Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released the audiobook edition of Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel Fate’s Arrows, narrated by Daniela Acitelli. Of course, I’m biased, but I’ll say this anyway: the narration is wonderful and fits the story perfectly.
In 1954, the small Florida Panhandle town of Torreya had more Klansmen per acre than fire ants. Sparrow, a bag lady; Pollyanna, an auditor; and Jack, the owner of Slade’s Diner, step on fire ants and Klansmen whenever they can while an unknown archer fires fate-changing arrows at the Klan’s leadership. They are not who they appear to be, and while they take risks, they must be discrete lest they end up in the Klan’s gunsights.
When Julia and Eldon, a married couple from Harlem, New York, run afoul of the Klan because of Eldon’s pro-union stance at the sawmill, they find themselves down at the ancient hanging tree where two policemen, hiding their identity beneath white robes and hoods, are the ones holding the noose.
Meanwhile, Sparrow seems to have disappeared. When the ne’er-do-well Shelton brothers beat up the Klavern’s exalted cyclops because they think he harmed Sparrow, they, too, find themselves the focus of a KKK manhunt.
Bolstered by support from a black cat and an older-than-dirt conjure woman, Pollyanna persists in her fight against the Klan, determined to restore law and order to a town overwhelmed by corruption. In time, her targets will learn that Pollyanna is no Pollyanna.
Fate’s Arrows is also available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover editions.
Innocence Projects track down individuals who appear to have been wrongly convicted, analyze their cases, and seek to have them exonerated by proving that the original trials were flawed, witnesses lied, evidence was improperly handled, or possibly that everything beginning with the arrest was a total and expedient fabrication.
John Grisham turns in another winning and compelling novel with The Guardians, about a nonprofit innocence project that runs on a shoestring with dedicated personnel and a thorough and tenacious approach to the law that gets results.
Lawyer and priest Cullen Post believes Quincy Miller’s 22 years in prison for a murder he did not commit represent not only a miscarriage of justice but brought additional power and financial gain to a small-town Florida sheriff and the criminals he sheltered, aided, and abetted. Proving Quincy Miller’s innocence is a tall order, perhaps impossible, especially when those who framed him want him to quietly rot in prison dead or alive.
The book is an exciting mix of courtroom work and investigative work. The courtroom work can be slow. The investigative work is slower because after 22 years those two lied at the original trial have scattered on the winds and don’t want to be found, much less recant. The more successful The Guardians is in exposing flaws in the original arrest and trial, the more likely thugs hear about it can come out of the woodwork–and they don’t place nicely.
The book reads well, keeps the excitement and tension at a high level, and exposes readers to the concept of innocence work and how it is done. The reader becomes aware early on that neither Cullen Post nor Quincy Miller has any guarantees that they’ll make it out of this novel alive.
My coming of age novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle October 15-17, proving that good things can happen in 2020.
David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?
Vistors to Many Glacier Valley in Glacier National Park will recognize many of the settings, including the old hotel. Visitors to Florida’s Tate’s Hell Forest near Carrabelle on the Gulf Coast will recognize the ambiance of this spooky swamp.
Local color serves a variety of purposes in novels and short stories:
Paints a picture of the location and its history
Provides careers, hobbies, road trips for the characters
Resonates with readers who know the area
Helps move the plot forward
Adds depth to the story
My four Florida Folk Magic novels are set in the state’s panhandle near the Apalachicola River. This was once a land of cotton that is far different from the cities and tourist attractions of the peninsula that tourists flock to every year. It’s dominated by pine forests, small towns, small farms, commercial and sports fishing, and a relatively low profile nationally.
St. Joe Paper Company
The St. Joe Paper Company in the 1950s when my novels are set, had a massive influence in the panhandle: paper mill, landholdings, a railroad called the Apalachicola Northern that carried wood products from the coastal mill to Quincy, Florida for transfer to mainline railroads. The paper company, part of a trust established by the du Pont family, still exists but focuses on commercial and residential real estate. The railroad, named the Apalachicola Northern, was referred to as the Port St. Joe Route. (It still exists as part of a conglomerate.)
In my novels, I call my fictional the town Torreya (after a rare Florida tree) and place it near the town of Telogia as shown on this AN railroad map:
I mention the railroad a lot, fudging its route to include my fictional town because it, and the local sawmill, are important to the local economy; inasmuch as “crossings” is a vital word in conjure, railroad crossings also provide ambiance and figure into a plot which includes bulkhead flat cars carrying wood products:
Unfortunately, most of the online pictures of this railroad are copyrighted, including its old Electro-Motive (General Motors) SW9 switch engines.
If you’re a railfan, you can learn more about the railroad here:
What draws people to the location you’re writing about. If I’d set the novels in current times, I might have mentioned Apalachicola’s commercial oyster industry and/or the fight between Florida and Georgia for rights to the Apalachicola River’s water. If I’d set my novels in Tallahassee, the state government and two state universities there add plot opportunities. Of course, almost anywhere you go in the state provides fishing, kayaking, swimming, and other river/gulf/ocean recreation.
I chose pine forests and railroads because they fit the realities of the times in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s. Needless to say, if you grow up or live in the area you’re writing about, you have an edge over authors from the far side of the country. You may not be a walking encyclopedia for the locale, but you know where to look.
My novels are set in the 1950s when the traditional KKK in Florida was strong and active. Years later, hatred is still alive and just as sick as ever, though it’s been dispersed into a variety of groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida has 67 hate groups currently tracked by the Center.
The Center notes that sixteen statewide groups are not shown on the map. Otherwise, you can place your cursor on the white circles on the map on the website to see the names of the groups.
We should be aware of these groups: otherwise, it’s hard to combat them. A word of caution, though. While some have websites, those sites are composed of the sickening kind of tripe (and pictures) one would expect of thugs, psychopaths, and other degenerates. Don’t go to these sites unless you have a strong stomach.
Florida has more hate groups than any other state except California with 88 groups. So, hate is not just a product of the South in spite of how our part of the country is often portrayed by others.
In A “superhighway of hate:” Extremism is flourishing in Florida from “Florida Phoenix,” Diane Rado writes, “From hate speech to hate groups to hate crimes, Florida faces a broad atmosphere of hatred that has been escalating for years, though residents and tourists may not have realized how much the extremist landscape has changed.”
Just why Florida has so many groups is unclear, but some suggest the Intenet has helped thread the hate around, allowing groups to become interlinked–among other things, groups that once operated out of a basement are easier to find via search engines today and those whom they attract help them do their work.
Groups of various stripes have been more vocal of late. The media gives them exposure. Peaceful and legitimate protests often give hate groups a foot in the door to gather on the same streets and give the protesters a black eye when the news shows buildings on fire and police cars turned over.
The times have become ripe for the radicalization of people who are easily led by news accounts of violence and social media information. Hatred is one virus no vaccine is able to defeat; no doubt it will still be around when COVID is long gone.
We have a lot of work to do to clean the scum out of this country.
Actually, we have more to do with Fate’s Arrows. We’re still working on the hardcover edition, we’re contacting review sites, and we’re waiting for the printer to finish the edition that will be sold in bookstores.
Asking me what I’m going to do next is like asking a new mom what she’s going to do next 24 hours after she delivered a baby.
Or, it’s like those commercials where a major sport’s figure has just finished a big game. The announcer says, “Hey Bob, you just won the super bowl. What are you going to do now.” The answer was, “I’m going to Disneyland.”
My answer to that question right now, is “I don’t have a clue.” Even if I wanted to go to Disney World, I couldn’t because travel and venues are still restricted. My feet still hurt from our last trip several years ago.
I keep threatening my publisher with another sequel to The Sun Singer. I wrote the first version of that novel in 1980. It’s gone through multiple editions as has its sequel Sarabande. So much time has gone by, I’m not sure I can face returning to that hero’s journey and heroine’s journey world in Glacier National Park and pick up the story again. I’m not the same person I was when I wrote those books, or even the same person I was when I limped back to the car after our last trip to Disney World.
So maybe I’ll just sit here and wait for Viola Davis to call and say that JuVee Productions wants an option on Fate’s Arrows. Davis can play the conjure woman, Cynthia Erivo can play Julia, and Jennifer Lawrence can play Pollyanna. If you know Viola, send her a copy of all four books in the Florida Florida Folk Magic Series.
Meanwhile, I’m watching the grass grow, mowing the grass, and then watching it grow again.
The burning cross shown here in 1956 to protest singer and activist Paul Robeson is typical of Klan activity from my childhood years in the Florida Panhandle.
Paul Robeson had a great voice. We had a few of his recordings. But the KKK didn’t care about his voice or his records. They cared about his activism–as the sign says: “We protest Paul Robeson and all other communists.”
These are the memories of growing up that brought me to write the Florida Folk Magic Series of novels and to hate the Klan with a passion. It saddens me greatly to see Klan-like groups openly screaming out their hatred during these chaotic times.
We don’t hear this much any more since most people see “whitewash” as a metaphor for covering stuff up, usually for unsavory reasons.
To be flip about lack of money these days, one might say, “I’m too poor to pay attention.” Or, if you really mean you can’t paint your house, more people would understand “I’m as poor as a church mouse,” though that line has gotten a bit out of date because fewer and fewer people are going to church and those that do, don’t expect to see any mice there.
Organizations that are frugal often say they spend both sides of a penny. I’m not necessarily frugal, though I’ve spent a lot of years trying to spend both sides of a penny. I’m not sure what I’ll say when the government finally gets its way and stops making pennies.
I could start saying, I’m so broke I don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. That probably won’t scan too well since few people answer the call of nature that way anymore–which is just as well.
Perhaps it’s more modern to say my income has often been below the poverty line. Most people don’t know what the poverty line is (it’s $12,760 for a single person) other than it’s not enough for providing the better things of life. (A digression: when Obamacare first came along, my wife and I weren’t allowed to sign up because our income was below the poverty line. What a shock. I would have thought that that group would have been given first priority. )
My friends always thought I was probably raking in the big bucks because for most of my working life, I worked for computer companies. The trouble is, technical writers were always the first to go when the company needed to cut costs. After we were shown the door, the companies forced their programmers to write the documentation, and I think THAT is the main reason for the saying, “Nobody reads the documentation.”
My wife and I both grew up in families that had to spend both sides of a penny. My wife always told people that one reason people in the south eat a lot of biscuits and gravy is because a meal built around that is cheap and filling. My mother grew up in the midwest, so we didn’t have biscuits all that often; what we did have was meatloaf padded out with a lot of breadcrumbs or oatmeal. We had salmon croquettes so often that I can no longer tolerate them; my wife had them often, too, and still likes them. She won’t eat meatloaf and I won’t eat croquettes.
My parents were happy that I liked seafood, so living in Florida was a good thing. I also loved (and still do) hushpuppies. They taste great, are filling, and inexpensive to make. My parents would never eat mullet, a fish most Floridians considered a baitfish. I loved it. Still do. I suppose in the old days, people might have said, “Too poor to eat pompano, too proud to eat mullet.”
I was blessed by the Gods who knew my financial future to love a lot of cheap food. Except salmon croquettes–or crab cakes either, for the same reason (we could catch all the crabs we wanted, but then we ruined them with breadcrumbs.)
I’m not whitewashing this because being broke isn’t as much fun as it sounds even though southerners have a lot of humorous ways of describing it—like, “I was so poor I couldn’t jump over a nickel to save a dime.”
In the early 1960s, Tallahassee, Florida where I grew up was the site of multiple lunch counter sit-ins and movie theater protests. Many of these were organized by CORE and drew a fair amount of participation from students at the primarily black Florida A&M University. I was attending high school and college (FSU) in Tallahassee during these protests, but I wasn’t there.
My excuses for not being there are many, including:
Tallahassee Police, who sided with the angry white on-lookers, we physically and verbally abusive.
Protesters’ eyes were damaged by the use of tear gas.
Protesters were fined and/or put in jail for violating a restraining order.
The KKK threatened not only the Blacks but the scattering of whites who joined the picketing and lunch counter sit-ins. Burning crosses appeared in people’s front yards.
Picketers were assaulted around town and once a person was identified, picketers were likely to have their yards filled with angry people.
I wasn’t ready to take on the backlash that I’d be subjected to from high school and college students who had been my friends.
I was sure I’d be fired from my jobs and that my participation would cause trouble for my father who was an FSU professor.
As FAMU student and CORE organizer Patricia Stephens Due–who was tear-gassed and ended up with permanent eye damage–said in her book Freedom in the Family–most Blacks weren’t there either even though the common perception is that they were a united front. Not so.
When I was working for Western Union across the street from the Florida Theater, it would have been easy to walk over there and join the pickets or sit at that lunch Woolworth’s lunch counter while on break. There’s an empty seat in the foreground of that lunch counter photo. Logically, it would have been easy to sit there, but when fear of the consequences takes over, it becomes emotionally impossible to sit there.
Looking back today, I’m embarrassed by my excuses and lack of courage.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel The Sun Singer is currently free on Kindle.