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

Hate doesn’t help us fix the racism cancer

“The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday disapproving of racist remarks by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, amid a wave of bipartisan denunciation.” – NBC News

Representative King reportedly told the New York Times that he doesn’t understand why terms like white nationalist and white supremacist are offensive.

He has a history of such statements.

Wikipedia photo

I grew up with people who felt that way in the 1950s in Florida, a state with a large number of lynchings, bombings, and other KKK activity. I learned to hate these people when I was in the first grade. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with such hatred, an emotion that seems natural but that we are told is spiritually indefensible.

Hate, we are told, hurts us, keeps us from understanding those with whom we disagree, and while we are destroying ourselves with it, does nothing to harm those in our gunsights.

My natural instincts are not to understand Steve King and all the others like him who are getting to much media attention these days. My natural instincts are to hate him, despise everything he stands for, and to question his intelligence.

Some people are trying to curtail our freedom of speech these days. I resent that. Mr. King has just as much right to say he loves white supremacists as I have to say that I dislike them. If you look up white supremacy on the Internet, you’ll find articles in which those who believe in it have used pseudo-science and mythology to try to justify their beliefs. Frankly, I think most white supremacists are thugs and have zero tolerance for them.

The media is giving them a lot of attention. I guess we have a right to know, but the skewed attention is giving these thugs a voice that (in my view) they do not deserve while giving the public the impression there are more racists per square mile in this country than there are.

I want to hate Mr. King but the gurus out there say that if I hate him I am really not doing him any harm while it destroys me. Scary thought. People like Mr. King ruled my world when I was a child and now, a half century or so later, I’m hearing that I should deplore the sin while loving the sinner. I’m not there yet.

I may never be there. That’s why I write novels that speak out against racism. They are my atonement for the times I remained silent years ago.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena” all of which are set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s when Jim Crow was in charge.

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Folk Magic Series: a journey into the past

In 1954, the year in which most of my Florida Folk Magic Series is set, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, Richard M. Nixon was Vice President, Earl Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and  Elvis Presley issued his first single, “That’s All Right”, on Sun Records. It was the era of an unconstitutional Communist witch hunt conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. It was the era of Jim Crow and the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine.

It seemed natural to me then, even in grade school, that people were still talking about World War II and that when kids played army in their backyards, they were fighting the Japanese and the Germans. What seemed unnatural to me then was that people were still, one way or another, fighting and re-fighting the U. S. Civil War.

The words “terrorism” and “terrorist organization” weren’t part of national security debates in those days, but if they had been, the KKK should have born that label; permitting the group to march in parades was, as saw it then, as ludicrous as allowing the Mafia to march in parades and, as I see it now, made as much sense as allowing ISIS to march in a U. S. parade today.

My own childhood years were good ones, but Klan violence–which was heavy in Florida–and the mistreatment of African Americans as a group were, to me, an intolerable smear on our nation’s intentions and mission as written down in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The vestiges of that smear are still part of a polarized national debate today. We still have more problems to solve and attitudes to change in 2018 than we should. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, bigots, and misogynists, as I still see it, are people with an Attila the Hun mentality and, frankly, we’d be better off if we put them on a giant ice-flow and set them adrift during hurricane season.

Yes, I have strong feelings about these issues.

But in spite of those feelings, the three books in this series are not intended as a political statement. They are history. They are the culture of another era. And they are the everyday magic of another era, one that still has many devotees today. It has been said that in the South, Whites didn’t like Blacks as a race but liked many of them personally as individuals. From what I saw, there was at least some truth in this, for our moderate and liberal White friends did have Black friends and colleagues. Even so, the KKK prescribed how far we could go.

If a White went “too far,” s/he would run into trouble that could be fatal. If we broke one of the rules–such as allowing a Black to sit in the front seat of our car or walk through the front door of our house–the Blacks would say, “this isn’t done” because they were even more at risk should anyone see the infraction than we were.

Oddly enough, Scouting brought conjure to my attention. That is, we learned to respect the out of doors and how to live safely in forests and swamps. This led to discussions with Black friends who had additional ideas about what was out there and how to safely approach it. Needless to say, I didn’t take any hoodoo practices back to the Scout troop or overtly use them on our monthly camping trips. But those practices taught me a lot about humankind’s potential relationships with the environment, one that in later years ecopsychology would explore without deriding these relationships as superstition.

The bottom line for a novelist is telling stories set in specific time periods with characters with points of view that aren’t always mainstream. Yes, as a writer I also needed to make sense of what I saw as a child, but not in a political treatise. I’m drawn, as I was then, to the people themselves and how they fought against the dangers that came into their lives. Have I put tall my demons to rest? Probably not.

Nonetheless, writing these stories has brought me a sense of closure to the time when First Lady Mamie Eisenhower christened the Nautilus, our first nuclear-powered submarine, Vice President Richard Nixon said we might send troops Indochina (as we called it then) even if the allies didn’t like it, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and Blacks weren’t allowed at lunch counters where I had the blue plate special or in the front of the city bus I rode into town.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

The Florida Folk Magic Trilogy

When Lena, the third book in my 1950s-era Florida Folk Magic trilogy was released several weeks ago by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, I said, “Okay guys, the series is a trilogy, so y’all quit pestering me about another book.”

The series addresses the racism of the Black/White culture in the Florida Panhandle at a time when the state had a lot more Klan activity, lynchings, and firebombings than most people outside the area knew about. Snowbirds came down from the northern states and eastern Canadian provinces in droves for the sunshine state’s beaches and other attractions in the peninsula. For the most part, they didn’t know that the peninsula had its nasty problems and so did the panhandle.

I grew up in this culture and was very much aware of the KKK because they visited my minister’s house, the houses of my friends, and put on rallies and parades. I had liberal parents and went to a relatively liberal church, the first white church in Tallahassee that invited African Americans to its worship services. In those days, whites poked fun at hoodoo–I guess they still do–but I had a good teacher named Flora who worked as a maid at a friend’s house around the corner. She introduced me to great food, the ways and means of the other side of our two cultures thrown together, and many truths.

The result is my trilogy of three novels. In Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie–who is modeled after Flora–seeks justice for an assaulted Black girl when the police take no action. In Eulalie and Washerwoman, Eulalie battles against an evil conjure man who’s in league with the police and the town’s movers and shakers. In Lena, Eulalie goes missing and is presumed dead, leaving her family and her cat Lena in a state of confusion as the KKK threatens the town.

Lena is available in paperback and e-book from multiple online sites.  Eulalie and Washerwoman and Conjure Woman’s Cat are also available as audiobooks via Audible and Amazon. All three books can be ordered by bookstores from their Ingram catalogs under traditional store purchasing options.

The audiobook edition of Conjure Woman’s Cat received the prestigious Red Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine. Click on the earphones graphic to see the review. Click here to see AudioFile’s review of Eulalie and Washerwoman.

I hope you enjoy the series!

Malcolm