All of us have been dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus, some more than others. I recently watched a featured story on television about another pandemic called Yellow Fever. The story made me think about a historical fiction novel I read recently on that very subject. I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to share it with you. Below you will see my interview with the author, Dennis Carrigan. You can get your copy of MEMPHIS 1873 on Amazon.
What inspired you to write MEMPHIS 1873? A few years ago, I became interested in my ancestry. My last grandparent had passed away when I was three, so I began with him. I discovered he was born in Memphis in the spring of 1873, and my research into that period turned up some people and events so compelling that I was moved to write this novel.
The story centers around the lives of three characters. Tell us about them. It is the story of JP Mahoney, 14-year-old farm boy who dreams of escape from tedious chores and farm life routine. It is the story of a courageous young woman, Ginnie Moon, onetime Confederate spy, who now operates a boarding house for men who have survived the war.
And it is the story of Kevin O’Boyle, an embittered riverfront laborer, who blames the world for his troubles, and finds the crippled city his perfect prey.
Some of the characters are based on actual historical figures. Tell us about them. During the Civil War, Ginnie Moon, at the age of seventeen, became a Confederate spy. She used her beauty, charm and intelligence to run circles around the Union forces.
Cap’n Jim lee was owner of a fleet of riverboats on the Mississippi River.
Judge “Pappy” Hadden meted out his own particular brand of justice.
One-Arm Lew Brown, First Mate of Lee’s riverboat, the Phil Allen, was “the meanest bastard on the river.”
The story is framed by an epidemic of Yellow Fever. Like our current pandemic of Covid-19, Yellow Fever killed thousands and affected all levels of society. What made Yellow Fever of 1873 so dangerous for the people of Memphis? It was invisible, lethal, and unstoppable. At the time, no one knew what caused the disease, how it was transmitted, why it equally afflicted the young and old, the strong and weak. There’s an addendum at the end of the book that explains the history and nature of the disease.
This is a historical fiction novel, but you have also written a quirky crime novel, UNUSUAL SUSPECTS. Do you enjoy writing in different genres? I’m more interested in characters – even minor ones. A story’s not worth reading if you don’t have an emotional attachment to the characters. How do they feel? What will they do next? Sometimes they surprise me, do something I didn’t expect. I love that.
More information at Memphis Museums
MEMPHIS 1873 by DENNIS CARRIGAN available on AMAZON