William

Rawlings

Author of Southern Stories

 

 

Latest Events and News Items.....

 

Coming Soon:  The Columbus Stocking Strangler
My forthcoming book, The Columbus Stocking Strangler, will be officially released in September, but may be available a bit earlier. This is a nonfiction story of true-crime and certainly one of the most convoluted and complicated books I have ever tried to write.  Here's a brief description from Mercer University Press's catalogue: 

During an eight-month period in 1977 and 1978, the city of Columbus, Georgia, was terrorized by a mysterious serial killer who raped and ritualistically strangled seven elderly women in one of the community’s finer neighborhoods. Despite intensive efforts on the part of police the Stocking Strangler, as he came to be known, managed to elude capture. After the last murder in April 1978, the case went cold.


In the spring of 1984, a series of fortuitous events connected to an unrelated murder and a stolen pistol led to the capture of Carlton Gary, who had recently escaped from a South Carolina prison. Following a dramatic trial in August 1986, Gary was convicted of three of the seven Columbus murders and sentenced to death, a penalty that would not be carried out until March 2018.


This convoluted tale of crime and punishment is punctuated by dramatic and unexpected twists and turns including issues of race, alleged conspiracy and misconduct on the part of the police and the judiciary, a second serial killer active in Columbus during the time of the Strangler murders, the Ku Klux Klan, errors in DNA analysis, and a vigorous and prolonged struggle by attorneys and death penalty opponents who believed in Gary’s innocence.

Lighthouses of the Georgia Coast

Once an essential part of nautical navigation and commerce, the world's lighthouses have become historical relics of days past, their primary function now replaced by modern technology. Yet these magnificent structures continue to fascinate us, not only for their intrinsic beauty, but also as monuments to our shared history, and as symbols of hope and salvation to those cast adrift on the stormy seas of life. From the mid-eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries, the waterways of coastal Georgia from the St. Marys River in the south to the Savannah River in the north were an integral part of the state's economy, vital to the trade in cotton, rice, timber, naval stores, and other products shipped to ports in America and around the world.

Georgia's barrier islands are today the site of five existing lighthouses, each with its own unique style, history, and role in events over the past decades and centuries. In addition, focusing on these beacons, Lighthouses of the Georgia Coast reviews the basics of lighthouse design and construction, the role, lore and legacy of lighthouse keepers, the significance of lighthouses as strategic structures during the turbulent days of the Civil War, and more.

Richly illustrated with both contemporary and historical photos, the reader or visitor will gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of Georgia's lighthouses and of similar structures on coasts and waterways around the world.

Here's a review of Lighthouses of the Georgia Coast from the Midwest Book Review:   Exceptionally well written, impressively informative, and expertly presented, "Lighthouses of the Georgia Coast" is a 'must' for the legions of lighthouse enthusiasts and will prove to be an enduringly welcome addition to personal, community, college and university library American History collections in general, and Historical Lighthouse supplemental studies reading lists in particular.  (June 2021)
A Lighthouse Podcast!
To hear a fascinating podcast on Lighthouses of the Georgia Coast, with Jeremy D'Entremont on behalf of the United States Lighthouse Society, please click arrow 

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Six Inches Deeper 

On August 31, 1972, Hellen Hanks, a pretty thirty-four-year-old mother of three disappeared from her place of employment at Wilcox Advertising in Valdosta, Georgia. After a brief investigation by local and state authorities, the case went cold. in the fall of 1980, a farmer clearing a field south of town discovered a buried object, a box containing the dismembered remains of the missing woman. 


After several months of investigation, police arrested “Foxy” Wilcox, his son Keller Wilcox, and two long-term African American employees of Wilcox Advertising. Keller was charged with Hanks’s murder, and the others with concealing a death. The Wilcoxes were members of a prominent and wealthy Valdosta family.  To defend their case, they hired famed defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook.  Keller Wilcox’s murder trial in January 1982 pitted Cook against a local prosecution team led by district attorney Lamar Cole. The case against Wilcox was entirely circumstantial, making the outcome uncertain. After a trial marked by controversy and conflicting testimony, Wilcox was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, all the while proclaiming his innocence. in 1985 he was freed by a federal judge based primarily on the harsh interrogation of the black witnesses.  Reimprisoned after an appeal by the state Attorney General, he remained incarcerated until 2008.


 The true story of this horrific murder has all the elements of a work of suspense fiction: money, power, sex, race, and the haves vs. the have-nots. Multiple lives were forever changed. The outcome would have been totally different if the box had been buried only Six Inches Deeper.

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes

Returning to my roots as a writer of suspense fiction set in my home state of Georgia, The Girl with Kaleidoscope eyes is a fast-moving tale of deception, intrigue and murder that takes place in Savannah.  The protagonist, John Wesley O'Toole is a disbarred attorney trying to get his life back together after being release from prison.  Having inherited an art gallery from his grandmother, O'Toole is struggling to  make ends meet when he is approached by Abraham Deign, a wealthy local businessman.  Deign wants O'Toole to recover a missing painting, one allegedly taken from his home by his estranged granddaughter, Lucy, and is willing to offer a substantial reward.  Seeing the possibility of financial light at the end of a dark tunnel, O'Toole takes on the quest.  All is going well until Lucy's body is found in a burned out car, and it appears that O'Toole may be the murderer.  Things go downhill from there--for a while at least.  Readers tell me this is one of my best fiction works to date, and it garnered great reviews.   I think you will like it!  Wm. R.


The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution
The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution, and Other Stories from Georgia's Historical Past. is a collection of 17 shorter pieces on Georgia and Southern history, ranging from the significance of the invention of the cotton gin and the Great Yazoo Fraud, to the true story of the Lost Confederate Treasure, to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.  Somewhat more than half of these have appeared in Georgia Backroads magazine over the last decade, but have been reworked for this book.   Two of the pieces ("A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff "and "The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire") were expanded to become full length books.

The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire

The history of the various "Ku Klux Klans" since the Reconstruction Era of the 1860s and 1870s is a complicated one, and often misunderstood by historians and the public alike.  In 1915 William Simmons, a former minister and fraternal order organizer launched a new "beneficial fraternal order" that he named "The Ku Klux Klan," based almost solely on the popularity of the then-current blockbuster movie, The Birth of a Nation.  Started primarily as a money-making scheme, and borrowing the movie props of the burning cross and white-hooded gowns, Simmons's Klan grew from a few thousand members in 1920 in Georgia and Alabama to as many as 5 million members in all 48 states by 1925,  Promoted by a pyramidal marketing scheme, it enriched its founders while attracting members from all social classes nationwide. Attempting to turn its membership power into a political movement, the Klan failed, and was essentially defunct by the 1930s, finally declaring bankruptcy in 1944.  It's a fascinating tale of this vile organization, and one that will surprise you.

A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff

A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff is a saga of two inextricably intertwined tales, the infamous Rawlings-Tarbutton murder case of 1925, and the crash of the cotton economy in Georgia (and the South) of the same era.  Sound like a strange combination?  It's not.  From about 1795 until the 1920s, the entire life of many of the southern states was based on the production of cotton.  Men became rich.  And when it all fell apart, lives were forever changed.  It was a fascinating and little known era.   In this popularly written account, I integrate local and regional history and economics that forever changed the South and Southern small towns in particular. 

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.  I am available for "virtual" events on Zoom or other videoconferencing programs. 
8/16/22 5:00 PM
Speaking to HCC Book Club
Highlands Country Club
Highlands, North Carolina

9/22/22 5:30-8:00 PM

An Evening with Authors

Wine & Hors d'Oeuvres, Presentations

   & Book Signing

Quinlan Visual Arts Center

514 Green St. NE

Gainesville, Georgia


10/1/2022 Details TBA
Decatur Book Festival
Decatur, Georgia

10/9/2022  2:00 PM
Speaking Engagement
Sunday at the Museum Lecture Series
Old School History Museum/Plaza Arts Center
305 N. Madison Avenue
Eatonton, Georgia
For more information, Click HERE

10/12/2022 Details TBA
Speaking on "The Columbus 
   Stocking Strangler"
Rotary Club of Columbus
Columbus, Georgia

10/15/2022
Speaking Engagement
"The Twin Scandals of Early Georgia"
Colonial Dames 17th Century
Savannah, Georgia

10/17/2022  Details TBA
Speaking on "The Columbus
   Stocking Strangler"
The Monday Group
Columbus, Georgia

10/18/2022  Details TBA
Speaking on "The Columbus
   Stocking Strangler"
Kiwanis Club of Columbus
Columbus, Georgia

12/10/22 Details TBA
Mercer University Authors Luncheon
Atlanta, Georgia

3/4/2023 Details TBA
(Rescheduled from 2022)
Dahlonega Literary Festival
Dahlonega, Georgia 


News and Notes

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


What's Next?    With the manuscript for The Columbus Stocking Strangler finished and soon to be released, I'm hard at work on my next book.  While I truly enjoy writing nonfiction, especially Georgia history, I have had numerous requests from both readers and reviewers to write more works of fiction, especially suspense novels set in the South.  Writing in the genre of fiction is simply fun for me.  I will have to admit that suspense novels don't have the "shelf-life" of many nonfiction works, but they are something challenging and appealing to many recreational readers. 


So..., I am going to do several books bringing back John Wesley O'Toole, the disbarred-attorney-turned-art-dealer who was the protagonist in The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes.  Hopefully the next book in that series will be in print in 2023.  O'Toole is a great character, a man whose life fell apart for reasons he had little to do with, and who looks on each day as a new challenge.  Importantly, the story takes place in Savannah, one of my favorite cities (next to Paris), with historical surroundings and colorful characters.  I think readers will enjoy this book.  I hope to do several in the series.