Thursday, May 07, 2015

Doomed to Repeat It?

Ah, May already. A beautiful month in much of the country, and very nice here in Arizona as well. Until the end of the month, when the desert summer begins to rear its ugly head. So I, Donis, shall enjoy the relative cool while I can and try not to complain too much when June arrives. At least I no longer live in tornado alley.

Already I digress. Writing is what we wish to to discuss today. Last time I posted here I wrote about having to cut my latest manuscript from 91,000 words to a manageable 85,000 before I sent it in to the editor for her approval. I've noticed that my books are getting longer. The first installment of my Alafair Tucker series came in at just a little over 60,000, which is really short. But with that tale I felt that I said all I need to say. With this book, I had a lot to say, and I hope I didn't oversell the story. I never know. Here's the new cover:



The book was accepted for publication with hardly any editorial changes to the story. I'm doing corrections on the ARC (advanced reading copy) right now. Lots of minor copy editing--a misplaced comma here and an inappropriate italic there. Other than that, the story is in its final form and will hit the shelves in November. The book is called All Men Fear Me, an Alafair Tucker Mystery, and it is set in Oklahoma at the beginning of World War I (for the Americans. The rest of the world had been at war for three years.) The title is lifted from an American propaganda poster that said: I am Public Opinion. All Men Fear Me.

It was interesting and rather difficult to do the research on the American home front. There is a lot of literature about the European home front and about the battle front, but what life was like for ordinary Americans during the war was not as easy to find, much to my surprise. I ended up doing a huge amount of research in contemporary newspapers.

My grandparents were all in their early twenties during WWI, but none of them ever told me anything about life while the war was on. Neither of my grandfathers went. I fear I grew up thinking that the distant European war didn't have much of an effect on folks buried deep in the hills of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Was I ever wrong. There was a tremendous backlash in Oklahoma when the U.S. declared war on Germany, and when a draft was instituted there was nearly a civil war. Thousands of tenant farmers, workers, socialists, and Native Americans gathered in enclaves in Central Oklahoma and planned to march all the way to Washington D.C., gathering "soldiers" as they went, take the city, arrest President Wilson, and put an end to the war. The group was infiltrated by spies, and before they could put their plans into effect, a huge posse rode on the camp and scattered the rebels. In the end, some 500 people were arrested and 250 arraigned. Only a few dozen of those particular rebels ended up in prison, but some were given thirty year sentences for sedition. The last of them was pardoned by President Taft in 1921, after the war was over and everyone had calmed down.

The uprising came to be called the Green Corn Rebellion, and it helped lead to a big government crackdown on dissension. The laws that were passed at the time to limit civil rights make pretty scary reading.

Forty to fifty years later, I went through the public school system in Oklahoma and was never taught a word about the Green Corn Rebellion, among other unsavory things that had happened during the state's history. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Spaniard George Santayana said, "those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." Does that apply to trying to erase the shameful past by not teaching it to our children?

4 comments:

rolandclarke.com said...

Not surprised that the Green Corn Revolution was not taught in school. Suspect that history has been taught to suit the established regime, although perhaps not so overtly? In the UK we had a 'great and noble empire' - forget about the atrocities. What sort of 'truth' about Native Americans was taught?

Vicki Delany said...

Good question, Donis

Eileen Goudge said...

Fascinating bit of history. I love these "hidden" tales. Rife with drama to be plucked for a fictional rendering.

Mario Acevedo said...

Great post. Very illuminating and also a bit depressing.