Book: Blood on the Roses by Robert Hayscategories: Book, Historical Fiction, Southern Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Homophobia, Racism, Voyeurism, Literary Fiction
Robert Haysabout this book: In the spring of 2008, during my last semester of teaching, I found my students to be fascinated by our discussions of the history of race relations in America. These were 20-year-olds, junior journalism students at the University of Illinois, by any measure among our best and brightest. They knew virtually nothing about the subject.
I decided that as soon as I retired from teaching I would begin work on a new novel about that dark chapter in our history. The U.S. Army had sent me South in 1956, a time when racial segregation was the norm and prejudices were rampant in our daily lives. I based my novel, Blood on the Roses, on vivid recollections of my own experiences as a young white man from Illinois experiencing a fully segregated world for the first time. (Some of these also are discussed briefly in my tenth and newest book, the non-fiction Patton's Oracle: Gen. Oscar Koch, as I Knew Him.)
As much as I hated the ugly aspects of Southern society, I came to love the South. My wife is a South Carolinian and South Carolina has been my second home for more than a half-century. In Blood on the Roses, set in east Tennessee in 1955, I made every effort to portray both the beauty of the South and the goodness of most Southern people along with the true evil of bigotry in whatever form it surfaces and also to demonstrate that none of us is without fault.
My own favorite character in the book is Charlie Monroe, an aging FBI man in Knoxville who is modeled on a true Southern gentleman I knew well. Agent Monroe loves the South but recognizes that change must come. His eloquent summation might well serve as a theme for the book: "It's easy to condemn. But prejudice is an unpastured dragon. . . . Let it loose, nurture it with a little ignorance and fear, and pretty soon it's in all the dark places and if we're not careful we'll all be consumed by its ugly flame."
Nicely put, Agent Monroe. I couldn't have said it better myself.
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Video: Blood on the Roses by Robert Hays
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