Published on January 20th, 2014 | by TLV News0
Mississippi Novelist Deborah Johnson at Off Square Books Monday, January 27
In 1946, Regina Robichard is a young lawyer, the first woman hired by Thurgood Marshall at the nascent NAACP Manhattan office. While sorting through the fund’s countless letters asking for help, Regina comes across a letter from fictional famous reclusive author M. P. Calhoun. In the letter, Calhoun asks Thurgood Marshall to investigate the murder of Joe Howard Wilson, a decorated hero black lieutenant who’d been on his way back to his small Mississippi town of Revere, worn and weary from World War II combat. Joe Howard had called his Daddy from the Alabama border, telling him he would arrive in two hours time. But Joe Howard never arrived in Revere; two weeks later his murdered body was found.
M.P. Calhoun’s book, The Secret of Magic, featured white and black children playing together in a magical forest. It was banned more than any other book in the South. It appeared on the cover of Time magazine. It was a sensation. And then M.P. Calhoun disappeared.
Despite his better judgment, Thurgood gives Regina permission to investigate the case. Once she arrives in Mississippi, her investigation brings her face to face not with the kindly, older male author M.P. Calhoun of her childhood dreams, but rather with Mary Pickett Calhoun, a grand southern dame holding onto the last vestiges of her family’s heritage.
Nothing in the small town of Revere is as it seems. Regina must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. Most of all, she must make an attempt at the impossible: to attain justice for a black man in the Deep South.
Part history, part mystery, Deborah Johnson’s novel The Secret of Magic examines race in both the South and the North, and the power of stories and those who tell them. Deborah Johnson is also the author of The Air Between Us, which received the Mississippi Library Association Award for fiction. She now lives in Columbus, Mississippi, and is working on her next novel.