Can you hear it now? YOU BET!
Blood on the Roses
by Robert Hays
In the autumn of 1955, at the height of America’s concern over the murder of a black teenager by white racists in Mississippi and in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation, Rachel Feigen’s Baltimore editor sends her South to report on a missing person case. Guy Saillot’s last contact with his family was a postcard from the Tennessee Bend Motel, a seedy establishment situated on scenic Cherokee Lake. She gets a tip that George, the deaf-mute motel caretaker, may know something about the missing man. George’s consuming interest is the Tennessee Bend’s arresting rose garden—its only truly positive quality—and she gains his favor by admiring his beautiful roses.
Feigen soon finds herself caught up in the bigotry she expected to observe as an outsider when three local extremists decide to teach a lesson to this “uppity jewgirl” from the North who’s asking too many questions. They kidnap two black men and lock them and Feigen in Room 10 of the Tennessee Bend, complete with its two-way mirror voyeur’s window, confident the men’s “jungle instincts” will take over and she’ll get her comeuppance. But the two men taken at gunpoint, an Army sergeant just back from Korea and an Urban League attorney from Philadelphia, don’t play the game the way their captors expect. Appalling as it is, her own maltreatment is a mere sidebar to Feigen’s mission: finding Guy Saillot. George’s rose garden holds the key that unlocks the shocking secret and reveals the malevolent extremes to which unfettered intolerance can lead.
In his fourth and finest novel, Robert Hays writes with the journalist’s careful attention to detail and an exquisite authenticity drawn from his own half-century love affair with the American South. Blood on the Roses is a frank and honest story that does justice to its splendid east Tennessee setting, stunning from beginning to end in its juxtaposition of raw ugliness and beauty and its historical veracity that captures both the engaging qualities of the Southern people and the terrible wrongs of discrimination and outrageous acts of pure racism carried out by a few.
Blood on the Roses Review
“Blood on the Roses” is a frank and honest story that does justice to its splendid east Tennessee setting. The ugliness of so many people in the novel is in sharp contrast to the region’s scenic beauty, but Rachel encounters many people who are good at heart; they’re overwhelmed by decades of institutionalized racism and turn away in denial from the acts of violent racism carried out by a few. As I’ve found from living in two states with strong Southern influences –West Virginia and now Texas — Southerners are a complicated people.
Charlie Monroe, the venerable FBI man from Knoxville whose Southern roots run deep, provides probably the best summation of the pervading evil of this time and place: “It’s easy to condemn. But prejudice is an unpastured dragon . . . Let it loose, nurture it with a little ignorance and fear, and pretty soon it’s in all the dark places and if we’re not careful we’ll all be devoured in its ugly flame.” Monroe provides the novel with a great deal of humor with his rhyming stories…Look for them!
– David Kinchen
Blood on the Roses audiobook is narrated by Gary Gerard, a professional narrator and voiceover artist, currently working on Robert Hays’ novel, The Baby River Angel, among his many other projects.
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and the FREE Book Club Discussion Packet with full color printable bookmarks, author bio and photo, discussion starters, and synopsis – http://store.payloadz.com/go?id=945941