Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Case Study No. 0813: Juanita Wills

Read About It Author Interview: Marion Hill
February 7 Marion Hill, local author, will discuss Death Books A Return. This is Hills second in the Scrappy Librarian series and explores a 50 year old murder. Guests and program schedules are subject to change without notice.
Tags: Marion Hill
Added: 3 years ago
From: metrolibrary
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[scene opens with host BJ Williams sitting across from author Marion Hill and speaking directly to the camera]
BJ WILLIAMS: With me now if Marion Hill. She's a native of Oklahoma, and she has had a varied career as, I think that's almost a requirement to become a writer.
MARION HILL: I think so. You get more material, the more things you do in your life.
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs] Right! You've written a number of books, that have won a variety of awards, but you're here today to talk about your latest, which is "Death Books a Return" ...
BJ WILLIAMS: This is about a murder that happened almost fifty years ago.
BJ WILLIAMS: But what prompted you to take this kind of subject?
MARION HILL: Well, there was an item in the news several years ago about the death of a black man in Texas. He was dragged behind a car ...
MARION HILL: And his head came off. Very gruesome murder, and that was so shocking, I think, because race relations have improved so much, you know, in this century and the last century. But still shocking things like that can happen sometimes. And so, I wrote a story in which there is quite a brutal murder that happened years ago.
MARION HILL: But my character, who is a librarian, determines that she can solve it. She is doing research into the history of her small town ...
MARION HILL: And she finds out about this old murder that no one has ever solved, and she's just incensed that it hasn't been solved, or at least hasn't been really investigated.
BJ WILLIAMS: Mm-hmm. Now, this is a murder that took place in 1959 ...
BJ WILLIAMS: Which, for those of us old enough, was really a very contentious period ...
BJ WILLIAMS: Because the government was insisting that everybody should have equal rights, and be able to go to whatever school is closest to them ...
BJ WILLIAMS: And that sort of thing. So there was an awful lot of antagonism, angry people on both sides of the situation.
BJ WILLIAMS: So I imagine she had a whole town full of suspects for this.
MARION HILL: Well, she did. And some very prominent people. But Juanita is one of these very forceful people who doesn't let obstacles stop her from something that she has determined she's going to do.
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs]
MARION HILL: She's called the Scrappy Librarian, which suggests that she's not your stereotypical librarian.
BJ WILLIAMS: Mm-hmm. Although I have met some librarians that are extremely persistent!
MARION HILL: Yes! [laughs]
BJ WILLIAMS: When, especially when it does come to information.
BJ WILLIAMS: And that's really what she's seeking is information.
MARION HILL: Right, exactly. Yeah, I think librarians are natural sleuths because, you know, they do get so involved with research, and basically that's what a murder investigation is, is research.
MARION HILL: It's digging up details, which librarians are very good at!
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs] Right! Now, does she get a lot of cooperation from the local police department?
MARION HILL: Well, not exactly ...
[they both laugh]
MARION HILL: Her fellow is a lieutenant in the police force, and he mostly tries to keep her from getting involved in his cases.
MARION HILL: For one thing, he's worried that she'll risk her own life.
MARION HILL: And for another, he's afraid that she might ... mess up some of the investigation that he's doing.
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs] Right.
MARION HILL: So he tries to kind of keep her at arm's length from his cases, but of course, that's not successful.
BJ WILLIAMS: Right. Well, and in particular, in this one that's calling into question ... not him, but his police department.
MARION HILL: Exactly. Mm-hmm.
BJ WILLIAMS: Because obviously, they didn't do a great deal to discover--
MARION HILL: Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah, he wasn't in the town at the time, of course.
BJ WILLIAMS: Right. Mm-hmm.
MARION HILL: But he's protective of his police department ...
MARION HILL: And doesn't want it seen in a bad light.
BJ WILLIAMS: Mm-hmm. Now, what kind of research did you have to do for this book?
MARION HILL: Well, I did a lot of research about the period.
MARION HILL: I was alive in '59, of course ...
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs]
MARION HILL: But there are a lot of details that I don't remember.
MARION HILL: And particularly, I didn't know about the racial situation in Oklahoma at that time.
MARION HILL: Though I was born in Oklahoma, I did most of my growing up in Illinois and Kansas.
MARION HILL: But I read about the fact that there were a lot of all-Black towns across the nation, and in fact Oklahoma had more of those than any other state. And of course, there were some all-White towns, and those were called "sundown towns" because they often would have a sign at the city limits saying that Black people were not supposed to be in that town after sundown.
MARION HILL: And one of the mysteries of this story is why this young black man happened to be in Windham, which is her town, which was all-White then, after sundown.
BJ WILLIAMS: Mm-hmm. So, did you have to do much research about librarians, or since this is a series, did you just rely on things that you knew beforehand?
MARION HILL: I kind of just do my own noticing of what goes on in libraries ...
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs]
MARION HILL: I thought about being a librarian at one time.
MARION HILL: And my career took a different path. But I hang out in libraries a lot, and I know a lot of librarians. And so, I kind of got that situation ...
BJ WILLIAMS: Mm-hmm. Well, an awful lot of writers that, particularly those that come on this show, say they spend a fair amount of time in libraries doing research ...
BJ WILLIAMS: So I imagine that's what you're doing.
MARION HILL: Yeah. I do some research online now, because there are a number of websites that are quite useful, but there is no substitute for being in a library.
BJ WILLIAMS: Mm-hmm. Well, I will pass the word to the librarians in our system that if you find a nice lady sitting quietly watching everything you do, she's doing research for her next book!
[they both laugh]
MARION HILL: Exactly! Yeah, you know what they say, the little old ladies are the ones you need to watch out for!
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs] Right, right! Because they have very surprising depths to them!
BJ WILLIAMS: Well, obviously, Juanita Wills has some depths to her too, because she does get a little bit outside what most librarians are looking for.
MARION HILL: Well, she's a very strong woman, very nosy woman. And there is some humor in this book, in spite of the very serious mystery involving this old murder. She has a couple of assistant librarians who inject some humor into the books. They carry on, they can't stand each other. And they don't come to actual blows ...
BJ WILLIAMS: [laughs]
MARION HILL: But they carry on what Juanita calls the "quote war."
MARION HILL: One of them will post a quote about some certain subject, like age versus youth, and will post a quote on the library wall. And then the other one will post an opposing quote.
MARION HILL: So that's how they do that.


From amazon.com:

"Death Books a Return: A Scrappy Librarian Mystery" (2008) by Marion Moore Hill

Sensitivity, compassion, mystery, and suspense abound in this tale of unserved justice in Oklahoma. Public librarian Juanita Wills makes a distressing discovery while researching local history: a teenage boy from the all-black town of Bryson's Corner, Luther Dunlap, was found brutally murdered on the all-white Wyndham high school track back in 1959. She suspects racist motives, both in Luther's killing and the failure of the police to pursue an investigation. As the scrappy Juanita prods for facts the townspeople would rather forget, her first informant is poisoned, and she may be next. The shame she feels for her town cements her resolve to uncover the truth and to right the terrible wrong.

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