Sunday, February 17, 2019

Blood Cries: A Tale of Greed, Narcissism. Murder, and Redemption

Since 2012, several authors have written books about the Reverend Will Maxwell, a man suspected of killing his first wife, his second wife, his brother, his nephew, and his foster daughter for insurance money, which he then split with the lawyer who kept him out of jail.

At the end of the funeral service for the foster daughter, the girl's uncle decided enough was enough and delivered vigilante justice by shooting the Reverend dead as he sat in a pew fanning himself with the memorial bulletin. The Reverend's lawyer then represented his assassin at the subsequent trial. He helped convince the jury to find the man not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

Shortly after the events occurred, Harper Lee visited Alex City to research the story as a potential follow-up to her famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. She never completed the book, which was to be called The Reverend.

Since she wasn't using it, I borrowed her title and published a novel based on the story in 2012 under the pseudonym Christamar Varicella. Parts of that book were well written, but overall, I wasn't happy with it, so in 2015 I started rewriting the book from scratch. Blood Cries is now almost complete and will published in May under the name Chris Hope.

Why the two pseudonyms, you ask. I think maybe it's because I'm a Gemini. I was going to publish the new book under my real name, David Brasfield, but the name Chris Hope factors into the story and I think the pseudonym adds another dimension that helps tie the book together.

In the meantime, two nonfiction books have been written about the story. To Kill a Preacher by E Paul Jones is one I would recommend for anyone interested in an insider's perspective. E Paul (RIP) was a highly respected District Attorney who once interviewed the Reverend while working for an insurance case and who assisted in the prosecution of the man who shot him.

In early May, around the same time my book comes out, a writer for the New Yorker named Casey Cep is publishing Furious Hours, a book focusing on Harper Lee and why she never published The Reverend.

My new novel, Blood Cries, is about a young woman named Chrissy Hope who goes searching for a lost true crime manuscript written by her favorite author, the reclusive Louella Harper. Chrissy resorts to desperate measures to find that book, which (not coincidentally) is called The Reverend. Excerpts of Harper's book appear as chapters in Blood Cries.

For a while there, I considered walking away from the book altogether. I felt like I was being exploitational, trying to cash in on the misfortunes of others. I eventually decided to alleviate my guilt by sharing the proceeds of the book with a charity serving the area where the true events took place, the appropriately named Feast of Sharing.

I'll post occasional updates right up until publication of Blood Cries, which is slotted for May 6. The book will be available for pre orders in late April.

Thanks for reading this post. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. I'd be happy to answer them.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Two New Books Based on Reverend Maxwell Story

Two new books come out this year dealing with the alleged Alabama serial killer known as the Reverend: Casey Cep's Furious Hours and our own Chris Hope's novel Blood Cries.

As long-time readers of the blog know, Harper Lee intended to write a book on the subject but it was never published. You can learn more about it here.

Cep's book is a nonfiction account focused on Harper Lee while Hope's book is a fictional treatment with a character loosely based on Lee and with a nonfiction explanatory section at the end.

I visited the Penguin Random House website page for Furious Hours, and found that the cover looks remarkably similar to the cover designed for Blood Cries, which first appeared on this site last summer. 

Here are the two covers side by side:


Another interesting coincidence—Blood Cries and Furious Hours are both set to be released in early May. This blogger suggests buying them both.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A New Phase of My Development as a Writer

Yesterday, I completed the eighth of twelve planned drafts of my novel Blood Cries. The achievement has made me a bit reflective about my life as a writer, and I wanted to mark the occasion by summarizing my progress thus far. 

I've written maybe ten half-way decent short stories and published five of them in tiny literary journals, most of which are now defunct. I collected those five stories as well as two more and self-published them under the title Too Weird.

I've written two very silly novellas and roughly two hundred and fifty blog posts. Many of these posts were early chapters of a novel and many were chapters of two very silly novellas (a sic-fi and a romance parody respectively). Most of the others were very silly humor pieces such as reviews of books that don't exist and open letters to famous authors. Many of these short, silly pieces, as well as the two very silly novellas, were collected and self-published under the title There Are Sneetches in My Breeches.

I've written many drafts of an uncompleted novel, Dashboard Hula.

With my sister, Christiana, I've written several stories for children and self-published a few of them.

In 2012, I self-published a novel called The Reverend, which was loosely based on series of murders, and the subsequent trial that followed, that took place in the town in Alabama where I was born.

In 2015, I had an idea for a new novel based on the same events. Blood Cries is my second novel in the same way that To Kill a Mockingbird was Harper Lee's second novel: it's really just a complete revision of the first novel. 

I consider everything written prior to this book to be my apprentice writing, and, I believe, the completion of Blood Cries represents a turning point in my development. Therefore, I have decided to shed the nom de plume of my apprenticeship and using my actual name going forward.

Henceforth the name Christamar, Christamar Varicella, and/or Christamar Verisella will be used on this blog and as a literary alter ego in my writing. My older work belongs to Christamar. My newer work, for better or for worse, belongs to me.