Sunday, October 30, 2022

On My Radar: A Fever in the Heartland!

 


Although the focus of my reading for several years has been crime fiction, I've always loved well-written non-fiction-- the sort with well-stocked bibliographies and facts that read like the best fiction. That's how I first became acquainted with Timothy Egan, who wrote one of my all-time favorite books (of any genre) The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
 
I still feel the impact that book had on me, more than fifteen years after I read it. So... is it any wonder that I perked right up when I learned that Egan would have a new book coming out next year? Of course not! Let me tell you more about it before I give you another reason why I want to read his new book.
 
 
Available April 4, 2023!

 
Synopsis:
 
"The Roaring Twenties--the Jazz Age--has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.

Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.
 
 
This book is written by one of my favorite authors, and it's about a time period that has always fascinated me. Granted, reading about the Ku Klux Klan is not going to be easy-- organizations like that are bad for my blood pressure-- but I do want to read it because it ties in with something I discovered in some of my mother's papers.
 
My mother and a family friend spent hundreds of hours combing through the various incarnations of our village newspaper back in central Illinois, mostly for their genealogy work on their family trees, but it's amazing the fascinating nuggets of history they uncovered. I well remember them reading many of these nuggets aloud as they turned the pages of those old newspapers.
 
What I found in my mother's papers were photocopies of some old (1920s) articles from the village newspaper-- articles about regular meetings of the Ku Klux Klan that were held in my little hometown (population 1800). It was as if I'd been poleaxed; I couldn't believe that that vile organization had had a home in my village. 
 
That's why I've preordered Egan's book. Yes, I think it will be good, but I want to understand why the KKK became so prominent in a time period that I'd only associated with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jay Gatsby in the past.  Something tells me that my mother was just as stunned as I when she found those newspaper articles, and that she would want to read A Fever in the Heartland, too.

12 comments:

  1. Oh, Cathy, this sounds fascinating! It is so hard to write gripping, engrossing non-fiction, but this sounds excellent. And it's an important topic, too - something we should all learn about.

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    1. Yes, we should, especially with what's been happening the past few years.

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  2. The Worst Hard Time is one I really want to read; this one sounds equally interesting and good. :)

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    1. I thought The Worst Hard Time was fabulous.

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  3. I seldom read nonfiction; the daily news is just about all the nonfiction I can handle. For those who do read nonfiction though, this sounds like a very worthwhile read.

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    1. I know what you mean about limiting your intake of non-fiction, Dorothy!

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  4. This does sound like a good and worthwhile read. Thanks for putting it on my radar, too.

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  5. Can't wait to read your review. In the 1920s there were Klan chapters all over the country, and to my utter disgust, women's chapters, too. That I found out from reading a book which I won't name so as not to write a spoiler. But even some suffragists and prohibitionists were involved. What a shock!

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    1. But I happen to know that the book you mention was written by someone with the initials J.M.

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  6. Of course you know, but I didn't want to give a spoiler to other readers.

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    1. But perhaps we've gotten them curious now (if they don't already know).

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