A review of my current book was posted recently on Goodreads. I don't know the reviewer, but I appreciate his kind words. I have reproduced it here, as it explains things as good or better than I could:
Author William Rawlings’ A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff is a superb little book of Georgia history, recounting (as the book jacket succinctly states) the rise and fall of Georgia’s rural population through the story of Sandersville cotton farmer, financier, businessmen and later convicted killer, Charles Graves Rawlings. Much like the farm barons of the bygone 1900s and 1920s, Rawlings tills new ground in this book, closely examining how the South’s reliance (bordering on blind devotion) to King Cotton ultimately lead to an unsustainable economy that not only bankrupt both individuals and communities, but ultimately lead to the dissolution of many small Georgia towns and a diaspora of many southern residents northward.
One might expect any book addressing post-Civil War southern economics and population migration to be inherently dry and dusty, but Rawlings deftly avoids pedantry, focusing his attention instead on the life and times of those who lived during these troubled times – in particular the life of the author’s ancestor, Charles Graves Rawlings, a rags to riches millionaire who lived his twilight years impoverished and imprisoned for purportedly engineering the killing of his cousin, Gus Tarbutton. Replete with stories, folklore and anecdotes, Rawlings paints a vivid picture of the life, times, people and places. Every page of A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff is interesting and the broad canvas of Rawlings’ book is a bit like peering through the window of time machine into the faces, issues and politics of the past.
It is the seamless fusion between intensely interesting tales of individuals alongside the broader background of historical trends and changes that makes A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff so immensely satisfying. Rawlings is able to sift through (and explain) complex economic and historical data with ease – never have I been more interested in the growing, cultivation and economy of cotton – but more importantly he is also able to show how these broader issues are relevant -- specifically to the lives of the individuals he chronicles. For example, Rawlings bluntly portrays the terrible impacts of Southern racism, but wisely avoids the trap of blaming all the South’s ills on that single evil. Likewise, he addresses the rise and impact of the Ku Klux Klan – not just in the context of its abhorrent racism – but as a political movement whose terrorism targeted not just African-Americans, Jews and Catholics, but anyone (whites included) whose moral purity was questioned by Klansmen. Author Rawlings doesn’t shy away from bluntly painting the picture of the Klan’s brutality – so unflinchingly that it becomes very easy to understand, even modern times, the fear and intimidation the hooded men must have instilled even among some of the bravest and most independent local citizens.
A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff is indeed a book about history – but it’s clear that Rawlings’ is no stodgy historian; instead his writing is that of a fan of history whose enthusiasm, crisp narration, and penchant for wonderful stories captures both the reader’s interest and the essence of the age. In the preface, Rawlings calls this book “an interesting tale, nothing more or less” – and like the best classic tales, this is a story that resonates with ageless meaning.