Author of Southern Stories



Latest Events and News Items.....


The Next Book:  The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire
My next book is well under way.  It is about the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and tentatively titled "The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire."  When I tell folks this, the first reaction I usually get is "Why in the world do you want to write about the Klan?"  Well, let me tell you:  It's a great story!  I am not speaking of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1860s, which was basically a terrorist organization.  Nor am I talking about the modern day Klans, "hate groups" whose agenda is white supremacy.  I am writing on the Klan of the 1915-1930 era, a "beneficial fraternal order" (like the Woodmen of the World, or the Elks or Moose) that devolved into something else.  It is one of the greatest stories of marketing in American history; the Klan's 2,000 members in 1920 rose to as many as 5,000,000 members (or more or less?) in 1925-26.  It is a story of greed, corruption, of violence, of politics, of patriotism, of Christian ideals mixed with virulent racism--in short, the worst (and maybe the best) of America.  I think this book will be unique in that it's designed to readable, interesting, and present a number of facts that have eluded previous historians writing on the Klan.   I hope to have it finished in the next few months.   It will be pubished by Mercer University Press.
The Myth of the Boll Weevil--Newly Posted Magazine Article
Conventional wisdom--not to mention what we were taught in school in our required 8th grade class on Georgia History--says that the state's cotton economy crashed in the 1920s due to the invasion of the boll weevil.  It was a time of wrenching change.  The decade marked the beginning of the end of many, perhaps most, of the state's small towns, the shift to an urban-based economy, and dramatic changes in the state's racial and political demographics.  That wasn't the way it was, at least in my opinion.  Read my essay from Georgia Backroads on the Myth of the Boll Weevil and see if you don't agree.  Click HERE to read the article.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for a listing of this and other pieces that I've written.

Georgia Author of the Year Winner

The Georgia Writers Association sponsored the 50th Annual Georgia Author of the Year Awards Banquet at Kennesaw State University on June 7, 2014.  I was honored to be awarded Georgia Author of the Year Finalist in the History Category for A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff.  (To translate that, that's second place.)  My thanks to the GWA and the sponsors of this event!  To read the official press release click HERE.

 New Magazine Article Now in Print

The current (Autumn) issue of Georgia Backroads features a fascinating article of mine on an abortive insurrection that took place during Reconstruction.  In 1875 a group of freed slaves plotted to overthrow the governments of some 19 or 20 east-central Georgia counties and establish a black self-rule district known as Freedmen's Land.  The plot was a horrific one, as the first step was the planned killing of all the whites, "from the cradle up."  Fortunately, it was discovered just days before the slaughter was to have begun, resulting in hundreds of arrests.   It's one of those stories that's so complicated and thrilling that you couldn't make it up if you wanted to--and it's all true! 

A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff

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.

Read the First Chapter of A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff

For the many folks from whom I've recieved inquiries as to when the book will be available, here is a copy of the first chapter to whet your appetite.  To read it, click HERE.

Event Schedule
Upcoming events for the next few months are
listed below.  If you or your book or social club
are looking for a speaker, please contact me.

12/16/14 11:00 AM
Speaking Engagement
The Medical College of Georgia/GRU
Augusta, Georgia

1/8/15 11:00 AM
Speaking Engagement
Augusta, Georgia

Speaking Engagement
St. Marys Middle School
St. Marys, Georgia

3/24/15 Time and Details TBA
Cherry Blossom Festival Authors Luncheon
Idle Hour Country Club
Macon, Georgia

6/17/15 2:00-4:00 PM
Speaking Engagement
Center for Life Enrichment
Venue and Details TBA
Highlands, North Carolina

News and Notes

There is always something happening.  Here are the latest odds and ends that may be of interest to you:

Bolivia!  I returned from my Bolivian adventure the last few days of August.  It was both wild and wonderful.  My friend Mike and I spent the better part of two weeks exploring the high altiplano, never getting below 11,500 feet altitude, and at times up above 16,000 feet.  It was rough!  I do fairly well at 12-13,000 feet, but above that, your mind fogs and you huff and puff with every step.  One of the pilots who flew us from Miami to LaPaz on American Airlines mentioned that they have to flip a switch to keep the oxygen masks from popping out when the plane lands at LaPaz's El Alto airport.  Its that high--13,300 ft. he said.  We saw some pretty amazing stuff--lots of dinosaur tracks--fossilized, of course--pink flamingos in green lakes at 15,000 feet altitude, volcanos, desert, caves, archeological sites and so on.  I will hope to post some of the several thousand photos I took sometime before too long.