Tag Archives: Florida Panhandle

Review: ‘Parade of Horribles’ by Rhett DeVane

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The people in Rhett DeVane’s new novel Parade of Horribles are the kind of folks, foibles and all, that most of us wish we knew, wish we could call kin, and when danger and hatred intrude into our lives, wish we had looking out for us. Chattahoochee is a real town in the Florida Panhandle and, as the book’s back cover description tells us, it really does have a “state mental institution on the main drag.”

Do Elvina Houston, Hattie Lewis and Jake Witherspoon really live there? Probably not. But they are so real in Parade of Horribles that–in telling their story–DeVane has seemingly conjured them out of the cosmos and placed them there, 37 miles west of Tallahassee as the crow flies, alongside the Apalachicola River. A notable feature in the town, the river is a figurative and literal feature in DeVane’s well-told story. It’s both a haunting reminder of old wounds and a restful escape from the 24/7 preparations for the upcoming harvest festivals and a growing number of signs there may be a dangerous serpent in this Garden of Eden.

DeVane hints at the danger early on the way Hitchcock would show a trace of something wrong near the beginning of his feature films. But the townspeople’s attention and the reader’s attention are drawn to the mix of daily life and harvest festival duties. The horribles, as Jake thinks of them, steep like tea half forgotten on a back burner and, as the story moves toward its unexpected ending, grows all the stronger and more foul tasting for the wait.

Parade of Horribles is the seventh book in the “Hooch Series.” As we saw in earlier novels such as Cathead Crazy and Mama’s Comfort Food, this very Southern author deftly captures the way people in her panhandle world think, talk, work, support each other–and, yes–gossip about what’s in plain sight and what’s not yet apparent to everyone else. Residents of the Florida Panhandle know that in many ways it’s a country unto itself, not like south Georgia and even further and farther removed from the snowbirds and tourist destinations of the peninsula.

Reading DeVane’s Hooch Series is an immersion into this country; Parade of Horribles is wonderful mystery/thriller and a highly recommended addition to a body of work that makes “the other Florida” and “Florida’s forgotten coast” altogether real and impossible to forget.

Malcolm

 

 

Spotlight: Can the evil conjure man really turn into an alligator?

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Today’s spotlight focuses on my recent novel Eulalie and Washerwoman and announces a Kindle freebie for one of my short stories.

Eulalie and Washerwoman

ewkindlecoverThis 1950s story about dueling conjurers features an antagonist named Washerwoman who brags that his famous mentor, Uncle Monday, knew how to turn into an alligator. But can Washerwoman do it as well?

Eulalie, who first appeared in Conjure Woman’s Cat, knows all there is to know about conjure. She will definitely need her skills to stop blacks from losing their homes and then going missing themselves.

I hope you like the magic and the mystery of the Florida Panhandle piney woods where the activities of a strong KKK seldom got mentioned in the sunshine state’s tourism brochures.

Free Kindle Book

willingspiritskindlecoverMy Kindle short story “Willing Spirits” will be free on Amazon January 18-20. The story features the purported St. Louis spirit named Patience Worth who spoke via medium Pearl Curran between 1883 and 1937. Patience was so prolific that she actually wrote critically acclaimed books.

Now, a young high school student has waited until the last minute to read one of those books and write a book report. She considers contacting its deceased author. What can possibly go wrong?

Amazon Giveaway

Later today (1-14-17) I’ll be running an Amazon giveaway for my contemporary fantasy novel Sarabande. It features a very determined young woman from the Montana mountains who fights against more troubles than anyone can shake a stick at to find the avatar who she hopes will stop the spirit who’s been haunting her for three years.

Watch Twitter for the giveaway. They come and go so fast, there’s never time to post about them here once they go live.

UPDATE: Giveaway went live about 12:10 eastern time and within the next 10-15 minutes, the three books available were snapped up. Thank you to everyone who entered.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Crank down in Florida thinks he can make ice as good as God Almighty

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gorriemanumentDr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola Florida was a pioneer in the development of mechanical refrigeration in the 1840s. He saw cool air, whether from ice or from the lowering of the temperature in a room, as a medical means of combating such diseases as yellow fever and malaria. However, as a “Smithsonian” article about him suggests, he received a chilly reception, lost backers, and was never able to pursue the equipment’s development based on his early patent.

I first saw the John Gorrie museum, a Florida State Park, in Apalachicola when it opened in 1958. It is one of the treasures of visiting the “other Florida” or “the forgotten coast” in the panhandle by following U.S. Highway 98. Now, we take the creation of ice for granted and–except for days when we’re waiting for the repairman–we rely our window air conditioners and central HVAC systems.

However, the creation of ice by man was thought by some during Gorrie’s time as an affront to nature as “Smithsonian” noted in its July 2002 article: “Gorrie, who used air as the working gas in his machine, took his idea north to the Cincinnati Iron Works, which created a model for public demonstration. But the notion that humans could create ice bordered on blasphemy. In the New York Globe, one writer complained of a ‘crank’ down in Florida ‘that thinks he can make ice by his machine as good as God Almighty.'”

gorriemuseumAn opposing view appears on the state park’s website: “Not long after the death of Dr. Gorrie in 1855, famed botanist and physician Alvan Wentworth Chapman commented to celebrated botanist Asa Gray, ‘Gray, there is the grave of a man we recognize as superior to all of us.’ The technology needed to discover the cure for yellow fever still does not exist. Gorrie’s valiant attempt inadvertently created a machine and theory that changed the world forever. The John Gorrie Museum State Park reveals this remarkable and compassionate man and shows the amazing machine he created.”

While the original Gorrie ice making machine is in the Smithsonian Institution, you can see a replica of it while visiting the Gorrie Museum on 6th Street in Apalachicola, one block off U.S. Highway 98.

For more information on Dr. Gorrie, see: Explore Southern History

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell grew up in the Florida Panhandle and has written fiction such as “Conjure Woman’s Cat” set in the areas he explored many years ago.

 

 

On location: Carrabelle, Florida

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Carrabelle waterfront as it looked in the 1960s. - Photo from the Florida Memory Project.

Carrabelle waterfront as it looked in the 1960s. – Photo from the Florida Memory Project.

Carrabelle sits on the gulf coast in the Florida Panhandle and has three rivers running through it. I lived an hour away in Tallahassee from the first grade through college and loved those rivers,  Carrabelle River, Crooked River and Ochlockonee River. I also liked the unspoiled coast–still called the Forgotten Coast–and the nearby Tate’s Hell State Forest. Except for the unfortunate logging in Tate’s Hell, which is currently in recovery, the beaches, swamps and rivers were more pristine than those in the crowded peninsula section of the state.

Across the bay from Carrabelle is Dog Island. In the 1950s and 1960s, my Scout Troop often went camping there. My best friend and I went there by speed boat and sail boat to explore the dunes along its coast. The island remains sparsely developed while the nearby St. George Island has more traffic since it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge. I was against the bridge when it was being built, but they the state department of transportation didn’t ask me.

Carrabelle as it looks today.

Carrabelle as it looks today.

In addition to the great seafood and the well-publicized “world’s smallest police station,” visitors will enjoy Alligator Point, Carrabelle Beach, St. George Island State Park, Ochlockonee State Park, and the Ft. Gadsden Historic Site. Highway 98 is a scenic coastal road and highway 67 is a scenic route through state and national forests. With 1300 residents, Carrabelle is not crowded except on warm summer days when people drive down from Tallahassee to enjoy the beaches.

I figuratively traveled to Carrabelle last week while working on a new short story set there in the late 1960s. I wish it weren’t seven hours away from my home in northwest Georgia. I would have taken a fresh look at a place out of my childhood for hushpuppies and mullet–along with the ambiance. Called “Visiting Aunt Ruby,” my short story will be released on Kindle by Thomas-Jacob Publishing February 12 as part of our Stories from Tate’s Hell series.

carrabellemapquestIf you live closer to the gulf coast and haven’t been to Carrabelle, go take a look, and while you’re there, climb to the top of the Crooked River Lighthouse and explore the World War II museum at Camp Gordon Johnston.  If you dare to hike into Tate’s Hell and end up getting lost, don’t call me on your cell phone (if it even works there) and ask me how to get the hell out.

“The history of Dog Island and Carrabelle, Florida, includes a wonderful mix of Indians, shipping, bootlegging, logging and battles. This charming town was a fishing village prior to the Civil War, isolated from the rest of Franklin County by the lack of bridges and paved roads. After the war, it became an internationally known lumber town, shipping wood from the hundreds of thousands of acres of surrounding virgin forest. Turpentine, distilled from pine sap, was shipped via schooners from the natural deep water port on the Carrabelle River. ” – Get Hooked on Carrabelle

— Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a 1950s-era novella set in the Florida Panhandle. It features a conjure woman who claims to be older than dirt, but not too old to fight the KKK when her town’s police force refuses to investigate the murder of a Black girl.

Wondering why people click on what they click on

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When I blogged about the USS Ranger, the Glacier National Park Centennial and the White House Boys (at Florida’s Dozier School), I wasn’t surprised to see lots of folks stopping by to read those posts while the stories behind them were in the news.

Arthur Rackham's 1909 illustration for "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm"

Arthur Rackham’s 1909 illustration for “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

Then, when there was suddenly an upsurge of interest in those posts, I often found out I’d missed a news event and people were out looking for information again. So then I updated the posts and even more people read them!

Of course, there are always those posts I write, thinking they’ll be popular and nobody reads them. Shows what I know!

It’s kind of fun trying to figure out why people read what they read. If I knew the answer to that question, I’d probably write more follow-up posts and get some real conversations going in the comments section.

  • This summer marks the 100th anniversary of Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. Along with various centennial events, there will be an employee reunion which–sorry to say–I’m not able to attend. Perhaps this is why I’m suddenly getting more hits on my 2011 post Many Glacier Hotel 1963, where the fantasy began.
  • I figure there must be some Floridians following this blog, or possibly people planning a trip there, because I randomly get slews of hits on some of my “On Location” posts about locations in the panhandle such as Location Settings: The Other Florida, featuring Panacea and St. Teresa. I’ve written a lot about Florida settings and, since most of them are in the panhandle rather than the primary tourist sections of the state, it’s nice to see people stopping by to read them.
  • Reader interest in old book reviews comes and goes, quite often when the author of a book I reviewed has released something new.
  • Long-ago days

    Long-ago days

    The hits on one post, though, really have me puzzled. The highest readership week after week is going to my June 2013 post The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale. In fact, that post has taken over from the White House Boys as the most-read post in the history of this blog. But why? I have no idea. I like fairy tales, myths, and legends: that’s why I wrote the post. I figured nobody would notice it because fairy tales are not exactly breaking news or high on the list of things that are trending on Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re one of the people who read that post, what were you looking for?

This really isn’t a niche blog, though it generally has to do with books, writing and the things that catch my fancy. If the NSA is tracking me here, it probably knows more about this blog than I do, what with the various algorithms around for weighing how much space has been devoted to one subject or another.

Whatever prompts you to stop and read, I appreciate it. Hang in there as I bounce all over the spectrum. I’m working on another hoodoo related book, so that means you might be finding out more about folk magic than you want to know. (I spent the morning researching possum bones, but I think I’ll spare you the details of that.)

–Malcolm

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of The Land Between the Rivers, the three-story set of folk tales about Panther, Bird and Bear, the first animals (according to the Seminole creation myth) to walk upon the earth. It’s set in Tate’s Hell Swamp in the Florida Panhandle.

 

On Location: The Florida Panhandle, AKA ‘The Other Florida,’ in another era

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“The Other Florida’s pines will survive too, I think. Often among them I remember the person I was before I came to them and what I thought was important then, and the landscapes I have since known, and the history I have since learned, and the friends I have since made. Whatever the fates may take me in the years to come, I shall not be the same again.” – Glorida Jahoda in “The Other Florida” (1967)

ConjureLandThe Other Florida, as viewed by anthropologist Gloria Jahoda, was raw and wild and distinctly different than the peninsular part of the state which was being taken over by developers and snow birds and the others who indulged in the kinds of vandalism that destroyed the natural beauty of the state in order to present a man-made, safe and sanitized version of sunshine, flowers and paradise.

In folklore, fantasy and magical realism, other denotes that which is not only different from ourselves and our kin, but is also dangerous, potentially malevolent and probably beyond our comprehension. In the hero’s journey motif made famous by Joseph Campbell, other is the unknown world outside the city gates. Other, in the Harry Potter books and movies, was the forbidden forest next to the school. In psychology, other is the part of ourselves–often called the shadow–that we do not know and do not want to know. Other can also be used to dismiss and/or subjugate peoples, places and ideas that we see as inferior to our comfortable way of thinking.

The Apalachicola River Watershed

I chose Liberty County and the world adjoining the Apalachicola River in Florida for the setting of my novella Conjure Woman’s Cat because historically–and psychologically–it was highly other to everyone, including most of the population of Tallahassee fifty miles away, but more so to those who lived outside the state and/or in the peninsula.

This world felt other to me when I first saw it, the family having moved to north Florida from Oregon when I started the first grade. I was used to mountains and the Pacific coast, all of which formed what I knew of the world. The pine forests, blackwater rivers, basin swamps, savannahs, sheepshead ravines, cypress trees and sweetbay magnolias, Spanish moss and saw palmetto, and white sand beaches seemed fictional. I grew to love them though it’s taken me a lifetime to wrap my consciousness around a place where Southern Gothic was a way of life.

The Other Florida

Apalachicola River at Torreya State Park, one of the most diverse habitats in the world.

Apalachicola River at Torreya State Park, one of the most diverse habitats in the world.

My bible was a book written by family friend Gloria Jahoda, another outsider who described in detail the world between Jacksonville and Pensacola with the detailed and poetic accuracy alien eyes often bring to new experiences. She called this world the “Deep South with a difference, worlds from homogeneous Alabama and Mississippi and even rural Georgia. Though you can never realize it as you speed through the pinewoods to get somewhere else, 20 miles in any direction may bring changes in the country’s life and essence that are dazzling in their variety. Oystermen, cotton planters, millionaire quail hunters, moonshine-makers, vocal conservatives, doctrinaire liberals, scientists, game wardens, fortune tellers and hermits inhabit a land that is above all things deceptive because it looks as if it offered hardly any variety at all.”

En route from Tallahassee to the “forgotten coast” we drove through, economically speaking, the poorest county in the country with miles of pines tapped for turpentine, miles of unpaved sandy roads through scrub oak, sink holes with seemingly no bottom beneath the cold clear water, and that sign that said it all: “Impeach Earl Warren.” I don’t remember who coined the phrase or when, but Southerners were said in those days to like individual Negroes (the terms Blacks and African Americans hadn’t yet been invented) but dislike them as a group while Northerners were said to dislike them as individuals but like them as a group.

Segregation

Wildflowers in the flatwoods section of Tate's Hell Forest.

Wildflowers in the flatwoods section of Tate’s Hell Forest.

Suffice it to say, Sunshine State tourism brochures did not highlight the active and volatile KKK presence nor the fact that Florida had more lynchings, torture, fires and explosions than just about anywhere else.  Proper people knew better than to talk about the Klan even though the group was as integral to the state’s politics and culture as Tupelo honey and grits were to meals cooked and served by Negro maids. The brochures also didn’t say that turpentine camps and orange groves used Negro convict labor, conscripted under false and fanciful charges, to bring us paint thinner and orange juice.

The maids who–as we said–“pert near” raised white children weren’t allowed to eat in our restaurants, attend our churches, use our restrooms or drink out of our water fountains. Negroes were in every possible way, other. Since I wasn’t born in the South and didn’t have a Southern accent, I was called a Yankee and a “N”-lover.

One heard the blues and did a dance or two at the local jook - Florida Memory Photo.

One heard the blues and did a dance or two at the local jook – Florida Memory Photo.

Hell, as a six year old from Oregon, I had never heard of the Civil War and then when my parents told me it happened one hundred before, I didn’t know why folks talked about it as thought it were yesterday. Seeing the war as yesterday was a way of life and the KKK made sure nobody forgot that segregation as by no means gone with the wind. My parents were very liberal and we went to a liberal church, one of the first in town to allow Negroes to attend. The pastor had a cross burnt on his front yard for opening our sacred place to the others and a fair part of our congregation left in a snit and started their own church which was kept Ivory Snow white. My best friend was among those who left. So were my grandparents. I still haven’t forgiven them for that.

I tell you all of this because it’s the impetus behind Conjure Woman’s Cat, a novella set in a Jim Crow era in a violent state that tells the story of a granny and her kitty using folk magic to fight the Klan. Hoodoo was, of course, about as other as you could get and the bond between it and the congregations of Negro churches (praise churches, the were often called) could not be comprehended. The blues told the stories because the blues and Negroes and hoodoo and praise churches and troubles were all wrapped up together. Perhaps I loved the blues because I was an outsider, that is to say, other.

I was other watching other.  My childhood had little innocence in it. Eulalie, my ancient conjure woman in the novella is modeled after the maid who worked for years at my best friend’s house, and I expect I learned more from her than my grade school teachers. Eulalie’s friend Willie Tate is modeled after an elderly Black gentleman who (like many) used a mule-drawn farm wagon for transportation. His family brought their produce to our door every week. Stopped by my best friend’s house around the corner as well. They didn’t come to the front door because that just wasn’t done. Lena, the cat in the novella who travels between words is, of course, me.

Magical realism thrives on people, places and things considered other. Readers believe magic is possible wherever the other is and less likely in the worlds they know. Perhaps so. Perhaps I found magic in the other Florida because I went there as an outsider like the writer of my bible. Like her, I was changed by the pines, landscapes, experiences and friends. Inevitably, writers write about what changes them, what impacts them–what they find, so to speak, on location.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Cora’s Crossing,” set in Marianna, Florida, “Moonlight and Ghosts,” set in Tallahassee, the “Garden of Heaven” trilogy set, in part, in Tallahassee, Carrabelle, Tate’s Hell and Florida’s “Garden of Eden” near Bristol, “Emily’s Stories,” set in Tallahassee and St. Marks, and “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” set in Liberty County, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

New novella tells the story of a cat, a conjure woman and the KKK

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Click here for Kindle edition.

Click here for Kindle edition.

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released Conjure Woman’s Cat,  a novella by Malcolm R. Campbell (“The Sun Singer”), set in the 1950s Florida Panhandle world of blues, turpentine camps, root doctors, the KKK and a region of the state so far away from everywhere else that it’s often called “the other Florida” and “the forgotten coast.”

Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County where longleaf pines own the world. Black women look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved as individuals, but distrusted and kept separated and other as a group.

A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds the spiritual and temporal components of the Blacks’ and Whites’ worlds firmly in the stasis of their separate places. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores the unnatural disorder of ideas and people that have fallen out of favor.

Click her to see the trailer.

Click her to see the trailer.

Lena and Eulalie know the Klan. When the same white boys who once treated Eulalie as a surrogate parent rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the saw mill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.”

Eulalie believes that when you do a thing, you don’t look back to check on it because that shows the good Lord one’s not certain about what she did. It’s hard, though, not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending.

All that’s too broke to fix, but beneath the sweet sugar that covers crimes against Blacks, Eulalie’s pragmatic, no-nonsense otherness is the best mojo for righting wrongs against both the world and the heart.

I hope you enjoy the book.

–Malcolm

Conjure Woman’s Cat website

Paperback Edition at Amazon

Nook Edition at Barnes & Noble

Eulalie's world.

Eulalie’s world.