To Kill A Gentleman: The Murder of Atticus Finch


Let’s play a game called What’s Wrong With This Picture.

Atticus Quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird

“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Atticus from Go Find a Watchman

“Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

“They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us.”

“Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”


“Atticus, I’m getting out of this place fast, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going. I never want to see another Finch or hear of one as long as I live!”

“As you please.”

“You double-dealing, ring-tailed old son of a bitch! You just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when you’ve knocked me down and stomped on me and spat on me, you just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when everything I ever loved in this world –you just sit there and say ‘As you please’–you love me! You son of a bitch!”

“That’ll do, Jean Louise.”

That’ll do, Harper Lee. In a time when the South is struggling to overcome a few ignorant racists, this long-awaited sequel could not have come at a worse time. I’ll never understand what Lee was thinking when she assassinated Atticus Finch’s character so.

But enough of the moral hand-wringing. I want to talk about character development.

As a writer, it’s important to maintain consistency of character. If a character is a moral compass in one book, and inexplicably becomes a villain in the next, this is simply bad writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s dressed up in pretty bows–it is more than sloppy–it’s damaging. There are no clues in To Kill a Mockingbird that suggest to us that Atticus is not who he seems. Even considering Scout’s childish point of view doesn’t explain it–she’s writing from an adult view looking back at the past.

What other explanation do we have? Was Scout somehow too slow to catch on to her father’s true character? I don’t think so. She’s sharp enough to spar with Atticus, quoting constitutional law with her daddy.

Atticus, don’t worry. I’m going to pretend this second book NEVER HAPPENED.

Harper Lee, you’ve broken my heart, and I wish I knew why.

War Eagle Women: It’s All About the Secrets

Name a Gothic novel without secrets. You can’t. Secrets are the core of all things Gothic.
I take that back. Secrets that refuse to be kept are the core of all things Gothic. And Southern Gothic? Of course! Even more so.
With perhaps the bloodiest non-war history of any other section of our country. I think the number one reason why the Gothic fits so well here is the history and geography both.

Think of the Old South. What do you see? Plantations in ruin, people starving, many homeless…especially those who had received their freedom from slavery–and very little else. The soil itself cries tears of blood straining to keep its past and present crimes a mystery.

But secrets are funny things. They are stubborn and unruly and don’t like to be kept. Especially in the deep mountains of Arkansas where few people have trod. Especially in the hidden caves next to the wild river. Especially, in the heart of a girl.

War a Eagle Women is now available in print.

It’s Southern Gothic–Steel Magnolias, Heaven and Fried Green Tomatoes all rolled into one. How can one secret affect four generations of women? By refusing to be kept.


5 (Creepy) Signs You Might Be Reading a Southern Gothic Novel

What the heck is a Southern Gothic novel, anyway? Is that even a real thing? I know you have lost sleep over this very topic so I’m gonna clear it all up right now. Don’t worry–the Prof is on it.

We know the term “gothic” has some pretty bold characteristics:

  • People being buried alive (ala Poe’s “Cask of Amontilad0”).
  • The entrapment of the helpless female (ala Wuthering Heights).
  • Themes of isolation coupled with suspense (see King’s The Shining).
  • A really bad snowstorm or rainstorm to add to the mood (and to lessen the chance of escape)… again, The Shining.)
  • A handsome, brooding and often mentally unstable hero (again, Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights makes me sigh. I mean, we all know he’s completely cray-cray but guess what. We don’t care.

(Especially when Heathcliff is played by Tom Hardy. My friend April LOVES him practically as much as I do.)

(Note: if you have not watched this version for free on Netflix, WALK AWAY FROM THIS BLOG RIGHT NOW AND DO IT. You will NOT be disappointed.

These are all characterisitics  I would connect with the term “Gothic.” So what makes a novel “Southern Gothic?” Here are some traits I look for when labeling a book with this particular genre.

1. The story is set in the American South, no matter what the time frame. A great example is To Kill a Mockingbird. Occuring in Alabama in during the time period of “The Great Depression,” this story fits nicely into this niche.

2.Something super creepy happens. For example, keeping Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird) locked in the basement of the spooky house nobody goes into. Yeah, that’s creepy and unusual.

Or, there might be a ghost wandering around trying to connect with the living in the South. It doesn’t count if it’s South Jersey. For some reason, a haunted trailer just isn’t as frightening as a haunted mansion.

Or, when the Dollanger kids (Flowers in the Attic) get locked in attic of the old house in Virginia for a couple of years. That’s pretty unnatural.

3.Lots of secrets. Secret loves, secret horrors, secret secrets. For example, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved…many secret unhealthy events occur that are not necessarily something I’d bring up in a blog. Let’s just say the effects of slavery hang around even if we try to pretend they don’t. If you’ve never read Beloved, DO IT. IF YOU DARE.

4.There’s usually an element of people stuck in time. For example, people who are racist just stay racist because they are isolated in the South and don’t get out much. Or, people who won’t move on and accept change because they can’t or won’t. This usually leads to scary events — and more secrets.

Speaking of secrets and Southern Gothic books, my novel War Eagle Women has all of the above: secrets, check. Entrapment? Check. Ghost/supernatural event? Check. A hella rainstorm? Double check. Dysfunctional family? Check.

Maybe you should CHECK it out. Get it?

WarEagleWomen2_850 (1)

Want more info? Here’s the link. If you are an Amazon Prime member, it’s available for a limited time for free.

More about Southern Gothic books in my next blog.