The old courthouse in White County, Arkansas has been the site of many famous trials. I prosecuted or defended several of them, thus my novels end with a great courtroom struggle. The bad guys, especially elected officials who turn a blind eye to evil, always get their comeuppance. But the path to justice for my heroes is fraught with peril, littered with obstacles.
My most recent novel is titled A Pearl for Kizzy.
Kizzy, a spirited child, lives with her family on a one-room ramshackle houseboat in Big Pearl, Arkansas. They fish, dig for mussels, look for pearls, and sell the shells to the button factory. It is a crude life made harder by the Great Depression, natural disasters, and prejudice.
At the onset of World War II, Kizzy befriends a young boy—a refugee from Nazi Germany—and a cultured young woman who encourages her to read and learn from Jane Austen’s books.
Kizzy longs for a better life, but as she comes of age her dream of getting off the river is threatened by the evil Bully Bigshot and his Eugenics Center, a corrupt outfit that wants to rid the world of “river rats” like her through abortion and “better breeding.” …
And there is Cormac, the lascivious man Kizzy calls her “make-do stepfather.”
Kizzy’s struggle mimics the culture war that modern society is waging on itself. Daring, but realistic, the novel examines love, pride, compassion, courage, hope, morality, and duty—the things that inform and shape our soul.
CLICK FOR VIDEO–AUGUST 2016, THE CLINTON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE–I DISCUSS A PEARL FOR KIZZY AND TELL WHY I WROTE IT…
A case I tried inspired my first novel. Gay Panic in the Ozarks is a courtroom thriller.
Wounds and prejudices stemming from the Civil War and the Great Depression run deep in the Ozark hill country. These frailties, like the scab of a putrid wound, will from time to time reopen and ooze pus. In the tumultuous year of 1968, a farmer stumbles onto a gruesome crime scene, the lynching of a young gay man whose mangled body has been left hanging from a tree. Clues abound, but the investigation withers and dies. Thirty-eight years later, Aubrey Hatfield and the citizens of Campbell County get a second chance to grapple with man’s greatest vice–the refusal to see wrong and do something about it. This is a disturbing story of the cultural war that society is waging on itself. Brusque but humane, the novel examines love, hate, morality, honor, and duty–the things that inform and shape a nation.
I am often asked: “Where do you get your ideas, your characters? The answers are found in my memoir, Jackhammered, A Life of Adventure.
In 1990 my wife and I tried to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in a 31 foot sailboat. We didn’t make it, but we were rescued on the high seas 265 miles southeast of Nantucket Island. When I told the story to my colleagues in Congress they encouraged me to write it up; years later I did just that.
But writing the story led to a period of introspection as I asked myself: Why do you do risky things? Why the Marine Corps, the FBI, running for Congress as a Republican in a solid Democratic state? I began to write about those experiences, and the outcome was a full-blown memoir. It was published in 2011.