Snake Roundups and Faith Healing

My day at the Dallas Book Festival started with a panel featuring thriller writer Greg Iles and journalist Stanley Nelson discussing the real-life Civil Rights-era murders that inspired the former’s Natchez trilogy.

Novelist Greg Iles and journalist Stanley Nelson at the Dallas Book Festival, April 29, 2017.
Novelist Greg Iles (left) and journalist Stanley Nelson (right).

How eager was I to see this discussion? Well, my own husband was presenting a session on multimedia storytelling at the same time – and I told him, “Sorry, I’m going to Iles and Nelson.”

Iles regularly appears on best-seller lists, but fewer people know Nelson, a small-town journalist who set out to find the truth behind a series of murders in his county. His work eventually led to the book Devils Walking.

It was a great session on the moral responsibility to confront racism – “before it swallows all of us” – as Iles put it. The two also had some amazing stories to tell, including one about local klansmen trying to intimidate FBI agents by turning rattlesnakes loose in their hotel rooms. The story goes that when the klansmen drove by the hotel later, the Feds had killed the rattlesnakes and were outside their hotel room, cooking them on a grill.

Next up, Lisa Sandlin, Melissa Lenhardt and Kathleen Kent talked about crime writing and read from their work. I especially enjoyed Kent’s scene from her newest book, The Dime – it was set at the joint where I regularly wash my car.

To close out the day, I listened to Jeff Guinn talk about his new book about the Rev. Jim Jones and Jonestown. It was no standard book talk. Guinn wanted us to understand how Jones appealed to audiences during his early days, and so he gave us a taste of faith healing. Mike Merschel of The Dallas Morning News shot video, which you can find here. (Cameo appearance by my head in the lower right of the frame!)

Devils Walking, by Stanley Nelson, and the Road to Jonestown, by Jeff Guinn
My haul from the festival.

Half-Price books operated the bookstore for the festival this year. I wanted to buy one of everything, but I limited my haul to two. For now. ISeveral more books landed on my to-read list.

If you’re a reader, the festival is a great opportunity to hear authors talk about their work. And if you’re a writer, it’s terrific inspiration. Which means… back to Boys I Have Dated, my work-in-progress.



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