Reporters (that still includes me), tell stories often built on the bones of facts. Authors of books, particularly the novel (me, again) sometimes harken back to facts, but also must see with creative vision.
“Gruesome” is like that. Its centerpiece is a murder that occurred in Henderson County, Alabama in 1959. But the full picture required a bigger frame to create the desired impression. It took me several years to settle on the right frame.
Twenty-something and green, I and a veteran photographer brought The Birmingham Star into hostile territory and began the assignment that would last over two years and two trials (nearly three years, counting the first trial whose guilty verdict was nullified on appeal).
The victim, shot to death, was a prominent wife and mother. The accused was her well-known husband, who testified the shooting was accidental. But the crux of the case was his decision to bury her in an old well and cover her in mud. No one ever forgave that.
As much as any I ever covered, this story impacted my life and deepened my confidence. Across the span of a long career, my goal was to give it life in one way or another.
The book will appeal to women. You'll meet the family that dominated this backwoods county, the ambitious prosecutor, a legendary defense attorney, and five singular women—the victim, two matriarchs, the husband's mistress and an alluring outsider who sets sight on a vulnerable reporter, me.
I'm pleased that “Gruesome” is praised by Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize recipient, who says, “it has everything you need.” And by national columnist-author Rheta Grimsley Johnson. She says, “I loved it.”
Presently, I teach advanced journalism at the University of Alabama. For fifteen years I was the senior editor of The Tuscaloosa News and Florence Times Daily, in Alabama; and editor of Birmingham magazine for eleven years. My wife and I live in Tuscaloosa.
Read more about Don Brown's books here.