Making good use of one’s dissertation. . .
. . .When I sat down to write A Dead Man’s Honor - actually the book I was working on when I went off to Cornwall on vacation - I found myself going back to the dissertation I had written when I was a grad student about crime and justice in Danville, Virginia from 1900-1930. It was as I was researching and writing that dissertation that I really began to think deeply about mob violence, particularly about lynching and how it was related in some people’s minds to the concept of honor. So the book is about what happens in a Southern town on a hot August day in 1921 when the city physician is murdered. It’s about the ripple effect of that murder and the lynching that followed.
In the book, Lizzie goes to this town - Gallagher, Virginia -- from which her grandmother, Hester Rose, fled as a 12 year old child.
In describing the city of Gallagher, I confess that I drew on the geography and some of the history of my hometown. But, as in Death’s Favorite Child, the characters are products of my imagination, there because of who they are and the story they have to tell. Actually, there is one character who caught me by surprise. He was supposed to have a walk-on role. But I was so fascinated by him that he ended up playing a more significant role than I anticipated. In fact, the city of Gallagher itself fascinates me so much that Old Murders, the third book in the series - coming in March 2003 - also takes place there.