- Pick of the Crop II (1998)
- Faulkner’s Sea Coast of Bohemia (1989)
- The Governess (1988) with Hervey
- The Legend of the Delta Queen (1986)
- Steamboatin’ Log: A Mile by Mile Steamboat Journey Up the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota/Upper Mississippi River (1986)
- Steamboatin’ Log: A Mile by Mile Steamboat Journey Up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, Louisiana to Cairo, Illnois/Lower Mississippi River (1986)
- Steamboatin’ Log: A Mile by Mile Steamboat Journey Up the Ohio River from Cairo, IL to Pittsburgh, PA/The Cumberland River from Paducah, KY to Nashville (1986)
- Voyages of the Royal Vikings (1984)
- Mississippi (1982)
- An Illustrated History of the Texas Rangers (1980)
- Famous American Cowboys (1978)
- Chopper!: The Illustrated Story of Helicopters in Action (1976)
- The Flamboyant Mr. Colt and His Deadly Six-Shooter (1976)
- American Journeys: Anthology of Travel in the United States (1975) with Earl Donald Bennett
- Famous American Explorers (1972)
- Florida (1972)
- The Gulf of Mexico (1972)
- Mighty Mississippi (1971)
- The Northwest Passage (1970)
- The Northwest Passage from the Mathew to the Manhattan 1497 – 1969 (1970)
- Alaska (1969)
- Grand Banks (1968) (Photographer Dan Guravich)
- The Mosquito Fleet (1966)
- The Invaders of Rome (1966)
- Zebulon Pike: Young America’s Frontier Scout (1965)
- The Horse That Won the Civil War (1964)
- Life and Death of the Aztec Nation (1964)
- The Mosquito Fleet (1963)
by Jeremy Jinkerson (SHS) 2001
Bern Keating, 1915-2004
Leo Bernard “Bern” Keating, Greenville writer/photographer was born on May 14, 1915 in Fassett, Quebec, Canada (“Keating,” Personal Interview). He was born to Laure Lalonde Keating and John Julian, and his birth name was Leo Bernard Keating. His father was an engineer who worked on heavy construction. For this reason, Keating and his mother traveled wherever his father’s work took them (Atdena 277). He moved to America as a child, and Keating went to school in Chicago, Cattaraugus, New York, and New York City. After this, he became a merchant marine deck hand, which he claims to be an obligation of a prospective writer (“Keating,” Personal Interview).
After this, Keating went to Washington Square College of New York University. He then took a year off to rivet airplanes (“Keating,” Personal Interview). In 1938, he received his B.A. from the University of Arkansas. While there, Keating admits to having consistently written other people’s term papers for money. He says that he was blackmailed by Phi Beta Kappa for this means of livelihood. While writing others’ term papers, Keating gained an ability to research topics and write very quickly (Atdena 278).
Keating was the city editor of the Palm Beach Post-Times in 1939. On June 10, 1939, he married Marian Frances West. They have two children: John Geoffrey and Kate Maulding. Keating then served as the news director of WIBX, a radio station in Utica, New York (Atdena 278). For four years during World War II, Keating served in the Navy. He was a communications officer for destroyers. After this, he was an attack officer of a Pacific task force. This particular force sank six Japanese submarines in nine days (“Keating, Personal Interview.) However, there is some discrepancy as Atdena says that it was five submarines (278).
Keating then moved to Greenville, Mississippi (Cox 417). There he opened his own photography studio. He did local projects until Quentin Reynolds helped him to become a world photographer. Reynolds used Keating’s services and showed his work to editors in New York where he proclaimed, “Look what some redneck from Mississippi can do.” As a result, major publications were soon requesting Keating’s photographs. As editors put captions underneath his work, Keating began to consider writing. Keating made the switch and has managed to receive respectable reviews and sales (Atdena 278). This is what Keating had always wanted to do anyway.
Keating has won many awards including a Pulitzer (Keating). He received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters’ Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that had previously only been given to Walker Percy and Eudora Welty (Starkville Daily News 23 Feb. 1997: 4F). He has received awards including the West Heritage Foundation Award for Famous American Explorers and the National Graphic Arts Award for Florida. (Atdena 278). Also, Keating has contributed regularly to the following publications: Smithsonian, Travel and Leisure, Town and Country, Look, Life, Holiday, National Geographic, Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, The New York, Viking Doubleday, Putnams, and Playboy (Keating Mississippi n. page).
Keating has traveled to 105 countries and is fluent in both Spanish and French (“Keating,” Personal Interview). Keating has several books written under pseudonyms. Most of his work is now commissioned. Generally, Keating’s work falls into the categories of travel, history, biography or any combination of these three. Keating is a very avid traveler and is always on the move. He that he uses the same style when he is writing for children and for adults. He does not vary in sentence structure or vocabulary. He has made several attempts at fiction but is not proud of them. Keating says that living in Mississippi has had “absolutely” no influence on his writing style. Keating claims to love the soft Delta women. His favorite book that he wrote is The Horse That Won the Civil War. Keating, who has written more than 30 nonfiction on a wide variety of subjects from the Mississippi River to the Old West, hosted Day 8 of the TV series Down the Mississippi: The Pulse of America. Many of his books have been written in collaboration with his wife, photographer Franke Keating.
NOTE: Bern Keating lived in Greenville, Mississippi, and was working on his memoirs when he died March 8, 2004. His wife, photographer Franke Keating, died Nov. 4, 2011, at the age of 95. Franke Keating was born in McGehee, Arkansas., and Bern Keating was a Canada native. The couple moved to Greenville, Mississippi, in 1946. Both were literary and artistic forces in the Delta for decades.
by Jeremy Jinkerson (SHS)
Mississippi is a nonfiction book written by Bern Keating with his wife Franke Keating’s photography that recalls a few events that occurred in the state of Mississippi. It also speaks a great deal about the people who live in Mississippi and the places you find in Mississippi. Mississippi is a slow-moving book that requires a lot of patience on the part of the reader. However, it is filled with a wide assortment of very interesting facts that nearly any Mississippian would find interesting. Also, the artwork by Franke Keating, Bern Keating’s wife, is amazing and well worth the price of the book without any words.
Mississippi begins with Bern Keating giving his own introduction. A large section of the introduction is about a conversation he had with a woman who was making derogatory comments about Mississippi. At this point, Mr. Keating begins dropping famous names of people who have been to Mississippi and people who live in Mississippi. I enjoyed this introduction because it allows the reader to see that he truly enjoys Mississippi.
Keating has a very interesting style of writing. After his fantastic introduction, he has one chapter that is primarily devoted to the landscape of the state. In the next chapter, he expands on the landscape and begins talking about the Mississippi River and the upstream voyage of the steamboat New Orleans. After this, he devotes a whole chapter to the Mississippian literary legend William Faulkner. Keating then seamlessly moves back into a discussion of the landscape and then the Gulf Coast. After that, Keating begins talking about the Natchez Trace, then Jackson, and then the Delta. Finally, the last chapter resembles the introduction in that Keating tells how much he loves Mississippi. The last chapter finishes the book in much the same way as the introduction began it, which promotes unity throughout.
I did not expect to like this book, but, in fact, I enjoyed it. The facts that Keating presents are not the kind that you would find in a typical textbook. The book spends more time talking about the culture of Mississippi than the events that occurred in its history. Keating pays attention to every little detail in the scenes he describes. Also, I particularly enjoyed the chapter about William Faulkner. Keating obviously respects him tremendously because he calls him America’s foremost writer. As a reader of Faulkner’s works, I understand why Keating respects him so much.
I must say that the one thing that I like the most about Mississippi is not the written words. I love all the pictures taken by the author’s wife, Franke Keating. Every one is amazing. I especially like the pictures of the hunter with a duck call in his mouth (14), the picture of the youth girl in a Mississippi State Bulldogs T-shirt (64), and the picture of the professor with an afro haircut (111). The pictures in the book show Mississippi for what it is. It shows the stereotype of Mississippi as a place with endless stretches of crops and large fields of cotton. However, it also shows pictures of Jackson State University, a predominantly African American university. It shows the medical doctors in Jackson that are directly contrary to the Mississippi stereotype. There are photographs of fighter pilots from Mississippi. Keating’s pictures show the American Indian influence on Mississippi. Every imaginable angle of Mississippi can be seen in Keating’s pictures.
I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it especially to Mississippians. People from all walks of life would enjoy Mississippi. This is because the book does not focus on the traditional stereotype of Mississippi and instead focuses on every aspect of Mississippi. I think that older readers would appreciate this book more than younger because the older readers would be able to identify with some of the events talked about in the book that younger readers would not be aware of. Of course, a reader of any age would be able to appreciate the photography. As I said before, the reader must be patient as he reads because Keating does include a lot of details, some of which can be tedious. However, this helps the reader to grasp a total picture of what is being described. I am afraid that if a reader were from a different state, he might not enjoy this book as much because it would not affect him directly. I don’t feel that there is anything in this book that would offend people, although there is one reference to prostitution which used to occur in one place in Mississippi. However, overall, I would recommend this book to anyone from Mississippi.
An Interview with Bern Keating (2001)
Who is/are your favorite author(s)?
I cannot answer that. Just as fast as I start to type the French playwright Marcel Pagnol I remember another Frenchman Marcel Ayme (I Speak fluent French and in recent years read almost nothing but French) – and from there to a dozen others. Pagnol and Ayme are not even at the top of the list, now that I reflect a bit. But for getting myself in the mood to start a new piece, I frequently get down a book by E. B. White and read it lovingly, trying to soak up the urbanity of the style. Nothing wrong with A. J. Leibling as a spark plug to get my engine started. As guides for modern essay writers, they are the top.
Who was your biggest influence growing up?
My father, a rigidly honest man who sparked all gatherings by being devilishly handsome, singing with a glorious Irish tenor voice and telling fascinating stories, true or false, as any true Irishman can.
What was your primary reason for writing the book Mississippi?
I had lived in something like two dozen places by the time I got out of the Navy. I had no home. Because my wife lived in McGehee, Arkansas, she knew vaguely about Greenville just across the river. For lack of any better idea, she suggested we move there. I had no better suggestion, so we did, but I must admit I was dubious about starting a new life in what I considered the backwoods. Within a year, I was totally captured by the ambiance of my new home. I loved it. And I wanted to tell the world about it. So I wrote the book Mississippi.
What is your biggest regret in life?
This may sound impossibly self satisfied, but I don’t have any major regret. Oh, yes, I do. I wrote one book I wish had never been printed because the publisher left it full of bad punctuation added without my knowledge or chance to correct the disaster. Every possessive its, for instance it spelled it’s or its’. I’ll never tell you what book it is, but I wish it had never happened.
When did you first combine your writings with your wife’s photography?
For the first 15 years of my residence in Mississippi, I was the photographer. I became a writer after I noticed that my wife was actually taking most of the pictures that bore my byline and that my very ample caption material was being run without editing as the main article with a fictitious editor’s name as the supposed author. No pay for me as the writer, of course, because I was being paid for the photographs. So I gave her the cameras and went to my keyboard and declared myself a writer, which is what I had really wanted to be all my life. This episode happened with the publication of American Heritage’s Illustrated History of the Civil War in which most of the modern photos of battle sites are by Franke, though they carry my byline. From then on, I was the writer and she the photographer.
Are you working on a book right now?
Yes, I am dabbling away at my memoirs. I have some good stories to tell – after all, I made a round the world trip to 36 countries and landed in some places where they had never before seen a white man. such places don’t exist any more. So I can tell about a vanished world. The only problem is that I do not have an advance on the book and so no deadline. I find it hard to work without a deadline prodding me.
Are you a member of any literary organizations?
You see my memberships across the bottom of this letter. I should add that I am the founder of the Travel Journalists League, limited by the constitution to 75 members from the top of the profession.
What advice would you give to young writers?
Write at least 500 words every day – I mean EVERY day.
In what ways has living in Mississippi influenced your work?
Somebody else will have to answer this one – some critic who can see things I am too close to the work to see for myself.
Do you have any works in progress?
I am still writing occasional travel articles. I have just delivered two articles written after a tour of the Luberon region of France. Also an article about a train across clean across the southern United States.
- Photographs by Bern Keating on Tumblr
- Mississippi Business Journal article on Mississippi photograher/writer Franke Keating dies at 95.
- Atdena, Helena. Mississippi Writers Directory and Literary Guide. Oxford. Oxford UP, 1995. 31.
- “Bern Keating Gets Award”. Starkville Daily News 23 Feb. 1997: 4F.
- Cox, James L. Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998 The Ultimate Reference on the State. Tallahassee: Oxford UP., 1971. 417.
- Foster, Cynthia, representative of the University Press of Mississippi. E-mail Interview. 3 April 2001.
- Keating, Bern. Mississippi. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.
- Keating, Bern. Personal Interview. 18 April, 2001.
- Lloyd, James. B. Lives of Mississippi Authors 1817-1967. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981. 277-279.
Return to Top