. I had no idea there was anything like that in England but..
Elizabeth Zachary: Start Over Bridge and saw the sign "Cam, River Cam." I said, "This is Cambridge!" It suddenly dawned on me, y'all. I'm brilliant. The-- like-- Yarmouth, that's the Yar River at the mouth.
Hugh Zachary: At the mouth of the Yar, those English people knew how to speak English.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) And Cambridge, the town is named because somebody built a bridge over the Cam River (laughs). And so hey, we just had the most fantastic adventures just walking; just driving, no tours, no nothing and I loved to go downtown and just sit on a park, I mean a bus bench. And have people-- we'd just get in the most fantastic conversations.
Hugh Zachary: We'd go down to what they called, "The Pleasure Beach," and on the North Sea they would have little booths. The little stores were sometimes as small as 5x6, just little cubby-holed but there was one that sold Brazil nut coated in..?
Elizabeth Zachary: Butter.
Hugh Zachary: No, it was butterscotch.
Elizabeth Zachary: Butterscotch.
Hugh Zachary: They called them, "buttered Brazils." I paid $10 a pound for them (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: Uhm.. good. (laughs)
Hugh Zachary: I've tried to get people to bring me buttered Brazils from England ever since and I haven't had one since and they were lovely.
Hayes: Did you use? Do you find that from the adventures they flow into the work? If not directly do you they infuse the work?
Hugh Zachary: Well, again, I was born too late. That North Sea thing..
Elizabeth Zachary: Can I tell that one?
Hugh Zachary: Tell what?
Elizabeth Zachary: Hugh came home with a fantastic book because nobody had any idea about the North Sea. When I went up to Scotland to join him one time, I took one look and this was at the end of a storm and I said, "Boy, you're not going back out on that thing," and this was just a..
Hugh Zachary: But I did.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, he did but they had, had an accident out there so they had to come back in. But when he came back home he really wrote a fantastic book about that, about an engineering feat.
Hugh Zachary: It's an engineering feat that's the equivalent of the Suez or the Panama Canal.
Elizabeth Zachary: Fantastic.
Hugh Zachary: Maybe just a little less than the Pyramids but there were drilling wells in 400 feet of water in the roughest body of water in the world.
Elizabeth Zachary: In the world.
Hugh Zachary: Waves 77 feet high would come through now and then.
Elizabeth Zachary: But he set this on the anchor handler which is a tugboat and it had Spanish seamen and all of them were from different areas of Spain so they couldn't understand each other. I'm not going to tell you the two words, or three words they knew.
Hugh Zachary: (laughs)
Elizabeth Zachary: But it was "bleep North Sea," that was the three words they knew.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, and the name of the tugboat, "Sandy Olearia." The "blank" Sandy Olearia on the "blank" North Sea and they stayed out there for six months at a time.
Elizabeth Zachary: Absolutely.
Hugh Zachary: (inaudible)
Elizabeth Zachary: They did but they had Scottish engineer and an English co-captain.
Hugh Zachary: A mate.
Elizabeth Zachary: Mate.
Hugh Zachary: I was a "trainee mate."
Elizabeth Zachary: And he was a trainee mate and then the American.
Hugh Zachary: Captain.
Elizabeth Zachary: Captain, now this was the crew; they were out there a month at a time so when Hugh wrote the book and just all the things that happened out there the lives that were lost-- everything else. The editors wrote back and said, "We love it! We love it!" The only thing is, "We would like for you to make the Captain a female." (laughs)
Hugh Zachary: This was right at the beginning, you know, this was when it all started (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Whoops!
Hugh Zachary: (laughs) You know I should have done it because that book is still my under my desk in there and never did get published.
Elizabeth Zachary: But it was-- oh.
Hugh Zachary: But one book we had fun with..
Elizabeth Zachary: And the story about the North Sea has still never been written by someone who has actually gone.
Hugh Zachary: One of these days, Alistair Mc-- what's his name?
Elizabeth Zachary: Alistair McClaine.
Hugh Zachary: Alistair McClaine touched on it in one book but it was obviously that he just flown over it or something.
Elizabeth Zachary: No, it's still like the same thing. You know you've got to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk and..
Hugh Zachary: Elizabeth and I had fun with a book called, what was it called? Of Love and Battle.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: We like-- of course, we were both products of World War II. We were teenagers during the War. I just missed it by one year and we decided after watching all the movies and reminiscing and all that. We decided we were going to do a war story and our intent was to put the emotion into it that we used to know. Like she was engaged to a guy who was shot down on his first mission over Germany in a P47 and; I had uncles and a step-dad in the war and was very much involved. You know in the whole affair, emotionally; so we sat down to write a book that would make even the young people of today tear up. And there were times that we would go at each other like two New Jersey building contractors. I mean full voice. That we would come in the evening and you know, I'd be writing some other book while we were planning this. We'd come into the living room in the evening and pull out the old '78s. The old 1940s music, open a bottle of wine and talk about what we were going to do in this book so; we had a lot of fun. And Elizabeth got into discussions with the young editor who was in her twenties, I believe; your turn.
Elizabeth Zachary: I finally had to suggest she go and read the history book and see how it ended.
Hugh Zachary: She said, "Who won that war?" (laughs)
Elizabeth Zachary: It was-- you know, it was the times and she wanted us to put the situation-- the heroine in a situation in the '80s, you know.
Hayes: This was when- you were writing the book in the '80s?
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, we were writing the book in the '80s and it was-- that's fine. It just was the situation.
Hugh Zachary: It wasn't that kind of book.
Elizabeth Zachary: You know the significance of living with the person.
Hugh Zachary: We wanted to be true to times.
Elizabeth Zachary: We wanted to be true to the times. I personally didn't know anyone that did that and didn't grow up that way. We didn't use language like we do today you know, then.
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: So we really were trying to be true to the time. They didn't like our slang.
Hugh Zachary: World War II slang just tore her out of her frame. She just did not understand, "See you later, alligator."
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Or things like that.
Hugh Zachary: Or, "After a while, crocodile."
Elizabeth Zachary: Or, "Zip the lip." (laughs) You know, and all this.
Hayes: Did you finish the book?
Hugh Zachary: Oh, it was published.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yeah, in fact Ballentine..
Hugh Zachary: But she made the editor so mad they only printed 30,000 copies.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Seriously, you know.
Hayes: They sold all 30,000?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, I didn't get any remainders or anything.
Hayes: That's very good.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, we- and it was a good book. And the one thing that we really appreciated was the fact that we took what really was an age of innocence-- very quickly, in the '40s. Seventeen year olds, eighteen year olds, going off to Boot Camp or whatever, to train and then overseas they would go and; they were dead in two or three months. And this was quite-- our innocence just ended (snaps finger) like this and we had to face reality and so it-- that was what were trying to get through. And how people-- their courage-- the courage. I grew up in Fayetteville so I was there with Fort Bragg and it was a tremendous impact but I loved it. Because we would have young people call us or write and just say, "I just couldn't get through the book. I cried all the way through," which is what we wanted to do, to bring out that emotion, to bring history into it. To make it..
Hayes: Did you get reaction from people who had been through the war as well?
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Hayes: That would be the other audience that would..
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, yes, and it was-- we had hoped that, that one might make a movie. It was good enough to do that.
Hugh Zachary: One of these days, I'll take it and re-write it; put 25% new material in it, re-copyright it and sell it again (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: Which is one thing that happens nowadays, too, in fact what we used to call "plagiarism," seems to be an accepted act today (laughs).
Hugh Zachary: Well, my god, you could submit Gone With the Wind, and the editors in New York wouldn't recognize it.
Elizabeth Zachary: Well, maybe not that one but..
Hugh Zachary: All the good editors are dead or retired. What we've got now is little girls two year Bryn Mawr, very Liberal. They insert "Fem-Lib" English into my golden prose. They change my geographical location (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: That's one thing you know, whenever you pick up a book and it says, "The rock bound.."
Hugh Zachary: "The rock bound shore of the Cape Fear."
Elizabeth Zachary: "..of the Cape Fear," (laughs).
Hugh Zachary: I may be talking about way up inland.
Hayes: Not too many rocks (laughs) here.
Hugh Zachary: Not too many.
Elizabeth Zachary: No, not too many.
Hayes: How long have you been here at this particular location?
Elizabeth Zachary: Since 1968.
Hayes: So you moved first to Long-?
Hugh Zachary: Long Beach.
Hayes: Long Beach and then here and it's a beautiful house. Do you feel that the writer needs kind of a sanctuary? Has it served as a sanctuary or is that pivotal you think, to your writing? You know, some people talk about a space they need to have to be some place.
Hugh Zachary: I think that in my particular case I needed a place like this. A quiet place, because I had very few interruptions. Although, I could handle the family interruptions and things like that. A writer who goes off to a cottage in Maine or somewhere to write a book, no; I wouldn't want to do that. Because I do want to go out to a restaurant now and then and see some people but just when I want to do it, you know?
Hayes: Is writing a lonely exercise for you or an exciting exercise, in other words, for most of us who never could write a whole book. We don't really understand what's it like for that person? What's the exercise like?
Hugh Zachary: No one ever sees you working. Let me say two things about that. I, you know, go off to these writers' conferences and I hear people talk about "inspiration." You know, "I had to wait for the inspiration." Well, I had to see to it that I was inspired every morning between 8:30 and 9:00. What was the question? I had another point I wanted to make there?
Hayes: Well, the process is a lonely process.
Hugh Zachary: Oh, the process, okay. I like to write like I read, to find out what happens next and my best books come that way. You know, I don't know. I have a basic idea. I know where I'm going and I know where I'm going to start and I know the people because; I'll spend some time getting to know these people. But I don't know, one guy over here will decide he doesn't want to do what I wanted to do and he just takes off on his own and it's the things like that. I would just-- when I was writing fiction I could go in there and within fifteen minutes I was in another world.
Elizabeth Zachary: Absolutely.
Hugh Zachary: I was just off, living what I put on the paper and I was writing first draft, maybe that's why I never had a bestseller.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) He couldn't spell worth a darn.
Hugh Zachary: I have to congratulate the editors who worked with me through all those years before the age of the computer because; oh, Lord, I was a bad speller and took a lot of work on my manuscripts.
Hayes: You really lived the novels that you were writing. You were in that scene in your own mind.
Hugh Zachary: Yes. Yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: I think every writer that I ever heard really talk about it says the same thing.
Hugh Zachary: Well, let me put it this way. I was seeing it happen as if I were watching a movie on a big screen. That's not really living it myself but watching it-- observing it. The best editor I ever worked with- well, there was one at John Blair that was a lovely; she was not even a fulltime editor. But she was a lovely lady and knew what she was doing; she edited the cookbook and was of immense help. Made it a great book; a better book than it ever would have been.
Hayes: What was her name?
Hugh Zachary: I don't remember, unfortunately. There was a lady called, "Red Wool." Who worked for Vanguard, they published The Venus Venture, which is one of the few books that I put my own name on. If you run into a book that you see "Hugh Zachary" on, you know that I liked it. I wrote that one for me. And this one came out of our experience in Europe when we went over to England and Paris and Elizabeth was-- I patterned the female character after Elizabeth and roughly, the male character after me although a little more handsome. And it was a "big caper" book. A big caper, that's a specific crime thing you know, like the Brinks Robbery or something like that, or, Frank Sinatra and his hoods going into rob the Casino at..
Hayes: The big caper?
Hugh Zachary: And what the object of the big caper was to steal the Venus De Milo from the Louerve and I mixed in with all the North Sea stuff in that book too. So some of the North Sea experience did get into print; beautiful reviews. A rave in the New York Times from a really tough guy. Vanguard though, they didn't really care whether they sold books or not they were an "art house." They were "a prestige house." They just wanted to put good books out there; they didn't care whether they made money so I think they printed maybe 30,000, 40,000 copies. They called me up and said, "Hugh, we're going to remainder this." Oh, somebody had bought them out. I think Random House bought them I believe and they said, "Hugh, we've got the remainder of the The Venus Venture." We've got 3,000 copies. You want them?" It just so happened that I had just handled 8,000 pamphlets that size for our business. I went over to pick them up at the printers in my Cadillac thinking I could get them into the trunk and I ended up having to rent a U-Haul truck to get those eight. So I happened-- I had good sense then. I've had that experiences so I said, "I don't think I can handle 3,730." But I give them away like popcorn, everyone comes around; I've still got about 200 (laughs).
Hayes: But you're proud of that book.
Hugh Zachary: That's a good book in my opinion, that's a Zachary book.
Hayes: That's excellent.
Elizabeth Zachary: It's amazing that most of the consensus on Hugh's books are-- they're all. They're good books. He is a good writer. He's a good storyteller and he gets across what he plans to do and he makes the people real. And he used to do seminars around here because, we always wanted to encourage people who wanted to write and that was one thing he said. You've got to take into consideration; you've got to learn your craft. Writing is just like any other career; it's a craft you have to learn it.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, self taught. I infuriated one of the creative writing teachers over at UNC-- not, oh, several years ago. He asked me to come over and talk to his class and he was sorry that he did because (laughs) one of the things I'd said was-- I think his name is "Dick," wasn't it?
Elizabeth Zachary: I don't remember.
Hugh Zachary: I don't remember so let's say it was "Dick."
Hayes: A long time ago.
Elizabeth Zachary: A long time ago.
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: No, I'm sure he's not.
Hugh Zachary: I said, "Hey, y'all, now Dick can't teach you to write; nobody can teach you write. You have to teach yourself." And I said, "The purpose of this class-- this Creative Writing class is to make you do it. It's to force you to start writing."
Hayes: I don't think, I've talked to many of the current faculty and they have that same attitude, there's not a teaching how. In fact, the graduate program here to get in; you've already have to have demonstrated that you've already been writing because they know how hard it is for the person who wants to get started. So their students in the graduate program, most of them already have quite a bit of work and; I've talked to one faculty member and he said, "When we hire new faculty they have to be very accomplished because if the students have already started and many of them are very good, you want to be sure that the teacher also has a record." So the program now I think is following that same advice, having professionals in the field mentoring.
Elizabeth Zachary: That's a good word for it. It's just like when Claude was teaching over there, Claude did not have a degree and hey, when people first started teaching Painting and Art, nobody had a degree. It was mostly, you studied under someone and in painting it's the same thing; you learn the basics and then you go from there with your abilities. And you can't teach someone to paint; you can't teach someone to draw, you can teach them the basics and then they have to take their natural ability and put it together. And I think it's the same way with writing.
Hugh Zachary: The red light's on so it must be recording.
Hayes: Alright! Here we are on Tape 2 with continuing questions, perhaps a little later, Elizabeth will join us again. One question I wanted to know for people from this area since you stayed your whole career here. Well, not your whole career but most of your career. How much of North Carolina is in your work? If we ask you that, how much of North Carolina is in?
Hugh Zachary: Quite a bit, in fact, I've set several books in North Carolina-- excuse me. A Feast of Fat Things, which was one of my attempts at a serious novel. Used a town very much like Southport as a pattern, a lot of people in Southport or some of the old timers over there think that I also wrote about Southport people; if I did it was a composite, not any one individual. There was one real guy in there, his name was Pappy Stubbs. At that time he was 77 years old and he could lift a big diesel engine out of a shrimp boat all by himself with the aid of leverage and then-- things like that so, he was the only real character. What's happening?
Hayes: No, no, no. Fine. Keep going. I'm balancing the cable.
Hugh Zachary: Oh, I thought you turned it off. So all those people in Southport who said that you know, that they were in that book or; they knew somebody that was in there, no (laughs). Uh-uh.
Hayes: Do you have the disclaimer in the front?
Hugh Zachary: Well, yes, I guess all of it has that but it doesn't mean anything. I'm working with a man right now, I sometimes counsel other people on their books and he's an attorney up in New York. Had a very interesting story; oh, I don't know where I was going with that either let me see if I could think of the point that I was going to try to make. Oh yeah, we were talking about talking about putting real people into your books. Well, he's got a great story. He had a very interesting case and he's afraid that if he writes it the way it really happened that somebody will sue him. I said, "Heck, then we just move it somewhere else. We move it to Los Angeles or maybe Phoenix and change the names, change the details just a little bit and use the regular story," so real people do get into books but in disguise.
Hayes: What about your Indian Series? Have you been able to bring them into North Carolina, that particular one? You said that "Indian" has traveled all over the eastern seaboard.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, Renno quite often came to Wilmington and he knew all of the important people in North Carolina and what is now Tennessee.
Hayes: Tell us a little bit about your research methods because if you're writing even science-fiction and definitively history; you need to have a foundation of fact and mood otherwise. I would assume the readers get right on you.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, well, yes and no. Readers-- some of them could be pretty observant like if-- as in one book that I read. If you put Saint Joseph's, Missouri on the location of St. Louis, somebody's going to notice it or as Elizabeth was talking about earlier. If you put rocks along the mouth of the Cape Fear, somebody's going to notice it but; most people don't. But I always felt that it was a matter of integrity with me to try be just as true to history as possible so when I was writing a book, even one of these so called "pot boilers," The White Indian Series. The whole room would be papered with books open to a certain page or something and I tried to be very, very true to the ways of the Indians. Renno and his band of Senecas lived with the Cherokees out in that portion of the Tennessee territory west of the Smokey's and I tried to make it just as accurate as possible. All of the Indian customs and their food and their ways of treating illnesses and everything, I tried to stick with just as accurately as I could by doing a massive amount of research. Because I like to read and, I like to buy books and there you are.
Hayes: I notice you have a large video collection. Do you use film also as an inspiration? Do you use video programs to get material or is it mainly written material that was your source of information?
Hugh Zachary: Well, I wanted to write a book to be published for the centennial of the Spanish-American War but; the publishing industry didn't want one. But in preparation for that, I did use some video material because it was available. Yes, you know, to see Teddy Roosevelt in the flesh on the screen gives you a better idea about how to write about him.
Hayes: Any other North Carolina connections?
Hugh Zachary: Let me see, I think yes. Oh, yeah, let me tell you about that one; this is a great story. As I said, people say I'm bitter and I am in a way. But I've had a ball being bitter. I wrote a book called, Tide and this was a Marine disaster. You know, it sort of anticipated Festeria only worse. They put some kind of an atomic installation out where the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower is now, that-- this was a-- oh, it was a fish farm and they used some form of atomic energy. I don't know how it was. To keep the fish in the farm, you know, to have a barrier and this radiation caused the little micro-organism that causes red tide to mutate into something very, very mean, caused fish go crazy and eat people. And if people got it-- sent that out to the agent, not thirty days later she called up and said, "Hugh, how would you like to have a breakout bestseller?" I said, "I think I could stand that," because it was my turn, I thought. Putnam was going to do the big thing. Putnam Berkley, they were going to do a "big thing." Publish that with all the publicity. You know, bestsellers are not written; they're made. And they were going to make this into a bestseller until just before they started to write their-- start their publicity campaign, what's his name? Peter Benchley-- John V. Benchley's son-grandson-- Peter Benchley's Jaws was published with a great big splash. And Putnam said, "Well, we can only have marine peril-- we can't have two marine peril books on the bestseller list at the same time. So they published Tide as science-fiction and it went down the drain as usual. But what was the question (laughs)?
Hayes: You used North Carolina?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, oh, yes, yes. We called it-- I think I called it Southport-East Port, or something, no. I called it Smithville, the old name.
Hayes: The old name?
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: Men in Green.
Hugh Zachary: Men in Green, was set in Korea. It was right here on Oak Island during the building of a CP&L because they had bulldozers and everything here on the end of the island where-- the most beautiful part of the island. The nicest trees and everything else; I'm not a "tree hugger," but that was the nicest part of the island. They were up there just tearing up the trees, right and left. And you know that there are meteor lakes in North Carolina like White Lake is the impact of a meteor that left the thing gauged out. The shape and all-- at least that's the theory so in one of these little meteor lakes here in Oak Island; a strange form of intelligence had survived the crash and was now living in the water plants in the little lake. And when the trees began to be killed-- you know plants can feel pain and they scream when you try to burn them and stuff like-- now this is scientific. So, when those trees all started to be killed and hurt and everything, bulldozed down this aroused the alien intelligence in the water plants and it took over Grin's Mine and made quite a story. Incidentally, that book has been optioned to one of a sort of minor movie producer and maybe someday will be on film. I sold one other, one other book to the movies, well Tide as a matter of fact. Shelly Goldberg bought it to be a movie of the week on ABC but they never did produce it.
Hayes: Now how does that work when they buy it? They still pay you something?
Hugh Zachary: Yeah, they paid me for it. They also paid me to write the movie script. The screenplay, but they never did get around to doing it.
Hayes: That must happen a lot to people I assume.
Hugh Zachary: I imagine so. It takes a long, long time to get a project on the screen apparently, from what I know about it.
Hayes: Have you been interested in writing scripts in since then?
Hugh Zachary: I have done another one. The fellow who took the option on Gwen, In Green, wanted me to write a couple on speculation and I had a little Western novel that I'd done for M. Evans, called, Dos Caballeros, sort of a light hearted Western. And every now and then a Western will come along in the movies; they're beginning to be favored just a little bit. So I turned that into a screenplay and it's out on the market now but-- got to have-- you've got to have and you've got to get to the right people. I would like to get some of the people over in the movie studio in Wilmington and find out a little more about this process and maybe talk to some agent or something. But it's like-- that's like when Jay Acton said, "If you'll move to New York, I'll make you a bestseller." I've just been too happy here to get out and get things like that done (laughs).
Hayes: One of the things you talked about earlier were some of the experience that you had. You covered England and he oil fields. Are there other areas that you want to tell us about as far as different kinds of jobs or different things that you think have come into your books? You mentioned Jamaica, what was there?
Hugh Zachary: Jamaica, we had a multilevel marketing business going at the time and one of our distributions lived there so; he kept inviting us to come down and visit him. And so we went down to visit him and had a tour of the island like nobody has ever had before, I don't believe. We didn't go to the "touristy" places. Well, we did go to Dunns River Falls, the beautiful stream that comes down and runs right into the Caribbean but; we saw Jamaica and it was just lovely. I didn't know there were caves in Jamaica but Hal and I went caving, wading in bat guano about up to the ankles.
Hayes: Did that make it into one of your horror films?
Hugh Zachary: And let me tell you this, and I'll bet you this will shock you. Of course, I took a camera with me and I took some good pictures and; I did a lot of reading and a lot of research. And one of the research articles that I read was a Natural Geographic article. I have always respected National Geographic, you know, that's a research tool that everybody uses. But I found out that just about everything they'd written about Jamaica was wrong. There's a collection of silver in one of the museums there that they say is silver that Morgan looted when he looted Panama. It isn't, it's at least 150 years older-- newer than that. There was a lovely house there that they had a story about. Remember that story Elizabeth? What was it? Some New York, oh, this it-- a Frenchman built this beautiful house on a beautiful bay for his bride but he put saltwater to mix his mortar with it and before he and his bride could move into it. It crumbled away. The fact was that a New York Tiffany built the house and lived in it for fifty years but this other stuff was in National Geographic. On and on and on like that, so I corrected them; I wrote an article with pictures and sent it up to them and I got a rejection slip and; I haven't used National Geographic seriously since then, except for the pictures. You know, you can get some ideas from pictures. I was asked to take over another series, The Australian Series.
Hayes: Oh, yes. I saw you had some-
Hugh Zachary: That series was written by an English woman who had lived in Australia and who was a Naval historian by trade so a lot of it had to do with early days in Australia and the Navy and all of that stuff. Now, that was an adventure, when I was asked to take over that series in midstream but I've been as close to Australia as San Francisco, you know? But what you do there is, you get off National Geographic and everything else and look at the pictures and if you're going to describe the desert. You don't describe it closely. You just say it's "big," and it's "hot," and it's "arid." And you can get away with the stuff (laughs).
Hayes: How many did you do on that series?
Hugh Zachary: Just three in that series, you know. There were three left on the contract and I finished it off and they didn't renew the contract.
Hayes: You had talked about being a contract writer, tell us about the industry. I mean how you see it divided. I mean it's useful for somebody in the field to talk about what are some of the segments of the industry and where did you fit into that industry? You got your bestsellers but are you midlevel?
Hugh Zachary: I was called a "mid-level writer," yes.
Hayes: What does that mean?
Hugh Zachary: That means that that's what they feel the fill the bookshelves after they put the bestsellers up front.
Hayes: What are people who write the art-fiction? I mean that's another. You talked about a house, that didn't make any money.
Hugh Zachary: They were sort of a prestigious place and they just basically picked what they liked and it was usually pretty good. They didn't try to publish the blockbusting bestseller. I have heard this and I've forgotten who I heard it from, probably some agent that most of the editors in these big houses have orders not to buy anything that won't be a breakout bestseller; that's a good trick if you can do it. They have failed in a lot of cases. I-- if I didn't want to sell more books and I do want to write more fiction, every time I buy a book that really seems to me to be a waste of money; I'd write nasty letters but I don't do that because you can't afford to make the few publishers that are left mad at you.
Hayes: You had poetry early on, have you every come back to that?
Hugh Zachary: I've had a couple of poems published you know in little literary magazines.
Hayes: Was that good training you think for any writer to try?
Hugh Zachary: I think so. There were lots of literary magazines when I was learning my trade so that was one way that I could break in. Writers of the generation before me broke in with the pulp magazines at a penny a word. Some writers like the guy who writes the Eighty-Seventh Precinct books, they broke in the "bedroom book" industry.
Hayes: What's that, "the bedroom book industry?"
Hugh Zachary: Sexy books.
Hayes: Oh, sexy books.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, and nowadays a writer can break in a lot of ways, they're just-- you can buy a list of magazines and there are thousands of them. Now a lot of them will be very narrow in content but anybody who wants to write something can find some subject matter or some field with which he's familiar so there's a wide open market with little magazines. And one of the things that I did when I first started, I did a lot of newspaper writing. When I first moved up here for example, became a stringer for newspapers all over the state. I've got Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Wilmington. You pick up pennies that way but you're writing.
Hayes: What kinds of things were you writing then? You mean stories?
Hugh Zachary: Just news stories, yes, I'd go to the Long Beach Town Council meeting, do a little story on it and get it off to them. Call it in to them usually.
Hayes: Now speaking of the Town Council wasn't there in your community activism period a time when you were on the Council?
Hugh Zachary: Yeah, I did my civic duty one term.
Hayes: One term, how long was that?
Hugh Zachary: The first and last term all at once, four years.
Hayes: Now when was that? Uh-oh.
Hugh Zachary: Now, let's see, I came off about five years ago, I guess.
Hayes: Did you enjoy it? I mean was it-
Hugh Zachary: It's interesting, yes, it was, very interesting. I found out that the public servant is not really appreciated (laughs). These people would call up the house here and just raise holy hell about something that I didn't know anything about. And being the even tempered fellow that I am; I'd yell back at them so public service is not for me any more.
Hayes: You didn't run for re-election.
Hugh Zachary: I put my-- my buddies on the Council talked me into putting my name up. I didn't campaign. I didn't even get out of the house. I didn't talk to a single person and so I got beat but that's what I wanted (laughs).
Hayes: Is it your daughter that's still involved?
Hugh Zachary: My daughter is a-- runs a County Commissioner and my son-in-law, her husband is on the Long Beach Council which is a real rat's nest. The Long Beach politics has always been really fantastic. And when I first moved here the town Council of Long Beach was elected by property owners so; we had people who were supposed to be running the town that lived in Greensboro, Charleston, Winston Salem and like that. They didn't know that what was said at a Council meeting was public-- was open to the-- that a reporter could go in and write that down and have it printed. And Mr. Middleton who bought this island and developed Long Beach and sold the Yaupon Beach to somebody else came to me one day and said, "Hugh." He said, "Can't you be just a little easier on these fellows (laughs)?" Because I would write down exactly what they said and put it in the paper but we decided that, that wasn't quite right. So Elizabeth made a call to the Attorney General and that was the end of it because, of course, it's illegal. Property owners from out of town can't vote in any municipal election and then we started getting death threats because we had taken away "the rights of these people to vote!"
Hayes: But they didn't live here at all? You mean-
Hugh Zachary: That's right. That's right. We had two of the Council-- two members of the council lived on the beach, all the rest of the them were from upstate or South Carolina.
Hayes: Now that's not the case today?
Hugh Zachary: No, no that was changed back in 1964 I guess or '65 when we called the Attorney General.
Hayes: And how do you, how would you say your daughter enjoys it? Is this something that she's carrying on the tradition?
Hugh Zachary: Lesley has always been really, really civic minded. They used to call her "super-mom," because she's vitally interested in the schools and education so; she was always involved with something and would you like to hear that story? That's half a chapter in the book that I'm working on now which is a business book about the network marketing industry. It shows how "negative motivation" can sometimes be very powerful. Lesley was working for better schools and a woman who had registered to run for either the-- I've forgotten. Whether it was the Long Beach Council or the County Commission and yet she was running for office. And Lesley had heard her at a meeting speak against more money for the schools so, in a letter to the editor she mentioned this; that this woman has been against more money for the schools. The first thing she knew, she was called up into court charged with a felony for telling a lie about a political candidate. I didn't know there was any such law. Everybody in this country could be put in jail if that (laughs)-- but they went to court with it and five seasoned citizens of Long Beach got up and perjured themselves on the stand. All they had to do was-- well, I don't even think they called a defense witness. I think the judge said, "How did this get into my court?" And threw it out but that made her mad so she said, "Alright, I'll just run for the County Commission." She ran a heck of a campaign because she was mad. She went out-- the guy who was the-- Board. He was Chairman of the Board then. I won't name his name but he said, "Well, Lesley, you've decided to come out and play with the big boys?" You know, he was just being oh, so what do you?
Elizabeth Zachary: Condescending.
Hugh Zachary: Condescending, yes, well, Lesley played with the big boys and was a top vote getter and that guy was defeated (laughs). So, she's now on her second term and I think she does a good job. She seems to be a sensible girl, not just because she's my daughter either.
Hayes: Do you think that this material will come into a novel? I'm seeing it's a little risky to talk about local politics.
Hugh Zachary: If I ever have a use for it, sure, if I ever had use for it. I wrote a local political book a long time ago that didn't get published. All my books are in there under the desk (laughs). But everything-- I've written so many books that everything I've ever experienced or hear or read or seen comes into it one way or the other. I joke a lot of times. You know, I've sort been a professional liar so much that when I'm talking about my own life; I don't know what's true and what isn't (laughs). I really don't (laughs).
Hayes: This is kind of a disclaimer for the video then. Now, in the industry after you would have a book, would you go on the circuit? In other words, have you done the promotional type of material that happens to an author? Tell us about-
Hugh Zachary: Not to any great extent, one time I've forgotten which book it was but; I kept trying to get the people to send me on one of these national tours. And I was going to prove to this one publisher that it would be effective so Elizabeth and I went around North Carolina, just North Carolina. To newspapers and radio stations and TV stations and the wholesale book distributor over here in Wilmington didn't know what hit him because; he was getting so many orders. And that didn't impress those people in New York at all, even though I've forgotten how many thousands of copies that those pushed into being sold here in North Carolina by that, we spent a couple of hundred dollars. You know, not a heck of a lot; had fun.
Hayes: Another aspect, you know, as a veteran writer I'm sure you're asked to talk to various groups. Tell us about some of those groups and places that you've gone. You mentioned earlier a class, are there other settings where you've be called on as the expert commentator?
Hugh Zachary: As one among many, at Salem and North Carolina Writers Conference. Sam Reagan used to invite me to talk. He is the editor of a paper up in Southern Pines, I believe; very influential in the literary community in North Carolina. I think one of the most-- Elizabeth and I run a couple of writing conferences when she got the-- when she and our daughter organized the "Romance Writers Group" for this area. And we drew a big crowd over at Brunswick Community College one time and; we had another one up here at the Baptist Assembly. One of the most interesting one of those I ever did, when the cookbook was published. I went all over the state then. We did promote that really heavily and I did an autograph signing in a fish house. Where was that Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Zachary: Greensboro.
Hugh Zachary: Greensboro, yes, so that was fun. You know, here's the fish counter over here and; I've got a card table set up over here, autographing books. Sold a lot of books that day and we did one up at a nice little town, is it Bell Haven?
Elizabeth Zachary: Uhm.. hum.
Hugh Zachary: Bell Haven and there's an old house up there that then-- I don't know whether it's still there or not but they made the best oyster fritters that I have ever eaten so we loved that. We did a book signing up there-- had oyster fritters.
Elizabeth Zachary: We got-- we had one slate-- I think it was in Raleigh with the Governor or some (mumble).
Hugh Zachary: They can't hear you. I don't know what you're talking about but--(tape skips) and some stuff like that if you want any instructional stuff but.
Hayes: No, I think we're okay. Are we done?
Elizabeth Zachary: Okay, he's done, that's good.
Hayes: Okay, Elizabeth has joined us again and we're going to finish this particular tape, however long it takes. It's an opportunity to talk about, as a writer and the freedom. One of the things that you gain is the opportunity to meet some very interesting people so I'm interested in, who are some of the characters and contacts in your life as a writer and writing family that you would like share with us? Who were some of the folks that you've crossed paths with. It doesn't have to be famous folks, just folks that were important to your writing.
Hugh Zachary: Well, one of my best correspondent's friends and we've gotten together a couple of times, is a fellow out of Madison, Indiana, isn't it?
Elizabeth Zachary: Uhm.. hum.
Hugh Zachary: Madison, Indiana, his name is Joe Hinsley and he writes the Row Back series of crime books for-- isn't it? No, for-- I don't know, he's had several publishers.
Elizabeth Zachary: History Writers of America.
Hugh Zachary: He's had several publishers of the Row Back books and Joe and I have been keeping up a correspondence since 1963, I believe. And as I say, we've gotten together a couple of times. I corresponded a lot with John D. McDonald who is still to this day my favorite writer. You're familiar with John D.? Yes.
Hayes: Tell our audience.
Hugh Zachary: Well, John D. was the writers' writer. He was the smoothest, the best plotter; the best characterization writer. You can go back to his books right now and you've got the '60s right with you. Not the Hippie type '60s but the '60s as real as they were.
Hayes: His genre was mystery?
Hugh Zachary: Crime. Crime, yes, and his last years were given to the Travis McGee Series. Trav lived in a houseboat in Lauderdale, yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: Travis, really-- he was knight errant. He was just in the wrong century. But John D. could take in just two sentences and build a whole character.
Hugh Zachary: Oh, man. Yes, sir.
Elizabeth Zachary: And you knew that person immediately.
Hugh Zachary: I have given lectures on how to characterize by giving examples from John D. McDonald.
Elizabeth Zachary: If anybody wants to learn how to write and they may be a little bit dated, as Hugh said '60s. But they going to learn how to write and how to characterize; he's the one to go to.
Hayes: You corresponded with him as a friend then and a fellow writer?
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hayes: Where did he live? Did you ever go to visit him?
Hugh Zachary: No, I never did get to. He died before we could get together. He lived in Sarasota and had a place upstate New York for the summertime.
Elizabeth Zachary: I took lessons-- art lessons with his wife at one point and while I was in Florida.
Hugh Zachary: Didn't know who it was?
Elizabeth Zachary: No, didn't know who it was.
Hugh Zachary: Because we hadn't been introduced to his early books then.
Elizabeth Zachary: Now let's see? Who was the treasure hunter that we met down at (inaudible)?
Hugh Zachary: Kip Wagner.
Elizabeth Zachary: Kip Wagner, down at..
Hugh Zachary: He's not a writer. He was a treasure hunter.
Hayes: That's alright; he doesn't have to be a writer.
Elizabeth Zachary: Treasure hunter and but we would go down to Sebastian inlet in the early '60s there were no houses there. No..
Hugh Zachary: That's just below Cape Canaveral.
Elizabeth Zachary: And Vero Beach and this man was always out with his little metal detector and we would talk with him. And we'd keep losing our lures out here.
Hugh Zachary: When I cast out I would either catch a fish or lose a rig, a bottom rig.
Elizabeth Zachary: We couldn't understand this. There are no rocks in Florida either. And what we were doing-- we were hooking up on some of the Spanish Galleons that had gone down.
Hugh Zachary: We were hooking up on the wreckage of a Spanish Galleon that Kip Wagner later took a lot of-- a million dollars worth of gold and silver off.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, but he would show-- he'd find something every time he was on the beach and he showed me an emerald ring that he had found one time. And it was just fascinating but at that particular point, he was not famous then. He really hadn't started doing like Mel Fisher making a consortium and getting people to put in money to invest.
Hugh Zachary: We corresponded a lot with Bob Marks. He's still looking for treasure. He's the one that did a lot of exploration in the Bay down at Key-- Port Royal?
Elizabeth Zachary: Port Royal.
Hugh Zachary: Port Royal, in Jamaica. In fact, he and I were going to do a book together at one time but never did get around to it.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, and interesting happened.
Hugh Zachary: Had my picture taken once with Esther Williams (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, but you were going to go to work for her.
Hugh Zachary: I was going to go to work for her.
Elizabeth Zachary: I was going to go to work selling Esther Williams' swimming pools but I'm glad I didn't because they went broke.
Hayes: She wasn't in a swimsuit at the time was she?
Hugh Zachary: No, she wasn't, no.
Elizabeth Zachary: She was in Wilmington and she-- a delightful person. And we went up to her hotel, it wasn't even a suite; it was just a room and spent the afternoon with her and..
Hayes: When was this?
Hugh Zachary: Oh, Lord.
Hayes: She was (inaudible)?
Hugh Zachary: Yes, she probably..
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: ..had just given her name to the company, "Esther Williams Swimming Pools," what could be more natural?
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: And I had a buddy that was working for her and so I came down to join them.
Elizabeth Zachary: We had a lot of fun when he was in radio.
Hugh Zachary: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Elizabeth Zachary: Because we got to meet so many of the big bands.
Hayes: Well, tell us about that because for those who don't know, Hugh and Elizabeth are donating a large 78 record collection of the Big Band Era, so tell us some of those.
Elizabeth Zachary: Let's see. At one point, we went to-- we were in Chapel Hill and Stan Kenton was going to be in Raleigh so we managed to get the money together and go over there. And there were so few people there that it was supposed to be a concert. And there were so few people there that we had a jam session instead and that was fantastic, you know. And then-- let's see?
Hugh Zachary: Next time he came through with a big innovations band which was loud and raucous and we had our baby with us. How old was she?
Elizabeth Zachary: Whitney, the girl that you met today, she was a year old that day so she was a year old that day so it was April 22, 1950.
Hugh Zachary: We were sitting right down on the front row. The guys in the band kept pointing at her; "Look at that kid down there," and County Condoli [ph?] would blow his trumpet right at her and try to wake her up (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) You know it was-- we really just enjoyed things. Let's see, we met Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington.
Hugh Zachary: Count Basie.
Elizabeth Zachary: Count Basie.
Hugh Zachary: Johnny Long.
Elizabeth Zachary: Johnny Long.
Hugh Zachary: Van Grey and the Castel Loma Orchestra.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: Glen Miller Orchestra long after Glen got killed, of course.
Elizabeth Zachary: Right and..
Hugh Zachary: Woody Herman.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: Swingingest band ever.
Elizabeth Zachary: And one of the young men that played with Glen Miller and was also in the movie had grown up at my grandmother's house and so, really, things just worked together.
Hayes: What was the story about Woody Herman when you couldn't get into his concert? What was that?
Elizabeth Zachary: Oh, he had come to Chapel Hill.
Hugh Zachary: Chapel Hill.
Elizabeth Zachary: And Hugh had asked for an interview, I think I told you this story. And we had heard that he was just so hard to get along with-- just hateful but; I wanted to go and just meet him and so Hugh asked for an interview. He gave the interview but Hugh had to go to work so I was going to have to go home. I didn't have the money for a ticket (laughs) and Woody Herman turned to me and said, "Would you like to stay for the..con-the rec-"
Hugh Zachary: Concert, yes.
Elizabeth Zachary: ..concert?" And he invited me to sit backstage, so between sets and everything he would come back and talk with me and then-- it was marvelous, you know? I got to meet everybody in the band and the girl who was singing and this was fascinating because I discovered. Hey, I didn't know. I thought all these singers were something really great big. This kid was from out West somewhere and had wanted to sing and was lucky enough to get an interview with him and this was her first road trip. And so it was good-- it was fun to learn things like that, that people really just came from everyday walks of life.
Hugh Zachary: When we worked in Durham, when I worked in Durham at the radio station I would get tickets to the concerts for the Blacks. They'd-- this was back in the days of before integration and they would start their dances at one minute after midnight on Sunday morning for some reason. Why I don't know but when we went over there to listen to guys like Louie Jordan; we'd have to sit up in the balcony. And she felt like she was being discriminated against because she wanted to be down on the floor dancing.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) I did.
Hayes: And who were some of those people that you saw? I mean the performers in that-
Hugh Zachary: Rhythm and Blues was beginning to come into the business there and the only one I remember was Louie Jordan because; he goes back into the '40s. But some of the new guys, I didn't pay any attention to. I was a "snob" when it came to music.
Hayes: Oh, is that right?
Hugh Zachary: Yes.
Hayes: Your interest was the Big Band-- Swing Band.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, if it wasn't Swing it wasn't music.
Hayes: What was the one where you had said that you weren't dressed right for a concert?
Elizabeth Zachary: Oh, well, Woody Herman asked us to-- he was going to play for a sorority dance that night.
Hugh Zachary: June Germans [ph?].
Elizabeth Zachary: June Germans, yes, and so we were just having so much fun and he was so nice. And he wanted to know if we wanted if we were going to be there and of course; we weren't because we weren't members of the sorority. And so he said..
Hugh Zachary: Fraternity or sorority.
Elizabeth Zachary: ..well, I think the general name is "sorority."
Hugh Zachary: Okay, okay, okay, okay.
Elizabeth Zachary: But at any rate, he invited us to be his guest and to sit on the bandstand. So Hugh and I got dressed in our best which were..
Hugh Zachary: It wasn't very good. I was still wearing my GI khakis, I think.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Anyway, we showed up and they wouldn't let us in. And he came to the door-- oh, he-- and he said, "These-- they are my guests." And they still wouldn't let us in and he was so furious. He said, "They are my guests. They will be sitting on the bandstand with us. They are my guests." And they would not let us in and; he was so furious that he said. "I will never play Chapel Hill again," and he never did. And you know, but we saw him many times in the years after that and he would always remember us. Oh, and Sean Finnegan. We got to meet him.
Hugh Zachary: Oh, yes, yes.
Hayes: Who was that?
Hugh Zachary: The Sean Finnegan Band; the last of the great big bands.
Elizabeth Zachary: They did things like, "Eddy and the Witch Doctor," run into that one sometime. There was some fantastic music out there that-- like _______ and they just were innovators and things..
Hayes: Are these the kinds of records that we're going to see in the collection? You might describe the collection.
Hugh Zachary: You'll see a lot of Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey, you know. Just-- and singers, a lot of singers and the heart of the first shipment that I'm going to send over to you is the Norman Grant's Jazz at the Philharmonic Series. All of the records that were ever made except what's been broken in the last thirty or fifty years but the whole bunch of them and most of them are virgin. Because I don't listen to too much small group Jazz but there's all the famous sidemen were playing for Grants at the Phil; Charlie Parker and Phil Harris. All the famous sidemen that you ever heard about are on those records so that's quite a collectors' item. And..
Elizabeth Zachary: And incidentally..
Hugh Zachary: ..a bunch of Rhythm and Blues stuff which is, even though I don't like it, it's the premium on the market because they-- some of them bring pretty high prices.
Hayes: I was just. From a sense of what kind of music that was important to you is what I assume the records are.
Hugh Zachary: Well, I'm keeping the Woody Herman records. The Stan Kenton records. The Dorsey-- the records that have not been reproduced in my collection on LP or CD, I'm keeping for a while but; you'll get those eventually too.
Elizabeth Zachary: And incidentally, the Norman Grant's records-- I didn't know this until the other day but he actually sent them to Hugh-- that whole collection.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, yes, he sent everything he'd ever recorded on 78 down to me.
Hayes: Did you start this collection way back when in radio days? Is that when?
Hugh Zachary: I still have the first record I ever bought. I paid $0.78 for it in 1944. It was Frank Sinatra singing, "I Fall In Love Too Easily."
Elizabeth Zachary: I still recall saving money to buy audios by Glen Miller. It cost me $0.98 and it too me I think three months to save it (laughs).
Hugh Zachary: Prices have gone up. Music has been a very big part of our lives and still is. We play a lot of music.
Elizabeth Zachary: One of the nice things about music and even what they call "aromatherapy" now, is that you can hear a piece of music and it can transport you right back to that moment. And there you are-- you're living it all over again. You can feel it and touch it and visualize it and that's a great part of life. And some..
Hayes: I think your writing does that for people too, for some people. The story you told about the World War II book was an attempt to do the same thing. The people who read that from that time period must have used it as a vehicle.
Hugh Zachary: Yes, I go back to good books over and over. William Faulkner. I read the Travis McGee Series about once a year just for the fun of it. Two modern books which I read at least once a year: Killer Angels.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: I've forgotten the guy's name? What's his name that won a Pulitzer Prize? Told how Lee lost the battle of Gettysburg if he had listened to Longstreet and Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. Now, there-- now next to John D. Well, he stands alone, Tom Wolfe does. He as an individual stylist, the modern writer; the master of the idiom slang and street talk and all that, just a fantastic guy and that story about The Right Stuff; I love it. I just read it over and over and over. And when I read it then I'll pull out the film and watch the lousy job they did turning it into a movie.
Elizabeth Zachary: A person that we knew was a friend of Tom Wolfe's family, as a matter of fact. They were giving him a dinner and we got an invitation. We did not go at that point but he had called her when he got-- when..get- wait..
Hugh Zachary: When Bonfire of the Vanities..
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: His first novel.
Elizabeth Zachary: And he-- it was something like a $10 million advance and he just-- you know, he just called her. He was just over the hill with excitement. And he did such individual things like-- and he still does, but in New York; he always wears a white suit and I think he..
Hugh Zachary: Now, you see that's the kind of writer that I wanted to be. I wanted to be a character.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes, yes.
Hugh Zachary: And nobody would ever let me make enough money to be a character (laughs).
Elizabeth Zachary: But he's a wonderful person and one other one I was going to tell you. Oh, oh-- when we were living in Florida and he was working out at WGTO at Cyprus Gardens. This couple lived next door to us and it turns out that she was William Faulkner's grandniece somewhere along in the family. They did not read his writing.
Hugh Zachary: I said, "How in the world can you condemn the man's writing without reading it?" She said, "Well, I know what he put in it."
Elizabeth Zachary: And she said what happened was the family was absolutely-- they hated him because he aired the family wash in public and don't you do that!
Hugh Zachary: Oh, speaking of that, we were scheduled to meet Robert Ruark [ph?].
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: He was supposed to come home to see one of his old friends in Southport and he died before he could make but of course; Ruark's memory is still very much alive in Southport.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: We had a friend who is now dead that in one of his books, Robert's writing about himself really but I think it was in The Old Man and the Boy, wasn't it? Well, anyhow, the young boy goes up into the attic where some nurses are renting a room from his grandfather and there's a naked. He's goes-- he's going up to steal a cigarette I think it was and there's a naked nurse in there. Alright, you know-- this woman, we were talking one night and the subject of Ruark came up and she just hated his guts. I said, "Well, why in the world do you? He's a famous writer. He lived in Southport." She says, "I was that naked nurse."
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs)
Hugh Zachary: And I said, "Honey, I never would have known it if you hadn't told me." (laughs)
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs)
Elizabeth Zachary: Oh, goodness.
Hugh Zachary: I was looking forward to meeting Ruark, because a couple of his African books were very good.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hayes: You had mentioned this gentlemen who was the tugboat Captain, is he still in existence, still working?
Hugh Zachary: The last time we heard from Lionberry he was working as a private detective in Los Angeles so, lord knows what happened to him, lord knows.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs)
Hayes: I think there could be a book in that.
Elizabeth Zachary: Yes.
Hugh Zachary: Well, he-- he is..
Elizabeth Zachary: He was a character. I need to tell you.
Hugh Zachary: ..he is the model for the Captain in The Big Risk, that's the North Sea book, The Big Risk.
Hayes: We're going to come to an end. We want to thank you very much for sharing.
Hugh Zachary: Let me put in one more thing right quick. This is always-- I always put this is when I'm talking about writing. I still remember with great fondness my Creative Writing teacher at Chapel Hill. His name is Philips Russell and he was another one of the old lion southern gentlemen. I mean he was just a-- there wasn't a cruel bone or anything in his body-- just a lovely person. I learned one thing from him and what- three or four semesters and that was: If you're going to write a story about a bear, don't say, "It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The birds were singing and the creek was running clear." Say, "Once there was a bear." He said, "Bring on the bear." So, I wrote a short story once and the first two words was: "The bear." And when it was published I sent a copy up to Philips and he got a kick out of that.
Elizabeth Zachary: (laughs) Learn something. Learn something.
Hayes: Alright, thank you very much.
Hugh Zachary: Alright.