Thanks for showing up

This weird, chaotic blog averages between 50 and 80 visits a day. Then out of nowhere, 150 people show up. I seldom know why because my posts on those higher-traffic days aren’t about hot, nationally trending issues.

But, whatever draws you here, thanks for showing up.

I’m spending more time on my novel in progress these days. My muse must have decided I’m serious about it.

I still don’t know where it’s going. I never know. I don’t know what I’m going to write until I open the file.

For example, some days ago, one character killed a cop. I thought, “hmm, that’s unexpected.” Then, in a later scene, I found out why. She had a good reason, as it turns out. I’m not making this up. When I write, I experience the evolving story the way a reader would experience it. Gurus say I should know how a novel or short story ends when I start work on it. Fooey, that would ruin all the fun of going along for the ride.

As if you can’t tell, my posts are written the same way.

I had no idea I was going to write about a dead cop who was also a member of the KKK. The story is set in 1955 when Elvis was singing “That’s All Right.” If the novel were set in the present day, I wouldn’t include a dead cop because there are too many dead cops and rogue cops in the news. The main purpose of this series of novels is my focus on the Klan. Growing up, I hated them with a passion and always wondered how many of my friends’ fathers were members.

I hope I never find out.

At any rate, you’re here reading these thoughts while (probably) wondering if I’m borderline insane.  Yeah, that’s likely, but it’s a Godsend for a magical realism author.

–Malcolm

When I worked for the Illinois department of mental health and was working my way up through the ranks, somebody asked me what my ultimate goal was. “To become a patient,” I replied. It took longer to happen than I expected.

This “boxed set” includes all four novels in one Kindle volume, a savings over buying them separately. However, you can also find them in hardcover, paperback, and audiobook.

Four of Florida’s darker moments

When I research civil rights issues for the novel in progress, some of what I’m looking at happened while I was growing up there, and seeing it brings back vague memories of stories I saw in the newspaper. I often wonder if Florida’s current residents hear about these incidents in high school and college history classes. Sad to say, these four incidents aren’t the sum of the KKK violence in the state in the past. The first two happened before I was in Florida but were very much part of the conversation. Each of the blurbs below comes from Wikipedia.

Rosewood Massacre

The Rosewood massacre was a racially motivated massacre of black people and the destruction of a black town that took place during the first week of January 1923 in rural Levy County, Florida, United States. At least six black people and two white people were killed, though eyewitness accounts suggested a higher death toll of 27 to 150. The town of Rosewood was destroyed in what contemporary news reports characterized as a race riot. Florida had an especially high number of lynchings of black men in the years before the massacre,[2] including a well-publicized incident in December 1922.

Before the massacre, the town of Rosewood had been a quiet, primarily black, self-sufficient whistle-stop on the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Trouble began when white men from several nearby towns lynched a black Rosewood resident because of accusations that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been assaulted by a black drifter. A mob of several hundred whites combed the countryside hunting for black people and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. For several days, survivors from the town hid in nearby swamps until they were evacuated to larger towns by train and car. No arrests were made for what happened in Rosewood. The town was abandoned by its former black and white residents; none of them ever moved back, none of them were ever compensated for the loss of their land, and the town ceased to exist.

Groveland Four

The Groveland Four (or the Groveland Boys) were four African American men, Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd, and Walter Irvin. In July 1949, the four were accused of raping a white woman and severely beating her husband in Lake CountyFlorida. The oldest, Thomas, tried to elude capture and was killed that month. The others were put on trial. Shepard and Irvin received death sentences, and Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison. The events of the case led to serious questions about the arrests, allegedly coerced confessions and mistreatment, and the unusual sentencing following their convictions. Their incarceration was exacerbated by their systemic and unlawful treatment—including the death of Shepherd, and the near-fatal shooting of Irvin. Greenlee was paroled in 1962 and Irvin in 1968. All four were posthumously exonerated by the state of Florida in 2021.

Murder of Activist Harry T. Moore

Excellent resource from 1999.

Harry Tyson Moore (November 18, 1905 – December 25, 1951) was an African-American educator, a pioneer leader of the civil rights movement, founder of the first branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Brevard County, Florida, and president of the state chapter of the NAACP.

Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette Moore, also an educator, were the victims of a bombing of their home in Mims, Florida, on Christmas night 1951. As the local hospital in Titusville would not treat Blacks, he died on the way to the nearest one that would, a Black hospital in Sanford, Florida, about 30 miles to the northwest. His wife died from her wounds nine days later, on January 3, 1952, at the same hospital. This followed their both having been fired from teaching because of their activism.

The murder case was investigated, including by the FBI in 1951–1952, but no one was ever prosecuted. Two more investigations were conducted in the 1970s and 1990s. A state investigation and forensic work in 2005–2006 resulted in naming the likely perpetrators as four Ku Klux Klan members, all long dead by that time. Harry T. Moore was the first NAACP member and official to be assassinated for civil rights activism; the couple are the only husband and wife to be killed for the movement. Moore has been called the first martyr of this stage of the civil rights movement that expanded in the 1960s.

The Tyranny of Sheriff Willis McCall

Willis Virgil McCall (July 21, 1909 – April 28, 1994) was sheriff of Lake County, Florida. He was elected for seven consecutive terms from 1944 to 1972. He gained national attention in the Groveland Case in 1949. In 1951, he shot two defendants in the case while he was transporting them to a new trial and killed one on the spot. Claiming self-defense, he was not indicted for this action. He also enforced anti-miscegenation laws and was a segregationist.

He lost his bid for an eighth term shortly after he had been acquitted of the murder in 1972 of Tommy J. Vickers, a mentally-disabled black prisoner who died in his custody. McCall’s notoriety outlived him. In 2007, the Lake County Commission voted unanimously to change a road named in his honor 20 years before because of his history as a “bully lawman whose notorious tenure was marked by charges of racial intolerance, brutality and murder.” During his 28-year tenure as sheriff, McCall was investigated multiple times for civil rights violations and inmate abuse and was tried for murder but was never convicted.

For me, this past isn’t that far away. I still get angry about it and find it hard to mention it in my fiction without preaching a sermon. The KKK, the police, and civic leaders were often one and the same group.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four-book Florida Folk Magic series set in the early 1950s when the Klan was still active.

Sometimes the research makes the novels almost too hard to write

Florida was a violent place of unimaginable racial turmoil during the early-to-mid 1900s, especially in the peninsula, and while I’ve researched this subject numerous times to check on facts for my Florida Folk Magic Series, reviewing all that again now for the novel in progress is making the novel almost too hard to write.

Some incidents are so extreme, that I cannot fathom a person (or mob) doing such things to another person. I need to take a deep breath and step away from this because the details make me sick. While I would never put the worst of them into my novels, I cannot “un-see” them, so to speak.

The worst incidents look like what would happen if the scum behind them read through the “medical” experiments conducted on living people by Nazi SS officer Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death.” I refuse to put such details into my work. And, I don’t have to do it because I’m not writing directly about the incident, but about people’s response to such incidents.

Yet, when writing about people fighting the KKK in Florida in the 1950s, it’s difficult to stay away from including characters discussing atrocities that were heavily covered by the press rather like characters in current novels mentioning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or, say, the highly publicized shooting that takes place in the town where a novel is set. Such references add depth to the novel, I think, by anchoring it in a real-time and a real place, and by showing what the characters think about the events.

Moore family home in Mims.

For example, the current novel-in-progress is set in 1955. One of the characters is an FBI agent who has just returned from a follow-up investigation into the assassination of civil rights activist Harry T. Moore in Mims, Florida. Moore’s house was blown up with dynamite on Christmas day in 1951. He and his wife were killed, and this we might say was the first assassination of an active civil rights leader. Florida would conduct multiple investigations for over fifty years. It appears that the perpetrators died of natural causes (and one suicide) before the initial FBI investigation ended.

I have to mention Moore in my novel. The problem, during the research phase, is that the bombing of Moore’s house is tangled up with other central Florida racial crimes. So, one sees a lot that one doesn’t want to see. I’m happy that most of it isn’t relevant to the plot of the novel. Yet, I still need to take that deep breath and maybe a Xanax and/or a glass of Scotch. You can learn more about Moore and his legacy here.

Those of us who research the past ultimately run into the very things we don’t want to see. That’s when we have to become editors and weed out the worst of the worst when it’s not on point to the story we are telling. Those who want to know more can follow our references to the greater truths.

The humanity within us calls upon us to do better. A writer can tell a story in which the protagonist triumphs over evil, or at least makes things better. That’s harder to do in “real life.” But we have to try, don’t we?

Malcolm

My books take me by surprise

Writing books is fun because once I get into the story, I want to know how it’s going to end. I promise I have no idea until I get there.

I thought of writing Fate’s Arrows because a new character named Pollyanna showed up out of nowhere in Lena, my previous novel. She had a lot of sparkle and energy, so I thought, “Hmm, maybe she has enough spunk to carry a new novel on her own–rather like an actress with a small role in one movie who ends up staring in the studio’s next movie.”

While I planned for Fate’s Arrows to be a standalone novel, I set it in the same fictional town (Torreya) where the Florida Folk Magic Series was set. It’s not surprising, then, that the characters from the series began showing up and found important things to do.

Fate’s Arrows relies less on conjure and more on Pollyanna’s skills, skills that readers learn about as the story moves along. I can’t mention them here because they would be spoilers. Suffice it to say, she is a lot more than she appears while sitting behind the counter in the Mercantile balancing Lane Walker’s books. If you’re a bad person, don’t mess with her.

The Big Al’s Books and Pals nailed it in her review when she said, “Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book.” 

I needed a protagonist who had the same hatred for the KKK I’ve always had and who had the guile and the grit to do something about it. If I’d tried to take the action she takes in the novel when I lived in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s and 1960s, I probably would have gotten killed–or worse.

Of course, Pollyanna has a strong supporting cast from the earlier books: Eulalie the conjure woman and her cat Lena, Willie Tate who knows how to get people out of trouble, Police chief Rudy Flowers, and others.

I admire Pollyanna and I think you will, too. She kept surprising me every with every risk she took.

Malcolm

BigAl’s Books and Pals: Review

Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book. Coincidentally, it has been released when we must, once again, reiterate that Black Lives Matter and that racism is a foul thing which must be resisted wherever it is encountered.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s set in Torreya, a fictional town in the Florida panhandle, in the mid-nineteen fifties. Domination by the KKK ran deep at that time in those southern places. All the same, although it put their lives in danger, there were those who resisted.

Source: BigAl’s Books and Pals: Review: Fate’s Arrows: 4 (Florida Folk Magic Stories) by Malcolm R Campbell

If you’ve ever seen any old movies about the cast of a play sitting around in a restaurant on opening night waiting for the reviews to come in, then you know how an author feels waiting for a reviewer to find a new book.

Whew, she liked it. And she’s from the UK where customs and language (including Southern dialect) are much different.  Click on the link above to read the complete review. Now I can get some sleep.

–Malcolm

Hate in the Sunshine State

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.

Malcolm

 

New novel released today, ‘Fate’s Arrows’

Click here for Amazon editions.

Thomas-Jacob Publishing and Malcolm R. Campbell announce the 9/3/20 release of Fate’s Arrows in paperback and e-book. The hardcover edition will be available soon, The novel is the fourth in the Florida Folk Magic Series.

The novel is also available at Barnes and Noble (web site),  Apple, and Kobo, and will be available soon to bookstores via their Ingram Catalog.

Fate’s Arrows Description

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.

Malcolm

Scenes from my childhood

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.

Florida Memory Photo

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.

Malcolm

I promise not to show you any KKK pictures

When I was growing up–gosh, I already sound like somebody’s grandpa–the KKK was everywhere. I didn’t take any pictures of them because I thought that would sully up my camera. More than once, I’ve thought of downloading some KKK pix and putting them into a post called “Why I Write the Novels I Write.”

Thing is, those pictures make me physically ill. I’d probably end up in the hospital before I finished my post if I filled it full of Klan pix. I feel the same way when I’m watching the news and suddenly here comes a video of some white supremacists who look like cretins who’ve never taken a shower and were disowned by their families back in grade school.

If the white supremacists are parading around as though they’re the best the White race has to offer, they’re failing big time. I live in the South. That means a lot of people in the “social” media assume I support the Klan and wish the South had won the Civil War. Nope, because I can’t tell the difference between a Klansman and a cockroach.

When I was little, I hoped the day would come when racism would no longer be an issue. Apparently, I was more naïve than I suspected because years later, today’s news is filled with it. I keep hoping there will be a breakthrough, a person all races can respect who comes along and stops the shouting and the violence.  Politics makes it difficult for such a person to arise because the powers that be love polarization. So, we yell and scream at each other rather than seeking common ground.

During the past months of pandemic and violence, a lot of writers are looking for the right words to write, some essay or op-ed that cools down the violence and the rhetoric and focuses all of us again on the loving democracy where we thought we lived. I’m not wise enough to write that essay, but surely there must be somebody out there who can write it, who can bring us back together, who can stop us from pointing fingers, who can fill us with empathy and compassion instead of the fears that lead people to support extremes.

We need, I think, to rally around the ideals on which this country was founded instead of looking for weeds in the personal and political lives of our founders and saying this country is a country of flaws. There’s a lot to fix, but I just can’t bring myself to see eye to eye with those who think they can fix the U.S. by destroying everything we hold dear because that “everything” isn’t perfect.

We can honor what our Founding Fathers intended, given the thinking of their times, and build on the best of it.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

The news is bad and it’s impacting my novel

In the old days before the Internet, local stories seldom got splashed around the country adding fuel to the fire like they do today. . .a white woman sees a black man walking his dog in the park and calls 911 (what the hell is that!) or a bank can’t verify the paycheck of a black man and calls 911 (that can hardly be bank policy).

I’m fed up with these kinds of incidents just as I’m fed up with sincere protesters getting a bad rap when outside agitators come in and start torching police cars and burning buildings.

I’m writing another anti-KKK novel set in Florida in the 1950s. Florida was a very active KKK world in those days. In my novel, the protagonist starts hassling families who are the local KKK’s movers and shakers with the hope that those people will leave town, weakening the local organization.

But after seeing the daily headlines, I think I’m sitting down at my PC more ticked off than normal. The resulting novel seems edgier and more noir than usual. I don’t know if that’s good or not. I am thankful that I can funnel some of my anger into the story rather than taking it out on family, friends, and co-workers.

How about you? How do you unwind after yet another day of bad news and keep it from turning you into a person you don’t want to be?

–Malcolm

My contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer” is free on Kindle through July 4th.