Authors Showcase: The Old Blue Hen’s Chickens by Dorothy Hyde Martin
February 17, 2015
The Book: The Old Blue Hen’s Chickens
The Author: Dorothy Hyde Martin
The Story: When Reverend Joseph Gilmer and his brother, Zachariah, shot Pickens Bradshaw as he was running away from them on Christmas Eve Day in 1910, the entire congregation at the church that day could not grasp what they had just witnessed including five year old, Tim Gentry. Now a grown man, Tim Gentry wants an answer to the question: Why would a “holy” man, on a holy day, in a holy place commit murder in front of so many witnesses?
Backwoods killing may not have been that unusual in the lawless days of the early 20th century, but this unbelievable murder had been on his mind so often during his life, Tim felt almost haunted by it. Using his skills as a newspaper reporter in Columbus, Ohio, he returns to his home town in the north Georgia mountains to get some answers to this murder that divided the citizens of Round Mountain. Sorry that he did not get more information when he lived there, Tim will follow every clue he can find and talk to as many people as possible to get the details about the victim and the murderers and try to make sense of that terrible crime. The voices and ways of these mountain people will be good to hear and see again.
With his personal life a mess, he finds relief from a changing routine and welcomes an unexpected collaborator in Zoey Sinclair, who also wants to know more about this murder, but for very different reasons. Discovery of a long forgotten poem about the preacher gives more insight to the amateur sleuths who follow every lead as they gather information about the people and circumstances that led to this murder. From interviews with local folk, court records, newspaper accounts, his aunt’s memories, and the inevitable myths that sprung from the crime, they get, surprisingly, still very diverse points of view of why the murder occurred.
Set in 1942, America is preparing for entry into a world war. Tim must deal with the changes taking place in society. The romantic songs of the day make an appropriate background as the detectives get better acquainted.
In his search for answers to why Pickens Bradshaw was murdered so publicly, Tim’s notes and recordings help him keep current with his findings. Before he forgets or loses any important details, he takes the time to write a first draft for a story that he plans to write about the murder. The result is a story-within-a-story that allows the reader to see how Tim and Zoey find the pieces to the puzzle and then Tim tells how they fit together to make some kind of sense to the shocking murder of a mischievous young man, by a seven foot tall tyrant, and a three hundred pound bully, who shouts “We are the Blue Hen’s Chickens” after the killing.
About Dorothy Hyde Martin:
Dorothy Hyde Martin lives in Austin, Texas and is the mother of a son and daughter and “Nana” to one grandson, and seven granddaughters. At seventy-seven years of age, this is her first novel.
She has been working on this novel for many years and is delighted it has finally made it to print. The never-before-told story is based on a true event that happened in 1910. Dorothy found a poem her great grandfather had written in 1912 about a backwoods killing.
Her long journey of discovery uncovered many inaccurate newspaper accounts; opinions and myths passed through the generations from interesting people who knew about it, heard about it, or witnessed the murder in the church yard that cold Christmas Eve day, a trial transcript in private hands, and what blue hens had to do with it.
Was justice served in this cruel murder of a motherless boy? Or, did the young rowdy deserve his fate?
Review by J.B. Bolton:
The South Georgia mountains during WWII are the setting of this story. The hero is investigating a murder that occurred when he was a child. There is little question about WHAT happened, but the WHY is another matter.
Tim interviews his mountainfolk kin and and checks out old records, developing a neat little romance along the way. I admired Dorothy Hyde Martin’s meticulous research regarding what is basically a true story.
This story was written with love
Review by Victoria Bergin:
I loved reading this book! It’s a great, old-fashioned YARN, that kept me turning pages right up to the end.
For old-timers like me who were present, or remember, stories about World War II … its music … its nostalgic romance with the awful possibilities of being parted … maybe forever, the story weaves a magic spell.
The murder itself packs a wallop!