Comes to hand the Spring, 2014 issue, which begins the 34th year of this Review. It features an essay on Cedar Crossing by Mark Busby, a book I just finished reading.
The headline says: “Texas History as Ready-Made Novel.”
This is by way of explaining that , in the words of Reviewer Dave Oliphant:
“Even though the story is for the most part historical fact, its retelling becomes as suspenseful and page-turning as any work of fiction should be. Also, Busby’s novel achieves other goals of the genre—that is, it involves the reader in the thoughts of a narrator as he discovers the meaning for himself and others of an event known but never discussed due to social considerations and maybe even from a sense of moral guilt—while simultaneously demonstrating that history can be brought to life immediately, dramatically, and instructively when adapted for literary purposes.”
THE BACK of the TCU Press paperback version gives this very apt summary:
“Cedar Crossing couples documented history with a novelist’s imagination in a dark story of families and feuds in East Texas at the dawn of the twentieth century, when country life in Texas consisted of farming, moonshine, summer afternoons swimming in the creek, and still bitter memories of the War Between the States.
“The Trans Cedar lynching is an infamous incident buried deep in the subconscious of rural Texas history. Given a history assignment, Jeff Adams, a young college student in the 1960s, stumbles upon the tale of a triple lynching in Henderson County. Through a series of recollections gathered from his Pampaw and Aunt Mag, Jeff begins to discover the truth of what really happened that fateful night in 1899, when lingering tensions from the Civil War and the realities of race relations led to the murder of three white men. Jeff uncovers a hidden web of relationships that turns the historic civil rights movement of the 1960s into a personal journey of discovery.”
Of personal interest to me was a paragraph in the acknowledgements at the end of Cedar Crossing.
MARK BUSBY wrote:
“My first debt is to my grandfather and great aunt who initially led me to the story of the Humphries lynching. I interviewed them after a class assignment by the late James W. Byrd, professor of English at then East Texas State University, now Texas A&M at Commerce.”
Dr. Byrd was a friend of mine. He grew up in Alabama, and was recognized as an expert on the olden segregated days there. What a shame that he didn’t live to see this good work by his former student.