Historical Nonfiction Author

What color would you like, sir?

Sheriff Stanley Woolf led the search for Shedrick Thompson.
Sheriff Stanley Woolf led the search for Shedrick Thompson.

The questions that my editor asked reminded me of the goofy things that Gilda Radner would say as Baba Wawa on Saturday Night Live. But I understood why he wanted to know, and I enjoyed answering him. Again, he was thinking about the cover for this book, and he wanted to know two things:

What color or color scheme would apply to your book?

The color scheme for the cover would be important if I was writing about, say, the history of Notre Dame football (blue and gold). But that didn’t apply to this book. I did tell him, however, that I have never thought of the people, the region or the incidents in the book as “dark” or “forbidding.” It has always seemed to me that this was a “broad daylight” crime, even though parts of it took place at night. Thompson was an employee of the Baxleys, so there was no doubt he was their attacker. Also, the men who hanged Thompson talked about it afterward, even bragged about it. The fact that they had to appear before a grand jury is also an indication of how closely associated with the crime they were. Because of that, I voted against a black or deep brown color scheme.

What words describe the tone of your book?

I answered that the book is serious, argumentative, and corrective in that it challenges the existing historic record. I also said it was violent, disturbing, and senseless for what Thompson did to the Baxleys and what Fauquier residents did to Thompson. And it was puzzling since many aspects of the story are hard to explain.


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