Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo and doing limited consulting.

Shelby Foote at Home

I’ve been watching the classic Ken Burns documentary The Civil War and got sidetracked by the main historian used throughout the series, Shelby Foote. This linked video of a tour of his work area in his home in Memphis has quite a few gems from Foote. It’s nearly universal that we all like to see how writers work, and this interview is not a disappointment. This interview was recorded about 5 years before Foote died in 2005.

Interesting fact: Foote was a last minute addition to the Burns documentary but became a core part of the series in the final edit. He also became a sensation from his witty facts and stories (well, as much as a sensation as you can become from being in a Ken Burns documentary).

Sales of Foote’s fiction and non-fiction books, especially his three-part series on the Civil War, took off after his appearance in the documentary, making him a nice bag of money.

His three-part narrative had sold around 30,000 copies since the first volume came out in 1958; in the year after Foote appeared in The Civil War, he’d sold 400,000 sets. “Ken,” he told the director, “you’ve made me a millionaire.”

The first 30-40 minutes of the three hour segement are worth watching but all of it is a wonderful look at Foote and his work.

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There’s more to read in the archive.