Reading Matters

Novel reconstructs 1912 Virginia trial

Greensboro writer Ross Howell, who will read at 7 p.m. Thursday at Park Road Books, gets a thumbs up from N.C. novelist Jill McCorkle about his debut novel, “Forsaken.”

“In ‘Forsaken,’ Ross Howell Jr., has vividly recreated a sensational crime firmly rooted in history. His depiction of both time and place – the racial tensions of a torn society – are drawn with sympathy and insight.”

Howell’s novel is about the 1912 Hampton Roads, Va., execution of Virginia Christian, a young black girl, tried and convicted of murdering her white employer. Rookie reporter Charlie Mears, only 18 at the time, covered the trial and its aftermath.

It is Mears who narrates “Forsaken,” as he tries to win clemency for the girl.

The lead attorney representing Christian is the extraordinary George Washington Fields, a former slave who escaped to freedom as a boy in 1863. Fields was the first black man to graduate from Cornell Law School, and he became a prominent attorney in Hampton.

Howell has an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, and his fiction has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review and the Sewanee Review.

Park Road Books is in Park Road Shopping Center, 4139 Park Road, Charlotte.

The reading is free and you’re invited.

Dannye: dpowell@charlotteobserver.com

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