Outer Banks Publishing Group author Ron Rhody has agreed to serialize a few chapters of his newest novel giving readers a sneak peak into his book based the real life of John Fallis, a legendary figure, who was like a Robin Hood in Frankfort, Kentucky during the Roaring Twenties.
Each week, we will present a new chapter here or you can read it on Ron’s blog.
CONCERNING THE MATTER OF THE KING OF CRAW will be released Nov. 5, 2016 at the Kentucky Book Fair, Frankfort, KY or you can pre-order a copy from our bookstore for $11.99.
By Ron Rhody
I’m not sure how to characterize it. It is a work of fiction, yes — but it is based on real people and real events. A mystery? Yes, but not of the usual kind. This one has to do with a man of glaring contradictions — a mercurial man of lethal temper and tender compassion whose acts cause him to becomes an iconic figure in Bluegrass folklore.
No one who knew him, not even he himself, could explain why he did the things he did. He was either Lucifer let loose or Galahad to the rescue of the poor and the powerless. The debate on whether the sum of his actions was good or evil was intense then and remains so now. And the matter of his death is still suspect. Was it a fight over a game of dice as the newspapers reported, or a killing ordered by powerful men who had had enough of the King of Craw?
The book is about all that, and friendship, and the odd turns love can take. Considering this, I thought it might be good to give prospective readers an idea of what the story is and how it unfolds. So over the next few weeks we’ll run a few of the opening chapters here. The one that follows is the Prologue – the “overture” before the curtain rises. Comments and questions are welcomed.
“The essence of good and evil is a certain disposition of the mind.”
I have been able to reconstruct most of the facts of his life, but I still cannot explain the man.
The sudden explosions of violence.
Like the cutting of Semonis.
The surprising acts of compassion
Like the burial of the mountain child.
What drove him?
He and Semonis were friends. At a dance. A woman. A remark by Semonis that John Fallis thought insulting? The knife was out and in Semonis’ side before anyone could move.Some spark, some circuit in his mind connected and he reacted violently and without thinking.
That happened often.
Ted Bates.Not serious. The bullet missed the bone and the leg healed. Tubba Dixon had a pool cue broken over his head and would have had the jagged stump shoved down his throat if he hadn’t been pulled out of Fallis’s reach.
There were other shooting and cuttings.
Anger? Surely.Self defense? Perhaps.
For the Semonis knifing, he was arrested, charged with cutting and wounding with intent to kill without killing, and jailed. But nothing came of it.
From his bed, Semonis petitioned the Judge to set John Fallis free. John is my good friend, he declared. It was a simple misunderstanding, as much my fault as John’s. Please let him go.
The battered and the wounded often petitioned the court to let him go.
Because of acts like the burial of the mountain child?
A stranger, a man from the mountains, had come to town to find work and feed his family. No work could be found. While the man searched, his baby son caught the river fever and died.
The man knew no one. Had no friends or family to call on. No job. No money. No way to bury his baby son, his only son. For a man like him, a man from the prideful culture he came from, the shame of it was damning, the despair of the loss of his son crippling.Then someone told him about a man who might help.
No need to belabor the story.
The stranger came to the grocery. Stood before the counter. Humble. Humiliated. Told his story. Promised somehow, someday, if only Mr. Fallis could see his way clear to lend him enough money to bury his son, he’d pay it all back, swear to God.
John Fallis listened quietly. Took the measure of the man. Didn’t lend him the money. Gave it to him. More than was needed. And stood with the man and his wife at the burial so that they didn’t have to endure it alone.
Like the spark that set off the violence, there was a spark that triggered compassion.
I doubt he was aware of either.
Whatever the case, to most of those in that section near the river where the poor lived, that section where the bad-ass bars and the honkey-tonks and the cat-houses huddled, to most of the people in that part of town where John Fallis had his grocery, and to many others all over town that were poor and powerless, he was revered. He stood up for them.
To the proper folk of the city, though, he was Lucifer unleashed. He was a lawless, thuggish, un-intimidated insult to decency and the Powers-That-Be. They wanted him gone.
John Fallis was ten when he began to carry a knife.
The older boys, the bigger boys, picked on him. He fought back. They thought it was funny. Until he got the knife.
When he became a man, no one thought it would be funny to pick on John Fallis. He brooked no insult, would not be cheated, would not be pushed around. He bent a knee to no man.
He was the King of Craw and Lucas Deane was his acolyte.
I came to know Mister Fallis through Lucas. That’s how I thought of him—as Mister Fallis.
He was strikingly handsome. He had a charm that was almost magnetic. When he chose to use it, which was not always, he won friends easily and women became willing prey. Being around him was like being swept up in a vortex of energy where something exciting, something dangerous, something unexpected could happen, would probably happen, at any second. I fell gladly into his orbit. I was only a boy then. We were in the seventh grade, Lucas Deane and I, when we met. I was transferring in from a distant school. Lucas was already there. That year was nineteen-twenty. The Great War was over. The country was opening the door to the Roaring Twenties. The Big Shoot-Out was a year in the future.
The Big Shoot-Out. The day John Fallis took on the entire city police force. You’ve heard of it. Everyone’s heard of it. Even the New York Times was appalled. But John Fallis was special to Lucas Deane long before that. Lucas and his mother would have starved but for John Fallis.
Lucas’s mother was ill and couldn’t work. They were penniless. No money for food, no money for rent. Lucas was only seven at the time. John Fallis heard of it. He found Lucas and gave him a job … things he could do, sweep up at the grocery after school, stock the shelves … and paid him enough that they could get by.
Later, Mr. Fallis kept Lucas on. He liked the boy. Lucas’s gratitude was endless, his admiration boundless. I could understand that. I came to admire John Fallis, too. But not to the point of blind devotion.
Outer Banks Publishing Group author Ron Rhody tells what it takes to write a novel based on the real life of person in this interview. He talks about his newest book, Concerning The Matter Of The King of Craw, to be released at the Kentucky Book Fair on November 5 in Frankfort, KY and how he “wrote it” rather than reporting the story.
What brought you to write about John Fallis and his life and times?
I had just wrapped up When Theo Came Home (the last, maybe, in the Theo trilogy) and was searching for a subject for the next book. I had two ideas. One was for a story about what happens when the meek inherit the earth – you know, the promise in the Beatitudes, Mathew 5.5, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” – what would happen, I wondered, if that happened?
The end of times… everyone gone … to heaven or hell … only the meek left. What would happen? Fascinating idea to play with.
The other idea was to try to build a story around John Fallis, the King of Craw. Fallis was a real character, a fascinating character, a dominating figure in Kentucky’s capital city during the Roaring Twenties, controversial at the time, legendary now.
I grew up in that town. I remember hearing stories about about him as a boy – most of them bad. He was a legitimate businessman on the one hand, but on the other a gambler, a brawler, the biggest bootlegger in the whole area with a violent temper and a reputation for mayhem.
He was also handsome and charismatic and loved by the common folk because he helped them and stood up for them against the Establishment. The powers that be didn’t like that. There is speculation even today that powerful forces in the city sent a hit man to do him in. I thought I’d try to find out about him and build a story around him. The meek could wait.
Fallis is a real person. How did you get the information you needed to craft an informed story?
The way a reporter goes about it. Search the record, talk to people. Son Bixie Fallis’ “biography” of his father at the Capital City Museum was a start and an enormous help. Bixie’s story is that of a loving son writing about a hero father, so it has to be taken with a certain restraint, but it is first hand and intimate.
No one is alive today who knew Fallis directly but, thankfully, there is Jim Wallace’s collection of interviews with people who lived in the Bottom and Craw and who did know Fallis. They’re in his This Sodom Land treatise done for the University of Kentucky. It is enormously rich. And there is Doug Boyd’s work in his book Crawfish Bottom. It has a whole section on Fallis.
Those two pieces, and the local area newspapers, were my principal sources. And there are, of course, people who didn’t know Fallis but have relatives who did and who remember the stories they were told. I managed to find and talk with several of them.
After that, it was a matter of imagining what might have happened or could have happened as I worked with the information the limited sources provided. I’ve tried to stay true to facts I could uncover and make sure the inferences I’ve drawn from them are fair.
Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw is my fourth novel. I think it is the best. I’ve learned a lot listening to Theo. The first three books are about him and make up the Theo trilogy. They did not start out to be trilogy. But one story led to another and then became three.
Like Concerning The Matter, they are set in Frankfort, which is Kentucky’s capital city – a jewel of a place, a river town in a Bluegrass Valley that has a character and a feel to it that works on me like magic.
All I’m trying to do is tell a story that makes the reader want to know what happens next and feel satisfied when one gets to the end. A story. A good story. That’s all. We live by stories.
The Theo books are about a young man who starts out as rookie reporter assigned to cover a bizarre murder which he leads him to a career in big time newspapering in New York City and other world capitals and ultimately back to that little town on the river trying to decide whether to run for Governor.
Along the way there are two other murders. He’s implicated in one of them. There is political intrigue and malfeasance, graft, blackmail, Melungeons, and, of course, a girl, Allie, who becomes a woman and who is in and out of his life through it all. I don’t know whether Theo runs and gets elected or not.
At present, I’m not interested in finding out, but I may want to.
The first three books I “reported.” I grew up newspapering, That’s the way you tell the story – who, what, when, where, why – and, if you can figure it out, how. I think they’re good books. They move fast and the stories are compelling.
I didn’t “report” Concerning The Matter Of The King of Craw. I wrote it. There’s a difference. The who, what, when, where, why, and how are there. But there’s more. I think I’m getting the hang of it.
When you start a novel, who are you writing for?
I’ve given that a lot thought. The straight of it is that I’m writing for myself. I’m telling myself the story. If I can hold my interest, keep the story moving, touch a cord of emotion, be intrigued by things I didn’t know, discover something of value in the motives and actions of my characters, I’m happy.
All I’m trying to do is tell a story that makes the reader want to know what happens next and feel satisfied when one gets to the end. A story. A good story. That’s all. We live by stories.
Is there another book on the horizon?
I imagine. For a long time I’ve wanted to try a memoir of a sort. Not a real memoir. A string of stories or vignettes that tell of some of the things – people, places, events – that have mattered and may hold some interest for others. I’m not sure I have the courage to do that. There is the remembering of course. Pain came along with the good times. Not sure I want to revisit all that.
And there is the matter of ego. I’ve never been accused of being overly modest, but there seems something so egotistical about presuming to do a memoir that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with trying one.
Otherwise, there’s Theo. Might be interesting to see if he could get elected and find out what challenges he would face as Governor of the Grand & Glorious Commonwealth of Kentucky and how he’d handle them.
And, of course, there’s the meek. I’ve often thought that given the prospect of an uncertain Heaven, or the beauty and bounty of Mother Earth, I’d opt for her.
Concerning The Matter of The King of Craw
He brooked no insult, would not be cheated, would not be pushed around. He bent a knee to no man. He was the King of Craw and the powers-that-be wanted him gone.
List Price: $16.99
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
Outer Banks Publishing Group
BISAC: Fiction / Historical / General
Author Scott Fields talks about his new novel, The Killing Road, and why he decided to dramatize this true story and how hard it was to write such a book.
What made you dramatize the true life events of The Killing Road?
I was at a book signing when a young couple came up to me and the woman told me about a time when three members of her family were killed by a maniac who eventually killed twelve people in a three week period. She gave me the phone number of her grandparents. I met with them and they gave me a scrapbook that was full of everything I needed to know.
What is your fascination with real life crime stories? Why do you think you are so interested in true crime? Your earlier novel, The Mansfield Killings, is also based on true events.
Normally, I prefer feel good stories. I like a story with a conflict but a happy ending. The Killing Road and The Mansfield Killings began by someone telling me about some events that happened years ago. Something clicked inside me when I heard about each one, and my regular life was put on the back burner.
What do you hope to accomplish by writing The Killing Road? By writing any book?
Most everyone has a hobby, and mine just happens to be writing. For all my life ideas would pop into my head. If they stayed there for several years, then I took them seriously and would eventually turn those ideas into a novel.
How did you go about starting The Killing Road? What was involved?
After several interviews and trips to the library for additional information out of the newspapers, I was ready to begin.
You said it was hard writing The Killing Road. What did you mean by that?
It was extremely difficult to write about some of the things that he did. It only took me four months to write The Mansfield Killings, and it took me two years to write this one. He was incredibly vicious and did some things that I described in the novel but will not discuss them today.
Do you have another book on the horizon?
I am about halfway finished with a little more upbeat kind of novel. Imagine a mafia hitman turning into a pastor and becoming obsessed with taking care of kids with cancer. I have a real problem with kids getting cancer, and I just had to write a story about it. This will be one more way of feeding my hobby.
Now $12.99 directly from the Publisher for a limited time
“The essence of good and evil is a certain disposition of the mind.”
“To those in that section near the river where the poor lived, that section where the bad-ass bars and the honkey-tonks and the cat-houses huddled, to the people in that part of town they called the Bottom, and to many others all over town that were poor and powerless, he was revered. He stood up for them.
To the proper folk of the city, though, he was Lucifer unleashed. He was the King of Craw and they wanted him gone.”
Set in the Roaring Twenties in Kentucky’s Capital City, the story spins around John Fallis, a legendary figure in Bluegrass folklore, and two boys who fall into his orbit.
A successful businessman, a gambler, a bootlegger, movie-star handsome, charismatically compelling, and deferential to no one, he was the champion of the common man and the scourge of the Powers That Be.
He was the King of Craw.
The story begins just before the night of the Big Shoot-Out when he takes on the entire city police force and sets his fabled reputation in stone. But the way he died remains a mystery to this day. Did the powerful forces in the city have him killed or was it the gambling fight it was purported to be?
Though this is a story and not a history, most of it happened. John Fallis, Craw, Crawfish Bottom are names that still resonate and questions about his early end are still unanswered.
This is the first piece of fiction built around the man and the place, full of action and drama, most particularly for readers drawn to mystery and the on-going battle between good and evil.
Whatever you ultimately decide about JF’s place on the scale of good and bad or the particulars of his death, you won’t be bored.
I recently received a very interesting email from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, who brought to light the US book embargo against Cuba. Cubans earn the equivalent of only about $20 USD per month, whether they’re a doctor or a janitor. They don’t have a lot of money to invest in publishing.
Imagine if we could make our free ebook publishing and distribution services available to their writers? Imagine if Cuban readers could gain greater access to the nearly 400,000 low cost ebooks at Smashwords and other ebook retailers including over 60,000 free ebooks at Smashwords?
The petition will help abolish the embargo and free up our rich literary history to the Cuban people. Outer Banks Publishing Group supports Mark and this worthy cause and I am hoping you will, too. Please help and sign the petition.
Last month, I joined a publishing industry delegation to Cuba to meet with Cuban writers, publishers and government representatives from their ministry of culture and book institute.
The goal of the meetings was to build bridges of understanding and explore opportunities for greater cultural and economic collaboration between the Cuban publishing community and the American publishing community.
I was struck by what I learned.
First, the good news.
Cuban writers and publishers are excited about the warming political relations between Cuba and the United States.
Cuba has an adult literacy rate of nearly 100%, about 20 points higher than the US.
Cuba boasts a rich literary culture.
I visited the Havana Book Fair, which was attended by hundreds of thousands of Cubans. I’d estimate 90% of attendees were millennials. These young readers are smart, educated and optimistic. They want greater access to books. They’re the future of Cuba.
Here’s the bad news
The US embargo against Cuba has been enormously harmful to the Cuban people, and it’s been especially harmful to their book market. Cuban publishers have difficulty acquiring even the basic raw materials of bookmaking like paper and ink.
Because so much of the infrastructure of global book publishing passes through the United States, the embargo makes it difficult for Cuban authors and publishers to reach a broader audience.
Cuban readers don’t have easy access to books published by American authors and publishers.
Cubans earn the equivalent of only about $20 USD per month, whether they’re a doctor or a janitor. They don’t have a lot of money to invest in publishing.
Imagine if we could make our free ebook publishing and distribution services available to their writers? Imagine if Cuban readers could gain greater access to the nearly 400,000 low cost ebooks at Smashwords, including over 60,000 free ebooks? I want to help them today but I can’t because of the embargo.
I founded Smashwords to break down barriers like this. To give every writer the freedom to publish, and every reader the freedom to read what they choose.
According to a Pew poll in 2015, fully 72% of the American public wants the embargo lifted.
The US stands virtually alone in this embargo which has now persisted over 50 years.
I realize the politics around this are heated. I realize many Americans — especially Cuban-Americans who emigrated in the ’60s — have strong feelings about the current political regime in Cuba. I respect these feelings. I want to take the politics out of this and focus on the Cuban people.
Would it be so bad to let the books flow freely in both directions? Might books help heal the wounds on both sides?
President Obama has taken steps over the last year to normalize relations with Cuba and set the stage for the end of the embargo.
But change can’t come soon enough. Given the current political dysfunction in the US, it’s unlikely the US congress will vote to end the embargo even though 59% of Republicans want it ended, according to that same Pew poll above.
The embargo is composed of a spaghetti mess of presidential edicts, Treasury department statutes and Congressional actions.
Despite the political gridlock, President Obama has some latitude to make modifications around the edges. He’s already relaxed travel restrictions and allowed American telecommunications companies to invest in Cuba so they can make Internet access more ubiquitous in Cuba.
President Obama says he wants to do more to expose Cubans to American culture and more global information. Books are the solution!
As we say in the petition, books promote greater cross-cultural understanding, economic development and free expression.
On the eve of President Obama’s March 21-22 trip to Cuba, I’d like to ask your support. Let’s encourage President Obama to lift the embargo against books and educational materials. It would be a good first step.
THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Compose friendly Tweets directed at the White House (@WhiteHouse) and President Obama(@BarackObama), urging the Obama administration to end the book embargo. In your Tweets, include the link to the petition. For example, earlier I tweeted this:
End the Cuba book embargo https://petitions.whitehouse. gov//petition/end-book- embargo-against-cuba @WhiteHouse @BarackObama
Books help cross-cultural understanding and economic development. You can retweet it at https://twitter.com/markcoker or feel free to copy and paste it into your own tweet, or compose an original tweet.
Visit the many news stories and blog posts that have been written about our campaign and use their social media buttons to share on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. Or join the discussions in their comment threads.
The timing today is critical. Next Thursday, March 17, 2016, the Obama administration will announce modifications to the embargo that will likely loosen some restrictions on the embargo. Let’s encourage him to add books to his list!
Thank you for your consideration and support. At the bottom of this email I’ve pasted in the full text of the petition.
On the eve of his historic visit to Cuba March 21-22, we call on President Obama to utilize executive powers to immediately lift the economic embargo against Cuba as it pertains to books and educational materials.
As a basic human right, readers everywhere deserve greater access to books and literature.
Books promote cross-cultural understanding, economic development, free expression and positive social change.
The book embargo runs counter to American ideals of free expression.
Cuba’s adult literacy rate – at nearly 100% – is among the highest in the world.
Cuba boasts a rich literary heritage.
End the embargo to make the works of American and Cuban writers more accessible to readers in each country.
72% of Americans support an end to the trade embargo against Cuba (Pew, 2015).”
Mark also orchestrated another petition which will appear next week on the cover of Publishers Weekly. Unlike the petition above which is for the general public, the other petition was signed by nearly 50 CEOs of publishing companies and writers associations (RWA, Authors Guild and more). You can read about both petitions in the news stories above.
So, this isn’t the first time I’ve floated this idea out there, but it’s something I like to touch on from time to time to remind indie authors what an author brand really is. Using the word brand suggests that there’s an artificial construct involved. That you as an author are being directed to create a persona that you think meets readers’ expectations.
Every time I get into this discussion with people I’m reminded of a scene from the classic television show Seinfeld. When Jerry and George are pitching a show to the television network executives, they’re asked what it’s about, and George excitedly proclaims that it&’s about nothing. The network executive is confused because it can’t be about nothing. It has to be about something, but George insists that it’s not. Jerry interjects that even nothing is something.
That exchange encapsulates what an author brand is. It’s nothing. That is to say it’s nothing false. It is you. It is your interests, your opinions, and your personality. It is everything you love. It can even be everything that drives you crazy. Wherever your passions lie, that’s your brand. There is nothing to do to build a brand other than to be yourself, genuinely, fervently, and openly.
Building and maintaining an author brand is, at its core, you being honest about who you really are. If you are, your brand will thrive and help grow your community. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen as long as you stay committed to that principle. In turn, your community will help grow your readership.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
Outer Banks Publishing Group author Owain Glyn was recently interviewed by author May Freighter on her blog and revealed some of his secrets to falling in love. Here are few choice insights from the poet of love.
May:A lot of writers seem to be better at a particular genre or a style which they hone over the years. This leads me to our next question: why did you choose poetry?
Owain: I guess I was drawn to writing through my love of language, and poetry allows me to use language in a variety of ways that prose does not. I love the lyricism of poetry.
May: I think every writer out there should try a bit of poetry now and again. There is a lot we can learn from it. It summarises and portrays so much in short sentences. Usage of powerful words can always be noted in good examples.Writing lets our souls explore the worlds beyond our imagination, so what is your routine of getting there?
Owain: I am lucky, I can find inspiration everywhere. I am an avid people watcher and I have a very broad set of interests. A walk into town, a walk in the country, ten minutes listening to the news, will always give me food for thought.
May: I tend to try and block out the world while moving. My mind likes to use that time to create things instead of focusing on the people around me. But, when I am stationary and have nothing to do then I become a creepy people watcher. I do hope I don’t freak too many people out by staring. Have to master those ninja skills sometime.
Owain Glyn’s Windswept – Poems of Love, containing 107 love and heart-felt poems, were inspired by the author’s surroundings – the wild coast of Cornwall, UK, a land of legend from King Arthur, and Merlin, to mermaids, pirates, and smugglers. The poems have been read more than 2 million times by more than 12,000 fans of Owain Glyn on the popular writer’s community, Wattpad.
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
Adult Coloring Books dominated sales in 2015 and will continue…
Video provided by Fox
Nine of the 20 books on Amazon’s current bestseller list contain few words and belong to a genre that didn’t exist two years ago. Welcome to the biggest publishing craze of the year: coloring books for adults, writes Susannah Cahalan in the New York Post.
More than 2,000 have hit stands since 2013 and the genre’s two biggest bestsellers, “Secret Garden” and “Enchanted Forest,” have sold a combined 13.5 million copies in 50 countries, she wrote.
“Adult coloring books are key factors in three of the top four adult nonfiction categories,” according to Kristen McLean, director of new business development for Nielsen Book.
“They make up 14 out of the top 20 for games/hobby/activity, including the top three slots. They are 40 out of the top 50 in art/design. There are even three in the top 20 in self-help,” she was quoted an article in the ABA Winter Institute’s look at 2016 bookselling trends from Publishers Weekly.
So what is the attraction to coloring books? People consider it therapeutic, stress-relieving and calming. Adrienne Raphel in her piece in The New Yorker called the trend, the “Peter Pan Market” as adults turn to coloring to relive the joys of their childhood.
Starre Vartan wrote in Mother Nature Network (MNN) that MNN’s own Robin Shreeves is a fan, “I enjoy them because when I’m doing them, I don’t think about anything but colors. They take me away from life’s problems without a lot of effort. So do many other creative endeavors, but with the coloring book, I can do it for 10 minutes instead of the time it would take me to do some other things. I don’t do it often, but I pick it up from time to time and get lost for a bit,” Shreeves wrote.
“Coloring fulfills a creative urge and is also soothing and calming,” wrote Jan Hornbeck Chapman, an Ohio-based youth librarian in her 60s, according to Vartan.
Vartan also quoted Sophie Hessekiel, a college student at Vassar in Poughkeepsie, New York, echoes Chapman, even though she’s at a completely different stage of life. “Coloring lets you think about nothing for a little while, and the feel of a marker on paper is very soothing,” she wrote.