When The Publishing Laboratory established its "Lives in Place" series, featuring titles of literary and cultural significance to its region, bringing Ben Dixon MacNeill's classic memoir of North Carolina's Outer Banks back into print was a perfect first selection. Fifty years after its original hardcover publication by then newcomer John F. Blair, Publisher, The Hatterasman had become something of a rarity on Southern bookshelves. The 50th-anniversary edition features a new introduction by author Philip Gerard (Cape Fear Rising) and a biographical essay by Barbara Brannon.
Winner of the 1958 Mayflower Award, The Hatterasman is part nature story, part historical narrative, part adventure story, and part rhetorical farce. "The language of the book is oddly timeless—archaic and colloquial at the same time, a chronicle of nested stories you might hear from a salty old-timer at the bait shack," writes Gerard in his introduction. "They hold the appeal of both history and myth—the larger shape of our beliefs personified in distinctive, sometimes heroic characters, from explorers like Amerigo Vespucci to surfmen like Rasmus Midgett." The combination of the author’s unique voice, the book’s value as historical and artistic record, and the illustrator’s connection with UNCW (Claude Howell was the fledgling university’s first professor of art) make it a work worth preserving and introduce it to a fresh generation of readers.
“Ben Dixon MacNeill knew the real Cape Hatteras—a skinny, wind-scoured strip of sand strung with a few fishing enclaves. It’s always been a place of strange stories and stranger characters, although nowadays you have to look harder to find them. This is a great new edition of a regional classic, enhanced by Philip Gerard’s reflections on what Hatteras and The Hatterasman mean to those of us who love the Outer Banks.”
Jan DeBlieu, author of Hatteras Journal
“Ben Dixon MacNeill lived on a high Hatteras hill and from that prospect caught four and a half rich centuries of Carolina maritime life. It’s all here: from 1497 when Amerigo Vespucci anchored in the Bight of Hatteras, up through the Civil War and, later, submarine warfare, until just before the coming of the Bonner Bridge. Blackbeard, King Pharoah, and Bannister Midgett march through these lively pages, and MacNeill truly celebrates the Lifesaving Service and the Coast Guard, the real men of the rolling surf. The return of The Hatterasman is a signal event for the literature and lore of the Southern coast.”
Bland Simpson, author of Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals