I met William Rawlings at a literary festival held recently in Dahlonega, Georgia. I was attracted to the festival by the appearance of Terry Kay as well as Cassandra King (Pat Conroy’s wife) and Joshilyn Jackson. (Was it too much to hope that Pat might accompany his wife on this trip?) Before arriving, I looked up the other writers who would be included, and Rawlings was one who interested me.
I attended a panel discussion on writing non-fiction that Rawlings was a part of which further piqued my interest in his latest work. It is a non-fiction account of the rise and decline of an uncle (several generations removed) Charlie Rawlings – once one of the wealthiest men in Georgia and only a few years later, serving time in prison for the murder of Gus Tarbutton. In order to accurately give the circumstances of Tarbutton’s death and the likelihood or unlikelihood that it would or could have been orchestrated by a close friend, indeed cousin, requires Rawlings to also tell the story of economics in small town, rural Georgia in the early 1900’s. This story cannot be told without the addition of race, politics, and social mores to further complicate matters.
I probably know more about the rise and fall of King Cotton than I ever thought I would or would want to, but even for an English major like myself who generally shies away from things numbers related, I was fascinated by the picture Rawlings painted of life in these small towns. Since I have people from nearby Burke County who also relied and probably foolishly trusted in the soft, white god, I was that much more intrigued by the narrative.
This book is for anyone with roots in small town South, enjoys economics personified in history or looks to true-life crime for entertainment.
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