This past Friday and Saturday, Elizabeth City, North Carolina had their annual "Ghost Walk," which is a fascinating historical look into the city's past. Along the route, actors of all variety of experience and talent dress up to reenact moments or periods in North Carolina history, focused on the port town of Elizabeth City.
This year, along with a few other authors, I participated by sitting at a book signing table along the walk with set up by the local bookstore, Page After Page. As book signings go, it wasn't my best. I found that most people were unaware the book signing actually existed and had thus brought no money. I also found that, for such an event, the other authors were more suited to participate.
One was a local author who grew up in the city and remembers decades of its history. He wrote a book about those experiences, and a lot of local people wanted it - if for no other reason than to see if they or their family had made it into the book. Another author had written a historical novel about the axe murder of some of her ancestors in Salisbury, NC in 1906, and the subsequent lynching of three mullato farm hands for the murders. It's a novel of how racial hatred in the press can fan the flames of more radical hatred in the masses. It's the story of how innocent men were hanged and the guilty walked - and it's full of the social commentary of another time not so different from this day and age. People of all races had just begun to work together for reform, and the Raleigh newspapers chose to allow the rich politicians of the day to use the press to spread the fear that freed slaves would achieve racial equality - and that they would then commence to rape and kill whites. It was a horribly violent time, and this woman's book is an apology - but she wanted that message gotten out to the people of today to show how the type of message sewn in a lot of the Republican rallies - particularly those surrounding candidates like Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Dole, can lead to much worse if allowed to flourish.
I agree with her message...every day on the work I'm forced to listen to political radio commercials accusing the democrats of everything from trying to turn us all into communists to advocating that all scout leaders be replaced by new, gay scout leaders - or red commies. It's really that blatant here in the southern states...as many of you, I'm sure, can attest. So I applaud her story, and her book. She even brought, wrapped in a bag, the rope that she believed had been used at the lynchings. She'd found it, along with news clippings about the incident, in their farmhouse, carefully wrapped up and still tied in a noose.
The man I mentioned earlier has a story in his book. It's the story of how his great grandfather came into town (Salisbury, as it turns out) and found his grandfather shimmied out on a tree branch, fixing the rope for a lynching. His story wasn't about the hanging itself, but was a sort of whimsical reminiscence about a kid getting in trouble for doing something wrong. As it turns out, it was very likely the same lynching the woman wrote about - their two families were brought back together at a booksigning decades later...it was a strange moment.
Then the final author arrived, and I had to start laughing. He is a mystery writer out of Virginia Beach, the only author not truly local to the signing...and he is black. He and I spent most of the rest of the signing talking about the US Navy, and about writing. I'm in touch with him now, and intend to write about his book soon - in fact, I'll be writing about all three books and bringing the people - and the stories - to you here at The Red Room. They are good stories, and good people...
After all was said and done, I don't think I widened my readership much. I was the lone horror author at a haunted ghost walk on a night when history, not fiction, took center stage. I'm glad I was there, though...
I just thought that I'd share.