Walsh's debut novel is a bravura performance. This is an upcoming author to watch.
In brief, Walsh chronicles what appears the perfect world of a Baton Rouge privileged neighborhood. The adults belong to the country club. Husbands play golf. Wives play tennis. Their children attend an exclusive private school.
But a beautiful veneer covers many a fault that hides in a furniture piece beneath it. Many secrets hide behind the doors of the homes on Piney Road.
The polished luster that shines on the surface of this Louisiana lagniappe of infidelity and violence is shattered by the brutal rape of Lindy Simpson, a beautiful golden teen track star at the Perkins Private school.
Four suspects emerge, including the nameless narrator, a unique voice, that Walsh created, leaving the reader to wonder whether the key relayer of information has a shred of reliability.
This is a masterful story of family, love, loss, and the nature of friendsip. It is equally a wondrous tale of the pain of growing up and mistakes made for lack of knowledge for not having lived long enough.
For a writer so young, M.O. Walsh displays a knowledge of life and how people live it beyond his years. Read it....more
David Joy has written a compelling debut novel in Where All Light Tends to Go. A student of Ron Rash, Joy obviously listened closely to his gifted mentor. Daniel Woodrell praises the novel as, "Lyrical, propulsive, dark, and compelling. Joy knows well the grit and gravel of his world, the soul and blemishes of the place." No faint praise from the widely recognized author of "Country Noir."
Where does all light tend to go? Perhaps the answer lies in the Psalms.
 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.  I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.  The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.  The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me...  In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.  Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.  There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.  He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.  And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.  At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.  The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.  Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.  Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.  He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.  He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.  They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.  He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.  The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.  For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.  For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.  I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.  Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.  With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;  With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.  For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.  For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.  For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.  As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.  For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?  It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.  He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.  He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.  Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.  Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.  I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.  I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.  For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.  Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.  They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.  Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.  Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.  As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.  The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.  The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.  It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.  He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.  Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.  Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
Or, perhaps all light just fades to black.
Jacob McNeely has been raised in the hills of Western North Carolina by a Meth kingpin, protected by cops on the take. Charlie McNeely has used his son in the family business since Jacob was a youngster, promising him a payday in the long run. But Charlie keeps the money put away "safe," as he drags Jacob deeper into the dirtier bits of the drug trade. Bits like taking care of snitches who blab to the law not on the family payroll.
Charlie may be a stone killer, but Jacob isn't. Nor can Jacob put aside his mmother, turned into a Meth addict by his oown father, who has simply called her "the Bitch" so long, it takes a law man to iinform the reader she once was called Laura.
David Joy deftly paints Jacob as a young man conscious of living in a world so evil he believes it impossible to escape from it.
Jacob will sacrifice his own happiness by breaking up with his love Maggie to keep her from becoming entangled in the world in which he is trapped. And Jacob will descend into a maelstrom of ever increasing violence ordered by his father.
Joy plots his novel at fever pitch. The ending stuns, startles, and reveals where all light tends to go. Is it in the Psalms, or does it simply fade to black? This is a must read. The answer to where the light tends to go is not an easy one.
David Joy is an author to be watched. Highly recommended, especially to admirers of authors such as Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell.
**spoiler alert** A Man Called Ove: This Thing Called Love
Fredrik Backman, only thirty-three years old. You'll be surprised at his wisdom.
Love. I b**spoiler alert** A Man Called Ove: This Thing Called Love
Fredrik Backman, only thirty-three years old. You'll be surprised at his wisdom.
Love. I believe in it. In all it's forms. Pure, impure, fleeting, found, lost, unrequited. I am a master of love unrequited.
But I am absolutely stunned by A Man Called Ove written by Fredrik Backman. Only thirty-three years old. A former forklift driver. Read it. Perhaps you will love it (as in the impersonal sense, see below) as I did.)
Love. We yearn for it. Crave it. Give much for it. Think we have found it. Are often wrong that we have. It is one of life's great mysteries. Subject of the great works of literature, art, film.
Romeo & Juliet, Dicksee
Subject of very poor literature, art, film.
WHAT? You've NEVER had to say you were SORRY????
Just what is it, after all?
An Exercise in Cynicism
Flipping through the dictionary. AH! Yes! Very simple...See?
love ləv/Submit noun 1. an intense feeling of deep affection. "babies fill parents with intense feelings of love" synonyms: deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment; More antonyms: hatred a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone. "it was love at first sight" synonyms: become infatuated with, give/lose one's heart to; More a personified figure of love, often represented as Cupid. noun: Love a great interest and pleasure in something. "his love for football" synonyms: liking of/for, enjoyment of, appreciation of/for, taste for, delight for/in, relish of, passion for, zeal for, appetite for, zest for, enthusiasm for, keenness for, fondness for, soft spot for, weakness for, bent for, proclivity for, inclination for, disposition for, partiality for, predilection for, penchant for "her love for fashion" affectionate greetings conveyed to someone on one's behalf. synonyms: best wishes, regards, good wishes, greetings, kind/kindest regards "my mother sends her love" a formula for ending an affectionate letter. "take care, lots of love, Judy" 2. a person or thing that one loves. "she was the love of his life" synonyms: beloved, loved one, love of one's life, dear, dearest, dear one, darling, sweetheart, sweet, angel, honey
BRITISH informal a friendly form of address. "it's all right, love" BRITISH informal used to express affectionate approval for someone. noun: a love "don't fret, there's a love" 3. (in tennis, squash, and some other sports) a score of zero; nil. "love fifteen" verb verb: love; 3rd person present: loves; past tense: loved; past participle: loved; gerund or present participle: loving 1. feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone). "do you love me?" synonyms: care very much for, feel deep affection for, hold very dear, adore, think the world of, be devoted to, dote on, idolize, worship
Well. Quite simple. I've experienced love in all those forms...but it all seems rather...unsatisfactory.
Let's take a more scientific approach! Clearly, a more thorough answer to be found. Much to choose from...biology, chemistry, neurology....
The inimitable Dr. Fisher, also known as the "Love Doc." *ahem*
There, now. I have your attention, I think? Good. It's quite simple. Love is a very mammalian instinct, a veritable hunger, a thirst. Basically three stages. Lust! The interplay of testosterone and estrogen.
Also known as the "Big Bang," "The Earth Moved," "La Petite Morte," INDEED.
Which leads to Attraction! Oh, the increased production of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, which makes the heart beat faster, leads to loss of appetite,sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. It's almost like the effect of amphetamine on the body!
Which leads to more...
Birds do it, bees do it, even Albert Einstein did it...
Hmmm...meth addicts have told me that meth gave them the best sex they ever had in their lives. Of course, that is why they continued to use it, in the elusive attempt to achieve that same experience. But back to the illuminating work of Dr. Fisher.
Unfortunately, the attraction phase only lasts for one to three years. Bummer. Which may account for the phrase, "The honeymoon is over." Or, "The bloom is off the rose." Or, "The new has worn off."
So we come to phase THREE...Attachment! *ahem* Here's the kicker. Now you're dependent on the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin. Uhm...believed to be important in pair bonding, maternal behavior, and some initial research indicating that oxytocin may be helpful in producing orgasm in women. Men are still reliant on pills, etc.,etc.,etc. In other words, either you go the long road through parenting or mutual interests. Good luck.
Thus spake, not Zarathustra, but Robert Browning
An Exercise of the Heart, Cynics May Exit Now.
Ove, pronounced "Oveeh" is a most unlikely object of love. To the outside world he is a curmudgeonly man, unlikable, grumpy to the core, a stickler for rules and regulations which he will call anyone on at any opportunity. A stingy man who will argue over the cost of every item down to the bottom Kronor. He will park his Saab at a distance to save on the cost of parking. His home is a cold place, the radiators knobs turned down tight, again, a matter of thrift. He once had a good friend, Rune. However, they fell out. He really can't remember the source of it all now. But, he sees Rune responsible for the coup de'tat that removed him as president of the Home Owner's Association of their neighborhood, with Rune taking his place. He has not seen his old friend for years. Ove has no friends. He has no job. He has been forced into early retirement.
Ove sees little point in living. Once he had loved. He had been married. Sonja. Sonja to whom he was married for forty years. She died. No one sees Ove when he walks to the cemetery to speak to her, caressing the stone that marks her grave.
These two were really nothing alike. He was not a reader. She was. She loved Shakespeare. All books. She was a teacher. When they met he was only a night cleaner on the rail line. However he wanted to build houses. She told him he could be anything he wanted. He got his engineer's certificate. He became a builder of houses. He did not become a reader. But he built her beautiful bookshelves.
"People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had."
My God. To love that way.
And, as Ove would survey his empty house, still filled with all Sonja's things, he would think.
"You miss the strangest things when you lose someone. Little things. Smiles. The way she turned over in her sleep. Even repainting a room for her."
The love Ove had for Sonja was not a one directional thing. It flowed equally from her. Her girl friends did not understand it. No one who knew her understood it. Everyone told her she could do better for herself. This is what Sonja thought.
"But to Sonja, Ove was never dour and awkward and sharp-edged... He believed so strongly in things: justice, fair play and hard work and a world where right just had to be right...Not many men of his kind were made anymore...So she was holding on to this one."
Love transforms us. It is a wondrous thing. Love makes all things possible. The loss of it can make life meaningless. So it was for Ove. Is it any surprise that Ove would take his life to be reunited with Sonja? Not for me.
Of course, Ove must make all things right. Leave no mess. All things in order. Proper instructions regarding all the property. A hole drilled precisely in the center of the living room ceiling. The proper hook to hold the rope. The proper noose. Kick the stool over. It's done. But the damned rope breaks. Ove lives in a world of incompetents. Idiots. You can't even depend on someone to make a decent rope anymore!
And slowly something begins to happen. Pushy neighbors insist on violating his privacy. Borrowing tools. Good God. They have children. The woman is a foreigner. And pregnant as a goose! Her husband cannot even back a trailer! Her name is Parvaneh. From Iran? And her husband this IT consultant. He doesn't get up till 9, 10? What is the world coming to?
Each day there is some reason that Ove cannot kill himself. He must save some idiot from himself. It is not a good day to die. Sonja. I am sorry. I know I am late.
And on Ove's story goes. An insistent cat. A boy alienated from his father. A child who wants to be read a story. An old friend whom social services wants to take from his home and put into a "facility." A beautiful story of love that exceeds the personal to a much deeper level the Greeks would have called Agape. Outside one's self.
This is a remarkable odyssey of one man's life and his experience of love. Do not be surprised if you shed a few tears, or more than a few. It is not surprising this novel has sold a half million copies in Sweden. Nor that it is selling so well in America. And the good news? Backman's second novel will be published this year. Watch for it. Get it. Read it. There is nothing wrong with a writer insisting that life is beautiful when he does so as eloquently as Backman.
The Sharpshooter Blues: Guns, Loving and Loss, a Half Bubble off Plumb
Slightly more than three years ago I founded a group On the Southern Literary TrThe Sharpshooter Blues: Guns, Loving and Loss, a Half Bubble off Plumb
Slightly more than three years ago I founded a group On the Southern Literary Trail. It is not a "moonlight and magnolias" site. Here readers choose works by iconic authors of Southern literature and new voices in what I call the Southern choir. Along the way, my fellow moderators and I added an alternative read, The Moderator's Choice, usually an author previously unread by the group. I chose The Sharpshooter Blues by Lewis Nordan for February, 2015, the "Trail's" introduction to the works of Lewis Nordan.
First Ed., Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 1995
“Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one...Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.”― Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional ProseMystery and Manners: Occasional Prose
Lewis Nordan, b. August 23, 1939, Forest, MS; d. April 13, 2012, Pittsburgh, PA
I have loved the writing of Lewis Nordan since I discovered him on a summer trip to the crystal shores of the southern coastline of my home, Alabama, more than fifteen years ago. Having read all of his work since that time, I'm pretty sure that Nordan would appreciate that folks around these parts refer to that area as "The Redneck Riviera." He would also appreciate it because it is a place where it's not hard to find magic if you take a little time to look.
Nordan came to writing relatively late in life, not deciding to pursue it until age thirty-five. He graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, served a two year hitch in the Navy. Took a Masters Degree from Mississippi State and finally a PhD from Auburn University. Along the way he taught high school, was a college instructor, was a night watchman, an orderly in a hospital. Life didn't come easy. Two marriages. The first one failed. But it was his first wife who recognized his desire to write. He began with short fiction, was awarded the John Gould Fletcher Award for fiction in 1977 from the University of Arkansas. The hardest part of life was the death of two children, one at an early age, the other a suicide at the age of twenty.
Lewis Nordan was a likeable man. His friends called him "Buddy." All of his friends. He was a careful writer, constantly revising, getting the words right. He followed in Faulkner's footsteps creating his own little "postage stamp size piece of soil" as Faulkner called his Yoknapatawpha County. But Nordan's was Arrow Catcher, Mississippi.
Arrow Catcher came to life in his first collection of short stories printed by LSU Press in 1983, Welcome to the Arrow-Catcher Fair. It was such a short print run, it is now a choice collector's item for the bibliophile. I can't touch it. Can't even come close.
Nordan returned to Arrowcatcher with his second collection of short fiction in 1986 with The All-Girl Football Team: Stories, again published by LSU Press. It is as equally rare as the first Arrow Catcher anthology.
Nordan said in an interview with Blake Mahler, "writers will find a little postage-stamp size plot of land, their spiritual geography and a handful of people that live there, and they will write those people’s stories over and over again.… I’ve just invented out of pain and joy a family and a place they live and have watched them move in love through that place.” Sounds a lot like Faulkner, doesn't he?
And on magic, we can't forget magic, this is what Buddy Nordan had to say: “Magic is the imagination” [something that} “seems to be both necessary and evil and destructive in these characters.” Comments made after Nordan had been signed by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, NC. The novel was immediately recognized with best fiction awards from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and the Prize for Notable Fiction from the American Library Institute of Arts and Letters.
Lewis Nordan would go on to become a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas. From there, he would become the professor of Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh where he ended his professional career.
Nordan died of complications of pneumonia in 2012. His last work was [book:Boy with Loaded Gun: A Memoir|672273] published in 2007. In an interview conducted at the 2006 Faulkner Conference at the University of Mississippi, Nordan said he planned on returning to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. I wish he had. But he never did. I miss the writing of Lewis Nordan. When you read him, if you read him, you will grow to miss him too.
The magic place I discovered Lewis Nordan was a little book shop, long gone. It was called Just Books. The owner's appearance was deceiving. Not who you would expect to carry the eclectic selections on the tables and shelves. She was elderly, quite prim, coiffure that perfect bluish white. Always dressed in a dark navy suit, crisp white blouse, hose, matching navy pumps. I never caught her name. However, I expected to see her at a tea celebrating an upcoming marriage, or at early church service on a Sunday morning. She dressed as though the temperature was a cool spring afternoon, not a humid summer afternoon, where the pavement was hot enough to burn the soles of your feet through your shoes.
This particular day I found first editions of Music of the Swamp, Lightning Song, and Wolf Whistle. I read the dust jackets. Perused the first chapter of each of the books. I was immediately lured into the world of Lewis Nordan. I was puzzled. Curious. I had never heard of him. The lady waited patiently at the register.
I took my purchases to the counter. Her voice was not that of an old woman. More of a siren's song. A southern siren, her tones soft and honeyed. "You have found something quite special. If you can believe in magic. Can you?"
"Why, I think I can."
"Tell me something you've seen that was magic."
"The lillies blooming in the Cahaba River. Trilliums on the forest floor. Scarlet Buckeye in flame along a back road in spring."
Cahaba Lillies in bloom, Cahaba River, June, 2009, photograph by the reviewer. The largest stand of these rare flowers in the world.
Red Trillium, Mount Cheaha, highest point in Alabama, mountain hiking trail, May, 2008
Scarlet Buckeye, April, 2008, outside Ashville, Alabama
"Oh, I think you and Buddy Nordan will get along just fine."
I have often wondered what became of her. She clearly knew her stock. And she knew Nordan's books.
I never got to meet Lewis Nordan. I hate that. I loved his books. I love this one. Welcome to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. It does not exist. However, it stands in for the Mississippi town in which Lewis Nordan grew up, Itta Bena. Nordan laughingly said in an interview he wanted to title his memoirs, "Don't Cry for Me, Itta Bena." However, he refrained for fear that readers wouldn't know how to pronounce it. Yes, it rhymes with Argentina.
Were Nordan to be reading over my shoulder, he would tell me he doesn't like being compared to Flannery O'Connor. To him, her world is too stark, her characters too cold, and her God too harsh. Buddy Nordan believed that humans could save one another through their love. He acknowledged critics' comparison to O'Connor. Yet, he preferred to consider himself descended from Faulkner and a much closer relative of Eudora Welty.
So, what of The Sharpshooter Blues? Nordan's work is one of love, loss, and humanity. Yes. He is closely akin to Eudora Welty. However, freaks abound in this novel. They live in all his work. There is a great degree of the grotesque in Nordan's work.
Meet The Prince of Darkness, Arrow Catcher's mortician, resurrected from the Dead by Aunt Lily, the local Hoodoo Woman. The Prince can throw a funeral like nobody's business.
Then there's The Sharpshooter, Morgan, a trick shot artist. It's fitting he's the offspring of two circus workers who abandoned him, left him floating in the swamp around Arrow Catcher, to be retrieved and raised by a black woman, the same Aunt Lily who resurrected the Prince of Darkness from the Dead.
Preacher Roe likes to go down to the William Tell Grocery and take the sordid confessions of those like Leonard, who tries to resist the urge, but can't resist a tryst with the truckers down at the truck stop.
And down at the William Tell, the cashier is Hydro Raney, the hydrocephalic son of Mr. Raney, widowed since his wife died giving birth to Hydro.
Hydro and his father live in the fish house out in the swamp. There are no other houses there. Mr. Roy, the postman brings the mail by boat, once a week.
However, it is magic in the swamp. The trees are filled with parrots and monkeys. The water splashes with dolphin and porpoises. Hydro's father calls him "Peaches," "Honey," and loves him dearly.
It is a tale of father and sons. Those who clearly love one another. Those who seem to be completely detached.
It is a tale of husbands and wives. Those who clearly love one another. Those whose marriage is on the rocks.
There is definitely magic in Nordan's world. However, it goes beyond what we commonly know as magical realism. It seems more akin to the "Marvelous Real," a concept deeply ingrained in the works of Latin American authors. One thinks of the opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
This is a world where love and death are separated by an instant. Where the grotesque lives beside the apparent normal. Where swift, unexpected violence alters life in a second.
What occurs in The Sharpshooter Blues is what happens when guns come out on a summer day and two "lovely young children" decide to rob the wrong grocery store. They run into a sharpshooter.
The question is just who is the sharpshooter and why is he singing the blues?
No, I've already told you about Morgan, the trick shot. He shot a cantaloupe off Hydro's head. Then he invited Hydro to shoot one off of his.
Morgan's got the blues. He's been putting the wood to Doctor McNaughton's wife, Ruthie. Even the Doctor knows it and has become rather detached over the whole idea. However, Ruthie may be done with Morgan. Morgan may have a death wish and hopes Hydro just puts him out of his misery. But Hydro turns out to be a crackshot, too. Morgan's still got the love sick blues.
When the two lovely children robbers all dressed in black come rob the William Tell Grocery, they end up dead for their trouble. Morgan ends up in jail.
Young Louis McNaughton says Morgan did it. But did he?
Hydro disappears. Why?
Can the McNaughton marriage be saved?
Will Louis ever feel acknowledged by his own father?
How come "Having a pal with a firearm is a blessing?"
What's up with all these parrots?
Where did all these porpoises come from all the way from the Gulf?
This is a novel that will enchant you. Nordan will make you laugh. He will make you cry. As one of my great reader friends, Diane Barnes, Co-Moderator on "The Trail" said, "Start a sentence with laughter and end with tears." Buddy Nordan will leave you with the belief that love does save us. Forgiveness frees us. And, no, we are not meant to be alone. That is, if you have the ability to look for the possibility of magic in this world. It's not just in Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. All those folks that strike you being a half bubble off plumb? They're not all that different than you and me. Nordan will make you squirm. But life is a little easier when you can laugh at yourself and know when to cry with your neighbors.
Lewis Nordan on the Marvelous Real:
The idea of the "marvelous realist" strikes me as exactly right, better than "magical realism," for sure.... The idea of just plugging in magical elements to reality is not what I do; it is a way of seeing reality, which is completely different, it is from the inside rather than from the outside.... When I look at the world, I can understand what other people are seeing, but I am seeing something else at the same time....It is entirely a matter of vision, and that vision can be described as comic, or can be described as grotesque, or otherworldly.... When somebody says, "What does this mean, and how can this be?" I just have to say, maybe this world is not the real world, maybe this is another planet, maybe this is some other dimension of life that we can't see clearly. Because for me it is as real as anything, though I understand that they [the stories] do not actually happen in this world.' See: An Interview with Lewis Nordan, Russell Ingram and Mark Ledbetter, Missouri Review Volume 20, Issue 1 (1997): pp73-89.
Lewis Nordan and Parrots: It just so happens that Lewis Nordan liked parrots. When Thomas Bjerre interviewed Nordan at his home in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2001, he noticed a number of Parrot prints on the walls and commented on them. Rather glibly, Nordan answered, "I really like parrots." See: Interview with Lewis Nordan, at his home in Pittsburgh, May 19, 2001, Thomas Bjerre, Mississippi Quarterly Summer 2001, Vol. 54 Issue 3, p365.
Of course, parrots and their ancestors and relatives in the United States are not that rare. Five and a half million years ago, what we know as the Carolina Parakeet made famous in Audobon's Print ranged from the southernmost point of the North America to what is today's New England. They became extinct in 1918 as a result of man's gradual deforestation of the east coast.
The last Carolina Parakeet died in a Cincinnati Zoo in 1918.
Print by Audobon
A species of parrot is native to the mountains of Arizona. Another is native to Louisiana.
Porpoises in the Mississippi Rivers? No, Nordan's trolley didn't slip the tracks. The presence of Porpoises and Dolphins in inland Mississippi Rivers are routinely studied by Mississippi scientists. See Writing in the Caribbean with a Mississippian Accent: Lewis Nordan and the Magical Grotesque,MANUEL BRONCANO,University of León, Spain, Mississippi Quarterly. Fall 2007, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p661-675.
What's the significance of guns in The Sharpshooter Blues Lewis Nordan Speaks!
"Guns are a metaphor for power, and sometimes power is expressed just in a hoop or a shout or a celebratory yell. And that's in a way what shooting a gun is. It's yahoo. bang-bang! oh-boy ain't life great. I'd hate to see that statement taken out of context, but in fact that is a part of what the people in The Sharpshooter Blues are doing; they're saying life is great and these gunshots are a kind of shouting. (view spoiler)[So when Hydro kills people and does the opposite of what I and I think Hydro and all others believe about guns the shock is terrible. (hide spoiler)] Not only have I done this thing but I have betrayed the whole idea of guns as something celebratory."
See: Interview with Lewis Nordan, at his home in Pittsburgh, May 19, 2001, Thomas Bjerre, Mississippi Quarterly Summer 2001, Vol. 54 Issue 3, p370-371.
Some of my fellow readers have questioned whether Nordan takes on America's fascination with the gun culture. In this and other comments within this review, Nordan flatly states he confronted the issue of gun violence and its consequences.
Darkness Visible: When the Question is Whether Life is Worth Living
William Styron, (June 11, 1925 – November 1, 2006)
"Dying is easy. Comed
Darkness Visible: When the Question is Whether Life is Worth Living
William Styron, (June 11, 1925 – November 1, 2006)
"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.--Edmund Kean, (4 November 1787 – 15 May 1833), celebrated Shakespearean actor
Preamble-January 18, 2015
It is 1:20am cst. My thoughts swirl over the important content of Styron's brief memoir originally delivered as a lecture in Baltimore, 1989. The information contained in this little volume is too important to trust to hastily dashed off thoughts, without the benefit of careful consideration. So a night's sleep is called for. And, truthfully, to consider how much of myself I choose to reveal within my review of Styron's story. For much of what he has to say, also applies to me, as it does to many among us. Yet, I am not unaware of the stigma brought about by confession. My inclination is truthfulness leads more to seek help. I did. It has made all the difference. For I emerged from darkness, once again to see the stars. There is much joy in the night sky, but a terrible loneliness in the dark, without even a match to strike to hold to a candle's wick.
The Heart of the Matter-January 25, 2015
It has taken considerably more time than one night of good sleep to bring myself to write an adequate review of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. For I did not stop with this brief but brilliant account by William Styron. I continued on to with Reading My Father by his youngest daughter, Alexandra Styron, an absorbing, intimate memoir detailing what it was like to be William Styron's daughter in good times and in bad. The bad included not only the time Styron so articulately described in this work, but in his continuing battle clinical depression. His battle did not end with the publication of Darkness Visible in 1990. Rather, Styron was revisited by "the black dog," the "dark river," "the abyss," a number of times before his death in 2006. No, Styron did not die by his own hand. He endured cancer of the mouth, and died of complications from pneumonia. A review of Reading My Father will follow at some point, hopefully in the very near future. As I type, a copy of William Styron, A Life by his biographer James L.W. West III is at the right corner of my desk. Yes, I am making a study of Styron's life and his works, a number of which I have read at this time, but not all of them. Many, some published posthumously have a great bearing on Styron's life view, his state of mind during some of the most difficult points in his life.
There was something else I had to give considerable thought to before writing this review. I indicated that in my "hastily dashed off thoughts" now appearing in what I have called the Preamble to the main body of this review. Those of you who have read my reviews know that I have often included personal details of my life. This will be the most personal review I have ever written. Not only will you read of Styron's thoughts on the nature of depression, but you will learn of mine, something that I struggled to hide for many years, quite successfully, until, I, too, slid off the edge of the world in much the same fashion as did Styron. It is not so much that confession is good for the soul, but that with each voice speaking about the debilitating anguish of depression, perhaps those who do not understand it will not view those who suffer from it weak human beings, would be shirkers of responsibility, or simply spineless beings. Styron did much to dispell that stigma. However, many people who share those misconceptions, quite frankly do not read William Styron. I have come to wonder if they read much of anything. I also have a few things to say about the pharmaceutical industry and the manner in which they pitch their products in endless streams of mindless commercials.
On Darkness Visible as a work of Literature
William Styron wrote an extraordinary document. It draws on literary allusion after allusion. Note the very source of its title. Paradise Lost by John Milton. For its subject matter it is remarkably succinct, a mere ninety pages. It is remarkable for its clarity. Styron is remarkable for his revelation of his illness, it is the taking off the mask that those battling depression wear so well, for so long. Styron reveals his self medication with alcohol, perhaps an addiction, though he never calls it alcoholism. Yet he reveals that he frequently wrote under the influence of alcohol and could not do so without a fluent flow without the aid of alcohol. At the age of sixty, the mere taste of alcohol resulted in pure revulsion. He was devastated by insomnia night after night. He discloses that he was an auto-didact. He was a master at self-diagnosis. Before seeking psychiatric help he had pondered over the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, what I call the ultimate cookbook containing all the diagnostic recipes for disorders large and small for psychologists and psychiatrists. To further complicate matters, though Styron does not admit it in Darkness Visible Styron was a hypochondriac extraordinaire. We can thank daughter Alexandra for that information.
Styron cracked apart in 1985 on a trip to Paris to accept the Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca, awarded for his lifetime achievement in producing works reflecting on great humanism. The award was offered by the wife of his French Publisher. Del Duca had published Styron's first novel Lie Down in Darkness in 1953, and had published each of his ensuing works. It was to be a day of festivities. However, Styron had already sought an appointment with a psychiatrist in New York. The prize was $25,000.00. Immediately after the award was presented, Styron in an absolute panic, immobilized by anxiety, told Madame Del Duca he could not attend the luncheon being held in his behalf. Which drew an angry "Alors!" With arms thrown high. Styron, even in his frozen state, apologized, did recognize his gaffe and told her he had a problem psychiatrique and that he was sick. Apology accepted. Styron and his rock, wife Rose, suffered through the luncheon, Styron unable to choke down hardly a bite. A flight on the Concorde the next morning began a rigorous pyschiatric treatment. Ultimately hospitalization. Styron seriously contemplated suicide.
So. Some central thoughts from Darkness Visible, each of which I hold to be absolutely true, which I will interlace with my own confessions, the devil take the hindmost. The names of some of my principal players have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, for there are both.
“Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self--to the mediating intellect--as to verge close to being beyond description. It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode, although the gloom, "the blues" which people go through occasionally and associate with the general hassle of everyday existence are of such prevalence that they do give many individuals a hint of the illness in its catastrophic form.” --William Styron
No words have come so close to describing what it feels like. "You're just down in the dumps. A little time, you'll feel better in no time." Time passes, there's no change. "This moodiness of yours is getting old. Snap out of it. Do you think it's pleasant being around you?" No, I didn't think it was. "If you're not happy here, go somewhere else. If you do, I'll take you for every cent you've got."
My first marriage. Twenty-six years. Many years were loveless. We had two children. When my son graduated from high school, I left work early one day, gathered clothes together, the kids came home to find me packing. I explained their mother and I couldn't get along anymore. It wasn't their fault. Nor was it their mother's. She was a good woman. I would never say a bad word about her.
The divorce took two years. My former wife fought all the way. I was an Assistant District Attorney. There was a limited pot of money. There would always be a limited amount of money. It took two lawyers to convince her of that. Even then, I gave her everything, keeping my books, records, fishing equipment, and camping equipment. Everyone leaves their own legacy. She alienated by children by blocking every phone number I had access to. The children in my photographs of them never grow older. My son married. I had told him when he and his wife had a child he would understand what it meant to be a father, perhaps we would be reconciled someday. We did for almost two years. His mother gave him fits, his wife told me. We are once again estranged. My daughter has never reconciled with me. She has a child I've never met. I was first told I was dealing with depression during my divorce.
One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience- one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devastation would by lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words.”-William Styron
I became an Assistant District Attorney in 1979. Several factors led to that. Two women who had cared for me as a child had been murdered. One by her husband. The other by her son. I had loved each of them. Later in law school, as a law clerk in the District Attorney's Office, two young men robbed a Mom and Pop grocery store. The father of two students with whom I had attended school throughout my life was murdered. His death changed their lives forever. I would become a righter of wrongs.
I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light. Robert Frost
Within six years I was a specialist in prosecuting child abuse. I was bestowed somehow with a high degree of empathy. It can be a gift and a curse. I became known as Mr. Mike. I had a unique ability to talk with children. I became known as Mr. Mike, first by children, then by police, social workers, and the name stuck. I was called in to interview very young children who had witnessed their fathers kill their mothers. I became a protector of mockingbirds.
The caseload was relentless. I was a man capable of great tenderness mixed with the ability to turn mean. I was described as a lawyer who had an uncanny ability to connect with a witness on the stand. I often worked late into the night in trial preparation. My former wife complained I cared about other people's children more than my own. She could not understand it when I told her I knew ours were protected but the others were not.
I was and remain haunted by the eyes of the dead, particularly the eyes of dead children. I have flashbacks at times.
What Styron said about being expected to smile,is true. I wore a mask. Exceptionally well. I was a cop's DA. My best lawyer friend resorted to a John Wayne phrase calling me "a man with a lot of hard bark on him." I could exchange gallows' humor jokes with the most jaded Homicide Investigator.
Although our office had an on-call system, Investigators usually called me. Frankly, I was very, very good at my job. I was a fine trial lawyer. I lost very few cases. I did lose control of my emotions more than once on closing argument before a jury and cried. I considered it a weakness even when the jury convicted.
During all my years as a prosecutor I lost count of the number of crime scenes I attended, the number of dead I saw, the number of autopsies I witnessed, the exhumation of a dead child I obtained an order for, and the subsequent re-autopsy.
I had no outlet to talk about my work. My former wife did not want to hear about it. "It was too depressing." Yes. I guess it was.
“When I was first aware that I had been laid low by the disease, I felt a need, among other things, to register a strong protest against the word "depression." Depression, most people know, used to be termed "melancholia," a word which appears in English as the year 1303 and crops up more than once in Chaucer, who in his usage seemed to be aware of its pathological nuances. "Melancholia" would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a blank tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferent to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness.
It may be that the scientist generally held responsible for its currency in modern times, a Johns Hopkins Medical School faculty member justly venerated --the Swiss-born psychiatrist Adolf Meyer -- had a tin ear for the finer rhythms of English and therefore was unaware of the semantic damage he had inflicted for such a dreadful and raging disease. Nonetheless, for over seventy-five years the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing, by its insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control.” ― William Styron
Our pharmaceutical industry does nothing to indicate the seriousness of clinical depression. It's a simple as just adding a little pill to help the anti-depressant you're on. And all delivered in a seconds long cartoon commercial. What kind of message does that send to people who have never dealt with the condition, those who have just had the commonplace blues.
Looks serious, doesn't it?
And where are the men in those commercials? Alright, so the statistics show women report depression more than men. How about, women are more forthcoming and truthful in reporting depression. After all, that male ego is such an impediment to admitting to what is viewed as a weakness. Interesting that according to the American Foundation for Suicide in 2012 over 78% of suicides were committed by males while slightly over 21% were committed by females.
Since Darkness Visible
William Styron was repeatedly prescribed Halcion by more than one physician for his insomnia. Halcion was banned in Great Britain in 1991 on the basis of its connection to depression and possible suicidal behavior. The FDA still allows its prescription in the United States. The drug is currently the subject of litigation in various jurisdictions.
Considerable progress has been made in pharmacology for the treatment of clinical depression since Styron published Darkness Visible.
Why I'm Still Here
I fell off the edge of the earth twice. Call it a crack up. Call it a nervous break down. Throughout my life I have been consumed by the fear of failure. Formerly the Director of a Not for Profit Corporation, I was placed under a degree of stress I was incapable of handling. I had long been associated with the program as a board member. The President of the Board had succeeded in removing two Directors preceding my taking the position. When that President initiated the same tactics against me, I became frozen by anxiety, incapable of focus, unable to function. Men closely identify themselves with their work. The loss of what they do is essentially the same as the loss of their identity. That was the case for me. Did I consider whether life was worth living anymore? Yes, I did. Clinical Depression is a chemical imbalance. Restoration to health requires a combination of psychological therapy and psychiatric pharmacology. I was fortunate to find the right combination.
I entered a second stage of crisis after being my mother's care giver during her final illness. It was a long hard death for her. I very unrealistically thought I could help save her life. I lived in a state of denial. She finally was hospitalized in intensive care for a month. The end was inevitable. The morning she died, I found myself lost once again. What was left for me to do. An adjustment of my medications was necessary. Within two months, I had found myself once again.
Each time I considered life wasn't worth the living, one thing kept me from taking the final step. It was the same thing that kept Styron alive. For him, it was the effect it would have had on his family. For me, it was the effect it would have had on my mother and my wife, the lovely woman with whom I found happiness relatively late in life. The second time, my wife. I have seen too many people devastated by the suicide of a loved one. But it took the right help to make me remember that. The help is there.
A child may ask, 'What is the world's story about?' And a grown man or woman may wonder, 'What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we're at it, what's the story about?'
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too -- in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite changes we might impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well -- or ill?
John Steinbeck, Chapter 34, East of Eden, 1952
I originally posted an abbreviated review of this novel on January 14, 2014. Fourteen of my friends liked it. And I appreciate that. However, I got to thinking about it, this novel and the man who wrote it. I initially rated One Foot in Eden Three Stars. Why? Because I had read Rash's novel Serena before this one. Bottom line, I penalized Mr. Rash because he had become a better writer since he had written this book. Then that quote from Steinbeck kind of rolled over me, as it has many times. Mr. Rash, you did well. Those three stars are now four. And my good friend, Diane, is sighing, thinking, "This is going to be a long one." Well, not too long.
When I was a child I asked that question, "What is the world's story about?" We all do. Haven't you? Through the years I have lived I have come to believe Steinbeck was right. "A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well -- or ill?" That's hard truth.
It comes down to making a lot of choices, right or wrong, well or ill. Then there are those times when you just don't have a choice. Nothing's in your control. Like who you are, what you look like, where you were born. Your mother and your father made you, put you here. Somebody raises you. Maybe your mother and your father, maybe not. You do what you do with what you've got, where you are.
I think Rash read East of Eden. More than once. Because this is a novel about people caught in a web of good and evil. It's about the choices they make, the things that haunt them, and the questions a child grows to ask.
It is August, 1952. Oconee County, South Carolina. Oconee comes from the Cherokee word "Ae-quo-nee" meaning "land beside the water." Soon the land around Jocassee will be under water, flooded by South Carolina Power to generate hydroelectric energy. Every mother's son and daughter will be driven off the land their families have held since the 1700s. Even their dead will be dug up and moved above the flood plane. It will become a place lost forever. The people who live there have no choice.
Botanist Andre Michaux discovers the very rare Oconee Bell Flowers in 1788 at Jocassee at the head of the Keowee River. Today, it's at the head of Jocassee Gorge at Devil's Inn State Park, SC.
Holland Winchester will not live to see his home flooded. He will be murdered. Or, is it murder? Is it a maelstrom of uncontrollable emotions that explode into violence leaving a child to be born who will someday grow to ask "Where is my father?"
Or, is it sometimes better to let the dead bury the dead? Jocassee after the waters rose.
Is there the possibility of forgiveness? Ron Rash will have you thinking about it. For a long time.
Here's what I had previously said. I don't always get it right the first time.
January 14, 2015
Review to Follow: Very, very briefly: I actually picked up my reading at page fifty of One Foot in Eden a few minutes after midnight this morning. The pages whipped by in a swirl of carefully constructed multiple narrators. This is the first novel by Ron Rash. In a rare situation for me, I had read later works by Rash. Generally, I read an author from their initial novel and watch their writing develop. Had I begun my reading of Rash's novels with this intriguing read, I would have been incredibly impressed. However, having read Serena, a novel produced by Rash at the peak of his power as a writer with even more promise to come with yet a forthcoming novel, One Foot in Eden emerges as a bit rough around the edges. Rash fills out this compelling read with the elements of a crime novel, what has come to be known as Grit Lit, and the eerie nature of supernatural presence, a classic Southern Gothic ingredient. As Salieri blithely dismissed Mozart's music being comprised of "too many notes," Rash may have combined too many ingredients in a compelling read that is uneven in spots, trying to fit into all possible subgenres of contemporary Southern fiction. That three stars surprises me. To be fair, let's kick it up a notch to 3.5.
A more detailed review should follow. For Rash admirers, this is a must read. The sense of place is incredibly done. Rash knows the hills of South Carolina, its people, and strikes to the heart of the destruction of community and environment by the creation of damned reservoirs, covering once living residences of whole communities and leaving areas filled with tradition and heritage lost forever. This is one that lingers in the mind. And will leave the reader haunted on multiple levels.
January 16, 2015
There, now. I'm sorry, Mr. Rash. Some of those hastily scripted notes ring a little hollow to me now. Thank you Mr. Steinbeck....more
Until You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: Resurrection in the Blues
Special thanks to University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Ms. for making this available thrUntil You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: Resurrection in the Blues
Special thanks to University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Ms. for making this available through netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Six members of the L.S. Earll family were brutally murdered in Calcasieu Parrish, Louisiana, in February, 1902. On August 14, 1903, Albert Edwin Batson was executed in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Court Seat for the Parrish. He was twenty-two years old. He was hung from the gallows. He shouted "Goodbye" as the trapdoor opened beneath him. Sheriff John Perkins pulled the lever. It was his first time to execute a man. The knot wasn't quite right. The fall didn't snap Batson's neck. He dangled, twisted, and choked. It took him twenty minutes to die.
Albert Edwin Batson, 1881-1903
It was easier to hang a man in 1903. Quicker, too. Batson had been the handy man on the Earll place. They were rice farmers who had moved to Louisiana from Michigan to live a wealthier life. And they had. L.S. Earll had banked $700.00 from his rice harvest. L.S. had his own home on the farm he shared with his wife and three of his children. His son, Ward, lived in his own home located a short distance away. Both L.S. and Ward had a goodly amount of livestock on the place, too.
Batson was tried twice and convicted twice. Sentenced to death twice. He had two lawyers appointed to represent him. Well known lawyers. Of course, criminal law wasn't their specialty. They were better at drawing up a deed, a contract, or drafting a will. They did a good job, though. They got their young client's case reversed on appeal after the first conviction on an evidentiary ruling. They launched a review by the Pardon Board to have their client's sentence commuted to life in prison after the second conviction. Two out of three members of the review committee thought the evidence was too flimsy to hang a man. But the third member was from Calcasieu Parrish. His people thought a hanging was due. His opinion carried the day with the Governor and Albert swung. Until he was dead, dead, dead.
It was a sensational two trials. The murders were ghoulish. Gory. Bloody. Six members of one family wiped out. Bludgeoned. Blasted with a shotgun. Throats slashed ear to ear. The trials brought reporters from around the country.
As always, once somebody swings, life goes on. People forget. Everybody seems to have forgotten Batson. In 1910 a fire burned down most of Lake Charles, including the Courthouse, taking whatever records of Batson's cases had ever existed. Nobody knows what happened to the records at the appellate level. They were just gone.
But cases like Batson's have a way of coming back. In the 1930s, the WPA had projects all over America, putting people to work. The Lomax brothers were in Louisiana collecting folksongs. Their collected works are in the Library of Congress today. In 1934 they met Stavin' Chain, the performing name for a blues musician, Wilson Jones, a black man with a black string band. Those bands don't exist much anymore. The Lomax brothers recorded a number of songs played and sung by them. One was the Batson Ballad. It had thirty-five verses. The refrain was, "Mama, I didn't done the crime."
Just as people forgot about Albert Edwin Batson, folks seem to have forgotten about the Lomax brothers and Stavin' Chain, and the Batson Ballad. Strange, though. These things have a way of coming back.
In 2008, an Englishman interested in American Folksongs, contacted Danielle Miller a librarian at the Genealogical and Historical Library for Calcasieu Parrish in Lake Charles wanting to know more about the Batson Ballad. Miller started digging. She found enough information to discover the song was based on a real event. She dug further and found enough information to make her wonder about the ballad's refrain. What if Batson "didn't done the crime?"
At the time of Batson's trials there were no rules on jury selection in a capital murder case. No limits. The District Attorney could pack twelve men on a jury who were committed to hanging a man on circumstantial evidence alone. That didn't cease to be the case until the United States Supreme Court rendered its opinion in Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968). 1968? Yep.
Now, don't go thinking that this is a book for lawyers because I put up that fancy dancin' legal citation up there. This is a bone chilling read. It will appeal to lovers of historical fiction as well as non-fiction. This is one that will make the short hairs stand up at the back of your neck. Poor Albert Edwin Batson. Two juries couldn't see past their own noses. The sentencing judge screamed out "Until you are dead, dead, dead," at his first pronouncement. The second time, perhaps having been a bit more circumspect in watching the flimsy evidence unfold, that's the reason spectators had to lean forward to hear him whisper the same words.
In the end, the outcome was the same for Batson. He was truly dead, dead, dead. Funny thing. The sheriff that hung him? He said that young man never looked like a killer to him. You know? He just may have been right. It's enough to make you think about your opinion on capital punishment. Even a grizzled old retired career prosecutor. Like me.
READ THIS BOOK.
Wilson Jones, "Stavin' Chain", 1934
Listen to Stavin' Chain sing the Batson Ballad. For those curious, a stavin' chain is a tool used to bind the staves of a barrel together until the metal band is applied to hold the pieces together.
The universally applied rule for the use of circumstantial evidence is that it is perfectly admissible as long as it points to the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. If it is explainable by any other reasonable hypothesis, it is the jury's duty to acquit. One Earll son survived the blood bath on the Earll farm. Fred Earll claimed he lived in Iowa. No existing record indicates a person by that name was a resident of Iowa at the time the six members of the Earll family were killed. Just food for thought. ...more