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One Night of Madness Paperback – November 11, 2009
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About the Author
Stokes McMillan is fourth generation born and raised in Attala County, Mississippi, the scene of the story. His great-grandfather started the local newspaper, the Kosciusko Star-Herald, which his grandfather and father later published. Presently an engineer with NASA at the Johnson Space Center, McMillan lives with his family in Houston, Texas. One Night of Madness is his first book.
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In case the publisher or author happens to read this review, and future printings are forthcoming, I did notice one typo that should be corrected. On page 367, in the "Hogjaw Mullen" section, it states that he was once paroled in 1556. I believe that should be 1956. That's just a minor point and certainly did not detract from the overall quality of the book.
McMillan has written a meticulously researched book chronicling the heinous murder of three black children in rural Mississippi by three white racists in the winter of 1950.
The book is in the style of a non-fiction novel like Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", and the story is told with a sensitivity for the people that reminded me of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird". The many characters leap from the pages and bring to life a part of Mississippi history that many would like to ignore, and some would even deny ever happened.
The interaction of the characters, the unfolding of the tragic events leading up to the murders, and the capture and trial of the murderers are skillfully described. After introducing us to the main players in Part 1 McMillan writes in his introduction to Part 2:
"Fate is a weaver. With the world her loom and eternity her timetable, she is emotionless in creating the intricate fabric of our lives. Drawing from her lap the colorful threads that are people's flesh and souls, the masterful embroiderer interlaces them into a living tapestry of the human condition - awash with infinitely contrasting shades and qualities. Individual threads may fray with time, but the story told in their warp and weft endures as memory.
` After decades of patient preparation, as an otherwise unexceptional winter approached, Fate began weaving the threads of a new creation, a tapestry of select filaments of peace and conflict, joy and sorrow, prosperity and poverty, black and white, skillfully woven. This unique composition was not to be a masterpiece of beauty to evoke cries of admiration and wonder, but a work of tragedy to call forth wails of anguish and sorrow."
I can't improve on that discourse except to say that I thoroughly enjoyed every page of "One Night of Madness" and enthusiastically recommend it to those who appreciate skillful writing about historical events that become as fresh as the days they happened.
Gene Harlan Powell, Christian author now living in Arkansas