Christopher Dickey On 'Our Man In Charleston' And His Father James Dickey

Jul 23, 2016

This week we revisit my conversation with journalist Christopher Dickey, author of “Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South.”

   

The book will be released in paperback next week. This interview originally aired in September 2015.

The book tells the story of Robert Bunch, who was Great Britain’s counsel to South Carolina in the 1850s and ‘60s. He befriended the Southern aristocracy, but was so appalled by their embrace of slavery that he secretly worked behind their backs to convince the British government not to back the Confederacy in the war.

Dickey is from literary royalty: his father was the poet and novelist James Dickey, best known as the author of “Deliverance.” (By the way, the author Bronwen Dickey, our guest on last week’s show, is Chris’s sister.)

What I didn’t know until I began doing research on Dickey and his father, was how deeply Southern the Dickey family is and has been for generations. James Dickey grew up in Atlanta, but his forebears go back to the antebellum years in Union County in the mountains of North Georgia. Chris Dickey spent his early years in Atlanta, too, attending Morris Brandon Elementary School in Buckhead.

Like so many Southerners, the Dickey family is proud of its roots but wrestles with the dark heritage of slavery and discrimination here.

In the final portion of my conversation with Chris, you’ll hear some great stories about how the success of “Deliverance” pushed James Dickey into a downward spiral of drinking and philandering, how Chris struggled with a father who told tall tales as if they were true family history and how he recovered his affection for his dad after they had been estranged for years.

For more about the Dickey family’s deep Southern roots – especially right here in Atlanta– watch James Dickey read his poems “Looking for the Buckhead Boys” and “Hunting Civil War Relics at Nimblewill Creek.”

I hope you find this episode of “Two Way Street” as interesting to listen to as we did to produce!