A compilation of columns and articles by legendary Tallahassee Democrat writer Gerald Ensley has its official release in book form next Thursday, December 6.
Ensley’s daughter was one of the book’s editors. Amanda Karioth Thompson acknowledged the sheer volume of Ensley’s output made the editing job a daunting task.
“There were nearly 12,000 articles to choose from. My dad wrote for the paper for nearly 40 years and 12,000 articles is a staggering number. The math didn’t seem to add up to me, so I sat down to do the calculations and I realized he would have had to write an average of an article a day, including holidays and weekends.”
Of course, there were many days during his tenure at the Democrat when Ensley had multiple stories in a single edition of the paper. But Karioth Thompson admitted she wasn’t alone in the editing process.
“I have had a comrade in Ron Hartung. He has been an unbelievable partner and so supportive and loving and kind. Ron and my dad actually worked together at the Tallahassee Democrat for 28 years, so Ron knows my dad just about as well as anybody possible could.”
That combined knowledge was critical, she said, in distilling the amazing mass of Ensley’s writings down to a manageable collection of content.
“This particular book contains 45 articles and it starts with one that was written in 1989 and it ends with one believe it or not from just last year published a few months before he died.”
She explained the topics range from commentaries on local sports – Ensley began his journalistic endeavors as a sportswriter – to a number of unifying issues.
“Some of the overarching themes that appear over and over again in his writings, particularly the theme of ‘paradise.’ This article actually is the example that inspired the book’s title. It chronicles the day that he fell in love with our city as a college freshman. He writes about how our community has changed since then – it’s been a while – but he also talks about the fact that our future, no matter what that might be, is bright and it always will be because we started with paradise.”
Karioth Thompson says there are many other points of focus in Ensley’s writings.
“One of his favorite topics to research and write about was race relations and our local civil rights movement. He also loved to share interesting details about our Big Bend region and the counties surrounding Tallahassee, so you’ll see some of that in the book as well.”
But Karioth Thompson stressed that she and her co-editor took great pains to ensure that the selections were most representative of their author.
“Ron and I often asked ourselves, and each other, ‘Would he have approved of this one? Would this one get the green light from him?’ So his voice really was guiding us every step of the way.”
And next Thursday, December6th, Karioth Thompson said this literal labor of love will have its public coming out party at the very newspaper where Gerald Ensley worked for so long. Among the attendees will be another long-time Democrat colleague, current Leon County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley.
“Mary Ann and several other local leaders and people who really are the keepers of our memories are going to be selecting excerpts from the book to read aloud to attendees there, so it will be a nice, diverse selection, just to give folks a taste of what the book has to offer.”
"It's our story and he told it so well and so completely," Karioth Thompson concluded.
The release party for “We Found Paradise,” columns and articles by Gerald Ensley, gets underway at 6:00 p.m. You can find our more and RSVP by going to: www.tallahasseedemocrat.com/geraldensley.