In this tale of two intertwined crimes, the consequences of a 1968 Ku Klux Klan murder and rape in Witherston, Georgia, come back to haunt the town some fifty years later. The body of Crockett Wood, a member of a radical white supremacist group called Saxxons for America, is found in his dilapidated outhouse, shot in the heart. Then a local candidate for mayor turns up missing in the midst of rumors of a scandal in his youth. As Detective Mev Arroyo and her teenage twins, Jorge and Jaime, dig for the truth, they uncover a past filled with bigotry, betrayal, and deceit, revolving around the 1968 murder of a black man and the rape and disappearance of his pregnant white fiancée. Is Crockett Wood responsible for the murder and rape so long ago, or did he perhaps identify the guilty party and was shot to ensure his silence? After all, it’s an election year in Witherston, and some people will do a lot more than commit murder to keep their dirty little secrets safe…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Saxxons in Witherston by Betty Jean Craige, Mev Arroyo and her two teenage twin sons, Jorge and Jaime, are involved in another murder investigation—Mev officially as a detective for the town of Witherston, and Jorge and Jaime unofficially as intrepid teenagers. What they uncover is bigotry and betrayal stemming from a 1968 murder and rape of a black teenager and his pregnant white fiancée. Then another man goes missing and they don’t know if he is a guilty party or another victim, but white supremacy seems to be alive and well in Witherston…unless the good people of Witherston can stop it.
Well written, fast paced, and intriguing, this one will keep you guessing until the very end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Saxxons in Witherston by Betty Jean Craige is the fourth book in her clever and thought-provoking Witherston Murder Mysteries series. This time the town is peppered with white-supremacist flyers from a group called Saxxons for America. Then one of the group’s leaders is murdered and a mayoral candidate turns up missing. The murder and disappearance seem to be linked to a cold case murder from 1968, when a local black teenager was murdered and his pregnant white girlfriend raped. The consequences of those crimes are now coming back to haunt the quiet little Southern town some fifty years later.
Craige’s character development is superb and her plots well thought out and intriguing, and Saxxons in Witherston is no exception—a first-class whodunit you won’t be able to put down.
LOCATION: Lumpkin County, Georgia, USA. The town of Witherston, founded in 1860, is located in the southern Appalachian mountains twenty miles north of Dahlonega in Saloli Valley. The incorporated area includes Tayanita Village, a community of fifteen to twenty young men and women whose Cherokee ancestors occupied north Georgia, southern Tennessee, and western North Carolina for a thousand years.
POPULATION: 3,857 (2016)
AREA: 39.9 square miles
WITHERSTON CITY OFFICIALS as of July 1, 2018: Rich Rather, Mayor; Atsadi Moon, Chair of the Town Council; Alvin Autry, Dr. Charlotte (Lottie) Byrd, Jonathan Finley, Lydia Gray, Ruth Griggs, and Blanca Zamora, Members of the Town Council
TAYANITA VILLAGE OFFICIALS as of July 1, 2018: John Hicks, Chief; Amadahy Henderson, Treasurer; Atsadi Moon, Historian
WITHERSTON POLICE: Jake McCoy, Chief; Mev Arroyo, Detective; Ricky Hefner, Pete Senior Koslowsky, Pete Junior Koslowsky, Officers; John Hicks, IT specialist.
ONLINE NEW SOURCE: Witherston on the Web, sometimes called “Webby Witherston.” Publisher: Smithfield (“Smitty”) Green. Staff: Catherine Perry-Soto, editor; Amadahy Henderson, photographer and reporter; Dr. Charlotte Byrd, columnist; Jorge Arroyo, columnist and cartoonist; Tony Lima, Weatherman.
SCHOOLS: Witherston Elementary School; Witherston Middle School; Witherston High School
CHURCHES: Witherston Baptist Church; Witherston Methodist Church; Frederick Douglass Baptist Church
ANNUAL FESTIVAL: Labor Day Moonshine Festival
POINTS OF PRIDE: In the early twentieth century during Georgia’s twenty-seven years of statewide Prohibition Witherston became famous all over Georgia for the quality of its moonshine.
CITY HISTORY: Witherston, once a Cherokee village, took its name from the line of Hearty Withers, who made a fortune in the 1828 Dahlonega Gold Rush and then won forty acres in the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery. Hearty Withers was killed by a Cherokee in 1838. Hearty Withers was the great-great-grandfather of centenarian billionaire Francis Hearty Withers, who resided in the family mansion at the top of Withers Hill Road until his murder by Dr. George Folsom on Memorial Day weekend of 2015. Withers bequeathed $1 billion to be divided evenly among the residents of Witherston—approximately $250,000 to every man, woman, and child.
Friday, August 30, 1968:
Tonight I told Tyrone I was pregnant, two months pregnant. I cried. I told Tyrone my father would throw me out of the house if he found out I was pregnant, and that he might even kill him. I told Tyrone that I had to get an abortion and asked him if he knew of anybody who could do it. Tyrone said he didn’t want me to have an abortion because abortions are so dangerous that some women die from them. He said he loves me and wants to marry me and have a family. I told him I love him too. And I do. He said it’s no longer illegal for Negroes and white people to get married, not since last year. He said we could go to Atlanta and get married next week. He said he has almost $2,000 saved up from working summers at the chicken plant and that since he has a scholarship to Morehouse College we would be okay financially if I worked till the baby came. He already has an apartment near Grant Park.
I love Tyrone. I want to marry him. I am not afraid of what people will say. I want to be his wife, and I want to have his baby. Tyrone will be a lawyer like Donald Hollowell, and nobody will look down on him. I will be a writer like Lillian Smith, and nobody will look down on me. And nobody will look down on our baby.
I told Tyrone I would marry him. Tyrone was so happy he got tears in his eyes. We decided to elope on Monday. But we’ll have to keep our marriage a secret from Father—for Tyrone’s sake and for our baby’s sake.
I am so scared of Father. He preaches against integration. He says that integration will lead to miscegenation and to an inferior race of brown people with kinky black hair. He keeps a gun on his bedside table in case “some Negro breaks into the house.” No telling what he will do to Tyrone if he finds us. But he won’t.
Tomorrow I won’t get to see Tyrone. He’s going to move out of his mother’s house and take his things to his apartment in Atlanta. He’ll return here Sunday morning. He wants to tell his sweet mamma so she can come to our wedding. I said that’s fine since she won’t tell.
I still miss my mother. She would have loved Tyrone. She would have come to my wedding..
Saturday, August 31, 1968:
I wish I could be totally happy. I love Tyrone. He loves me. We’re going to get married. We’re going to have a baby. We’re going to be a family. What experience could be more wonderful than that? Yet we have to get married in secret as if we were committing an unspeakable crime. I wish we could celebrate our love the way other couples do, with friends sharing our joy on our wedding day, watching us cut a cake, drinking our champagne, and dancing late into the night in honor of us.
Well, I won’t think of what cannot be. I will think of what can be, a life with Tyrone and our child.
This morning at breakfast I told Father I was going to postpone college for a year to work in Savannah. I mentioned Savannah because he knows I like the beach. He got furious, like he always does when he can’t control me, but I said I’d been earning my own money as a waitress and I’d bought my own car so I didn’t need him anymore. And I don’t! I slammed the door and left the house. I went to the bank and emptied my savings account. I took the $2,140.39 in cash, put it in my blue clutch bag, and locked the bag in my glove compartment.
Then I drove over to Mary Lou’s house. I told Mary Lou that I was going to elope with Tyrone, and I swore her to secrecy. I trust her.
Tomorrow morning I’ll go to church at 9:00 as usual. It will be the last time I’ll ever hear Father preach!! I’ll pack my suitcase while Father is at the second service and take it with me to Mary Lou’s house. Tyrone will pick me up there to go to his mother’s house. We’ll finalize our plans with his mother. Then he’ll bring me back to Mary Lou’s house and I’ll spend the night with Mary Lou. I’ll leave Father a note.
On Monday, which is Labor Day, we’ll go to Atlanta. I will follow Tyrone to his apartment. On Friday afternoon a probate judge will marry us. Tyrone will ask his father to be his best man. I met Mr. Lewis once. Lincoln Lewis. He is a bus driver in Atlanta and a friend of Hosea Williams. I can’t ask anybody to be maid of honor. I wish I could ask Mary Lou, but I can’t involve her.
Sunday, September 1, 1968:
I write you this letter to tell you what I’ve never said to you out loud. Thank you for your blessing on my marriage, which is legal now. And thank you for your willingness to attend my wedding. On Friday morning I will pick you up at 10:00 and bring you to my apartment.
More importantly, thank you for all the sacrifices you have made for me, from the time you dropped out of high school to marry my father and give me his name, through all the years of cleaning other people’s homes to give us a home of our own, to sitting alone at my graduation as the only Negro mother in the bleachers. I will never understand why my white friends’ parents wouldn’t sit with you. You looked beautiful in your pink dress and hat, and I was so proud—and grateful—you were there.
Thank you for loving me no matter what mistakes I made, and for teaching me to forgive others no matter what mistakes they made.
Someday, I will buy a house for you near mine, so that you can be with your grandchildren.
Your devoted son,
© 2019 by Betty Jean Craige