“The fiction of good storytellers can get at some of the barren heartache and injustice behind those old Jim Crow stories as well as the brand new Jim Crow stories of massacres and ‘legal homicides’ showing up in our newspapers at the beginning of another century, the twenty-first. Travel back a hundred years or so in Ross Howell Jr.’s literary page-turner, Forsaken, and see as if we are there—through a young reporter’s eyes—how we struggle as human beings to wean ourselves from bigotry.”
—Clyde Edgerton, author of The Night Train
Truth is, my wife Mary Leigh was smitten with Clyde Edgerton.
A public relations professional and my novel’s pro bono publicist, Mary Leigh was a hotshot PR exec in her footloose, fancy-free days. I’m told Clyde at the time was on the market, too, recently divorced.
Mary Leigh is a huge fan. How huge? Well, when I met her, she asked me what Edgerton novels I’d read.
“The Floatplane Notebooks,” I replied. She was dismayed.
“You’ve never read Raney?” she asked, incredulous. She bought me a copy, and with it provided instructions on the sequence in which to read subsequent Edgerton works after I’d finished.
Her girlfriends were aware of Mary Leigh’s admiration for Clyde. One, who ran programming at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, where Clyde was speaking, scored a copy of Lunch at the Piccadilly as a surprise gift for her.
“How shall I inscribe it?” Clyde asked.
“Write, ‘To Mary Leigh with the blue eyes,’” her girlfriend said.
The humorist came out.
“What if I added, ‘– I’ll never forget that weekend we had in Key West’?” Clyde asked.
“Even better,” said Mary Leigh’s girlfriend.
And that’s what Clyde wrote.
Mary Leigh invoked the inscription when she got in touch with him about my forthcoming novel. Clyde remembered the tale, and was gracious enough to read my book.
Fortunately for me, Mary Leigh and Clyde never met. When I see the twinkle in her eyes as she recounts the inscription story, I count my lucky stars that’s so.
Thank you, Clyde. I’m forever grateful for your kind words about Forsaken.
Ten novels—three of them made into movies—a book of advice, and a memoir. And you’re a private pilot.
I don’t mind you being so accomplished.
But do you have to be so handsome, too?