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.

 

If you’re writing a novel about a slaughterhouse. . .

then you need to tour a slaughterhouse. Or, at least read a lot about slaughterhouses, what happened inside then and what became of the people who worked there. In his essay in “The Writers Chronicle,” Colson Whitehead suggests writing what you don’t know, otherwise, you’ll and up writing the same book over and cover. So, you probably don’t need a slaughterhouse career to craft a novel about them. Frankly, that’s the last place I want to work.

Many things fall into the category of research that makes writers sick. Researching the KKK for my novel in progress fits into that category. And yet, since I never belonged to the KKK, I need to find out what happened in their meetings or my scenes and descriptions won’t be correct. I could say, “who will know?” Well, I would know. So here’s a selection of KKK books you’ll find on Amazon if you go looking. Fortunately, I found what I needed on free sites and didn’t have to buy any of these.

In addition to those, older books have been captured by Google or reside in various libraries and archives. If you look on state-operated photo archives (such as Florida Memory), you’ll find photographs of KKK fliers, pamphlets, parades, and posters. I grew up in an area with an active KKK presence, so I have a sixth sense when it comes to tracking down the filth.

Looking at this shit is about like being forced to eat a food you detest, like turnips, for example. Do you eat the entire crock of turnips in one sitting, do you eat one bite every week smothered in something that disguises the taste, or do you say to hell with the turnips—or the KKK–and give up on your book? I think that historically accurate novels that mention the KKK are important to our understanding of the Jim Crow years of our past and (sadly) to the deluge of white supremacy groups we’re seeing around the country today.

When I was in high school, I got physically ill reading All Quiet on the Western Front. Later, I felt the same way when I read Hiroshima. I wondered how the authors were able to suffer through the facts and put words on the page. Such questions are a consideration, I think, for anyone writing a novel with horrifying sweeps or history and the bad guys responsible for them.

Anger is good motivation, and suffice it to say, I feel plenty of anger about the KKK. I researched the KKK when I wrote the Florida Folk Magic Series. My work-in-progress novel follows up on that trilogy, so that means reading more about the KKK than I want to know. You might find yourself in a similarly uncomfortable research situation. if you decide to write a novel about the prison at Guantanimo, the rape culture, terrorist attacks, or even a tour of duty in the House of Representatives.

When it comes down to it, you have to learn about it before you can write about it.

Malcolm

 

What’s really gone with the wind

“The American population is moving toward a minority-majority future, a shift the Census Bureau predicts will occur sometime in the 2040s. Nativists, racists and our president are taking advantage of the browning of America, contrasting it with nostalgia for a perceived better, whiter past, and using that idea to activate citizens into white nationalist thinking.”       – Heidi Beirich

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors racially based and gender-based hate in the U.S., two statistics stand out: The number of monitored hate groups in 2018 was at an all-time high at 1,020 and hate-based murders conducted by members of the “Alt-Right” made last year the deadliest year ever (presumably, not counting the Jim Crow era when the KKK got rid of more people).

As Beirich notes, the so-called browning of America is leading to a rise in white nationalist thinking. Often-criticized today, the movie “Gone With the Wind” painted the days of slavery with a sad and nostalgic brush for those who owned the plantations and participated in gracious living based on purportedly honorable and sacred traditions. Now there are a lot of people worrying about the fact that, according to the Census Bureau, the United States will become “minority white” by 2045, whith whites comprising 49.7% of the population. At that point, the demographics are expected to be 24.6% Hispanic, 13.1% blacks, and 7.9% Asian.

This is the problem, not the solution. Wikipedia photo.

So it is that what will really be gone with the wind for frightened white people are the times when more whites lived in the U.S. than all other races combined. Hate groups are reacting as though whites will be less numerous than every other group rather than continuing to have nearly a majority. Nonetheless, the predicted demographics represent change and, on the surface, that scares people.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that when my brothers and I were in junior high school, we used to build sandcastles on the beach during low tide and then make a game out of seeing how long they could hold out against the incoming high tide. This is what white supremacists are doing today–except it’s not a game. It’s a deadly and disgusting war against minority groups that’s being carried out by thugs who believe they will no longer be about to hold their own without relying on the traditionally high percentage of whites in the country.

That is, they fear that on a level playing field, their real or imagined inferiority will make them lose.

Lose what? Control, I suppose. An edge, probably. The luxury of never having to coexist with other races, cultures, and religions, no doubt. Walking down streets, walking into stores and churches and sporting events and backyard barbecues with the confident assurance that everyone one else there is exactly like them, good, bad, and ugly, but safe and understood without having to think.

Those with self-confidence in their own abilities, agility to adapt to changing times, a spirituality that embraces the totality of humankind, and minds that know how to think rather than reacting to every difference as a threat will have no problem with the demographics of 2045. Those who do not are, at best, dinosaurs in their death throes who are resorting to hate as a sand-castle bulwark against the incoming tide.

White supremacists are doomed, and in their heartless hearts, I think they know this. Rather than change or at least graciously step onto ice floes heading out to sea, they are attempting to justify their murder and terrorism as a reasonable response to their demise. They’re not innocent. They’re killing the innocent, though

Which prompts me to say, the country will be much better (more free, fair, exciting, and more creative) when they are gone.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

1950s Florida – The Klan

Following up on yesterday’s post about authors posting material relating to their books, here’s a picture from Florida Memory of a KKK flyer that was similar to many I saw as a child. The Klan was always recruiting, holding rallies, and marching in parades.

1950s Klan Flyer

 

Officially, the Klan purported to be a friendly organization. I doubt that anyone in Tallahassee and other Florida Panhandle towns was duped by this farce. We read the stories in the newspapers about fire bombings, black churches burnt, black men lynched, and crosses burnt in the yards of white people who spoke out against the Klan. I wonder if we will ever know what percentage of Florida law enforcement officers were members of the Klan. I suspected many of my neighbors were members, including some who went to my church. To paraphase the old Texas song:

“The Klan’s eyes are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Klan’s eyes are upon you,
You cannot get away.

One never knew who one was talking to. I hope the recent emergence of white supremacist groups isn’t returning the country to those times. Those times extended into the 1970s and 1980s. Here’s a photo of a 1970s march in Tallahassee:

Florida Memory photo

 

KKK rally from the 1950s:

Florida Memory photo

 

Here we have a crowd watching the KKK burn a cross:

Florida Memory photo

The Klan was very strong in Florida in spite of the state’s pristine, playground image disseminated in magazines and vacation brochures.

The KKK as an enemy organization is a major focus of my Florida Folk Magic Stories novels. In all three novels, a conjure woman is fighting the Klan. That’s why I often call the books crime and conjure stories.

–Malcolm