Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New book explores Murder & Mayhem in 1930s Florida

My newest book, "The Claude Neal Lynching," is now available in print or as an instant download for users of Amazon Kindle devices or Amazon's free software for your computer, iPad, etc. 

"The Claude Neal Lynching" tells the story of an outbreak of murder and mayhem in 1930s Florida that shook not just a state, but the entire nation. The chaos began on November 18, 1934, when a 19 year old woman was brutally murdered at a hog pen near the small town of Greenwood, Florida. The physical evidence pointed to a neighbor, farm worker Claude Neal, who later confessed repeatedly to the crime.

The crime was so brutal that men of the area decided Neal should not live and set out to lynch him.  Jackson County at the time, contrary to the claims of many writers, was not a hotbed of lynching. In fact, there had not been a lynching in the county for nearly 30 years. Sheriff W.F. Chambliss and his deputies tried to protect Neal, moving him to jails in Chipley, Panama City and eventually Pensacola. From there he was slipped away to the jail in Brewton, Alabama.  It was in Brewton that the lynch mob finally found him, forcing its way into the jail with pistols, shotguns and dynamite.

Neal was lynched in the swamps of Jackson County on the night of October 26, 1934, by a small group of six men. Thousands more, representing more than ten states, wanted to take part and had even gathered to do so, but were presented not with a living suspect but a dead body.  They went on a rampage, carrying Neal's body to the county seat of Marianna and hanging it from a tree on the courthouse square.

The building chaos turned into a full-fledged riot as local authorities tried to defend citizens and carry out their duty.  Even a Florida Supreme Court justice became involved, boldly stepping out through the courthouse doors even as the rioting mob was preparing to knock them down with a battering ram. With no weapon other than his powerful voice, he drove back the mob and saved the lives of the men inside the building.

National Guard troops were sent in, as newsreel cameras rolled, and positioned machine guns on all four corners of the courthouse square. The sheriff had to be protected by armed soldiers and troops also stood guard at funerals and court proceedings.  It was one of the most chaotic events in the history of any small town in America.

The events of October 1934 have been misunderstood for years and, while the lynching and riot have been discussed in more than 3,000 books, not a single one has even correctly spelled Lola Cannady's name.

"The Claude Neal Lynching" is a chronological history of an outbreak, written by a resident of the county where it happened.  It includes never before discussed evidence, interviews with participants in the lynching about how and why they did what they did, and more.  I hope you will consider it.

To order the book through Amazon, please follow this link: 
The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady

Amazon Kindle is available by clicking here:  The Claude Neal Lynching

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