Florida Writers

I met Anna Flowers years ago by reading her books.  Later, I had the opportunity to meet her in person at the Florida chapter meetings of the Mystery Writers of Florida.  Anna is something of the odd woman out of Florida crime writers.  While most Florida crime writers write fiction, Anna specializes in "true crime," a genre that sometimes seems as unlike crime fiction as either are from, say, Romance novels.  I am very pleased that Anna agreed to answer a few questions I asked her specially for my website, and also provided the photograph you see here.

 Author Anna Flowers

Thanks, Anna, for agreeing to let me ask you a few questions.  Let's start at the beginning.  Where did you grow up, go to school, and so on?

My husband David and I were born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I was educated in Baltimore for some years, but my family moved back and I finished the last two years of high school in Cambridge. We were in the same class - big friends - and we attended U.of MD together. I had always loved to write, having been published first when I was twelve in an anthology of literature for my age group, and I wrote for school publications.  A few years passed before I married David.  I did reporting and wrote an antique column for a Wilmington, DE newspaper, and sold free lance articles to a boating magazine in Annapolis, MD, which hired me as their art director. I also had my own radio show, and did some investigative news reporting for a state news bureau and WERE radio station in Cleveland.  After marriage to David, now an Air Force pilot stationed on Guam, I got a writing job in the Information Services Office and my articles appeared in the local newspaper, nationally in Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, and in hometown newspapers throughout the United States. Dave was stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa when our daughter Belle Schumann, now a Volusia County Judge, was born.  Our son, Dr. Benjamin Brotemarkle, now a chaired professor of humanities at Brevard Community College, was graduated from high school in Winter Park, FL.  We had a family business at that time and Dave taught college courses as an adjunct.  

How did you get in this line of work, that is as true-crime writer?
Journalism study at the University of Maryland and Washington College helped prepare me, but newspaper reporting jobs since early teenage gave me a solid foundation for writing. During my early career I was assigned to the social pages, but tenaciously moved on to crime assignments during a period when few women were allowed to do that.  I quickly became familiar with police precincts, courtrooms and criminal behavior. This enabled me to do investigative reporting first with WERE radio station in Cleveland, Ohio and afterwards with several newspapers in Maryland and Delaware. This gave me the background to write true crime books after my children were grown.  We were living in Winter Park and my daughter was just out of law school.  She was working for the State Attorney's Office on the high profile case of serial killer Gerald Stano. I attended the trails to see my daughter in action, but quickly became fascinated with the case and began a book about it.  As she moved on to the Attorney General's Office, I continued to write about the case and ended up with "Blind Fury," published by Kensington, NY in 1993.  It immediately sold well, was a Doubleday book club true club lead selection in hard back, and went into seven mass media paperback printings.  I was hooked.
Why is it that Florida crime fiction has gone through the roof but Florida true crime--and true crime in general--in the print medium, has not followed suit? 
Good question. There are over thirty shows about true crime investigations on television every week, which approaches the saturation point.

Actually, as you probably guessed I was just lobbing you a soft slow pitch to let you hit out of the park.  I used to read--this is twenty years ago--many, many true crime books.  Anymore, I rarely pick one up thanks to being surfeited by supposedly true crime TV shows.  I say supposedly because what I see on TV is often at odds with what I had read in the newspaper years before. So what is an author to do? 

Current high profile cases are also reported to the public in great detail as they unfold, making original factual manuscripts improbable, or at best old news.  The most unique factors in the case are often stored by fiction writers for use on a later project.  As a true crime author, I believe it is of greater interest now to take readers on a literary journey to another time and place by presenting an intriguing older case in a new way. 

How do you see true crime writing fitting in--both to society and on the literary continuum?

Crime and crime solving has always interested society even before the days of Jack the Ripper.  The mystery of it has been intriguing to many.  When serial killing became almost entirely American,  psychological studies of the criminal mind intensified and experts searched for answers for causes of their behavior. These studies have helped in prevention, detection, capture and rehabilitation.  Books documenting this have alerted possible future victims as well.  Good true crime authors have a different level of involvement in the story than simply reporting the facts.  A true crime writer must delve deeper into people's lives and explain how and why heinous events occurred.

To go back to your statement about where you see the future of true-crime writing, you wouldn't happen to be working on a classic murder case, would you?

My new book, "Wanton Woman - sub titled: Sue Logue, Strom Thurmond and the Bloody Logue-Timmerman Feud," is about a famous case from the 1940s. It is written from Sue Logue's point of view.  She was the first woman to die on South Carolina's electric chair and the first to be charged and convicted under accessory before the fact of murder.  Married into the powerful family of Magistrate William S. Logue, she was witness to vigilante justice for two decades without penalty and felt beyond the law. The murder of the sheriff and his deputy in the Logue family homestead created a public outcry.  As a favorite lover of young politician, Strom Thurmond, she thought she could manipulate murder and get away with it, but her talent and charm failed to be enough to save her.

Strom Thurmond was involved with any number of "interesting" women and cases.  How did you happen to learn of this case?  What were your special sources of information?

In addition to MWA and Sisters in Crime, I also belong to an unlikely writer’s organization for a crime writer, the National League of American Pen Women.  I joined because of the strong local chapter that includes most of the outstanding women in my area who are professional writers, artists and musicians. At one of their state conventions I met Chris Sizemore who told me about growing up next door to the notorious Sue Logue in Edgefield County, SC. and suggested I write a book about that period.  They were tumultuous times of vigilante justice, which probably contributed to Sizemore’s multi personality condition – a disorder chronicled in the movie, “Three Faces of Eve” starring Joanne Woodward.  Sizemore was the ‘Eve’ depicted.  It took me about ten years to get around to writing the book, Wanton Woman, but when I did I unearthed much more than I expected. Sizemore introduced me to Ray Timmerman of Edgefield who loaned me his personal collection of original newspapers and magazine articles about the murder case.  She also enabled me to get interviews in this sequestered area, which included one with Sue Logue’s step sister who was ninety at the time but very lucid.  During one of my visits to Columbia, I spent time with Ken McKellar, S.C. Penitentiary Records Director, obtaining information and photographs.  Of course I put in the predictable hours of research at the South Carolina Archives and History Center reading trial transcripts and such.  Not only did a riveting Faulkner type story emerge, but a clear picture of women’s rights violation came into focus.

I have included my review of your Sue Logue book below the navigation buttons.  It only seems reasonable that this information is included now that readers will probably have their appetites whetted.  Would you like to expand on the violation of women's rights as shown in your Sue Logue book?  I ask this question because I felt neither you nor I were explicit enough about this--you in the book and me in the review.  I suppose you didn't want to appear preachy and I just didn't want to run too much over a thousand words.  But it seems clear to me Sue was made to pay for something other than what she was convicted of.  Please expand.

Sue Logue was an athletic, spirited and talented woman born into a feudal Southern society at the turn of the twentieth Century when these attributes in woman were not admired, but many of her life experiences  paralleled the emerging tide for women's rights. First came the right to vote and Sue became active in supporting Strom Thurmond's career and her own ambition to teach. Few colleges admitted women and only in narrow fields of study. She found a way to teach without the proper credentials, and to stay employed even though married women were never hired and were fired if they did marry. Sue was soundly censored for personal accomplishments such as expert riding ability - she insisted on riding Western style - and for organizing all male hunting parties. She wrote for the local newspaper, but could only contribute social items. The community knew of her unconventional lifestyle, which provoked their gossip and possible secret envy, yet she was hypocritically encouraged to work tirelessly for years teaching church Sunday School. Later in court and in all legal proceedings she was included with her accused brother-in-law George, like chattel.  She was tried jointly with two confessed murderers, George and hit man Clarence Bagwell, without receiving separate representation. On the stand Sue could only answer the questions asked, and she was never asked the right questions - such as did she plan the murder of Davis Timmerman.  She was convicted on her loose reputation and sentenced by an all male jury. Although his testimony convicted his aunt Sue, Joe Frank Logue, Jr., was later tried, convicted and sentenced to die for planning the same crime.  He hired the killer, provided the gun and accompanied him to the site of the murder. His death sentence was commuted to life by the governor in an eleventh hour reprieve.
 Any advice for "young writers" (of any age)?

My advise for young writers is to pick a genre that is in demand, then read as many books of that kind as possible.  Write, write and re-write.  Attend writers' conferences.  Seek an agent of merit - a bad one is worse than none - and that agent will prove invaluable. Unrepresented work, no matter how well written, is almost impossible to sell in today's market.  Network with other writers by joining writers' groups in your genre. Write the book that your agent and publisher wants you to write, not THE book that you may think the world is waiting for.  In other words, write for the market not the ego. 

Thanks, Anna.  We'll be looking for your new fascinating new book--and for you too at the local bookstores and libraries.

Florida Writers Archives:  Charles Willeford,  Tim Dorsey, Dirk Wyle.

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Review of:  Wanton Woman: Sue Logue, Strom Thurmond, an the Bloody Logue-Timmerman Feud, Iuniverse,  ISBN 978-0-595-47446-2, $15,95, 2007, 161pp   by Steve Glassman. submitted to Midwest Review of Books  

             The most violent and colorful chapter in American history was not forged in the Old West.  For real nastiness, you have to look to the so-called New South, the period from the close of the occupation by Federal troops after the Civil War until the establishment of Civil Rights in the 1970s.  To the rest of the country, the post Reconstruction South is conveniently typed as backward and ignorant–and rural and somehow out of step with the goings-on in the larger society. The glories of the Old West, on the other hand, are regarded popularly as the simple working through of Manifest Destiny.  Those western achievements still linger grandly in the popular mind (if a bit embarrassingly in age more enlightened to the rights of the native inhabitants). But compare the literature of the Old West and the New South.  In the former, you have Ned Buntline and hordes of dime novelists.  The latter, on the other hand, produced William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor among dozens of other recognized literary whizzes all of whom, in one way or another, dealt with the social engine that produced a society so notably violent, unequal, and–magnificent.

            Anna Flowers true-crime book, Wanton Woman: Sue Logue, Strom Thurmond, an the Bloody Logue-Timmerman Fued, is reminiscent in many ways of Faulkner’s ground-breaking novel, Sanctuary, one of the very first hard-boiled crime novels.  In Faulkner’s novel, set in Depression-era Mississippi (and Tennessee), Temple Drake, coed and vamp, creates all manner of havoc owing to her sophomoric hedonism.  She stiffs college boys, goes off with an older man (when she knows better), and ends up raped by an impotent psychopath.  The worst of her crimes is allowing an innocent man be condemned for a deed she knows darn well he did not commit.  This last skullduggery was dreamed up and carried through by her father, a judge while a broken Temple looks on without raising hue or cry.

            Wanton Woman is the tale of another judge, a man that only the most uninformed citizen of this republic is not acquainted with, Strom Thurmond.  Most of us know him as the longest-serving U.S. Senator, but Thurmond’s influence–in all manner of public offices--is felt like a lodestone throughout this book.  The protagonist Sue Logue nee Stridham was a woman, who arrived on this mortal coil in 1896.  Unhappily for her, she was born in the wrong time and place.  The South Carolina of her youth was practically a feudal society.  Her hand was given in matrimony by her father to a neighbor.  The reason Sue appeared attractive to her suitor’s family is that her prospective father-in-law wanted to reunite the property that once belonged to his family estate.  The marriage with Wallace did not take because Sue voracious sexual appetite literally scared hell out of Wallace, who shortly went into a sort of hermitage at the family’s remote sawmill.  Brother George, however, knew a good thing when he saw it. He and Sue developed a long-standing affair.  Momma Anna, Wallace and George’s mother liked Sue just fine, and not a word was said about this rather peculiar family arrangement. 

            Years go by.  The family indulges grudges with neighbors and relatives as befitting a family of good standing in the rural South (or medieval times), and Sue becomes enamored of a young school teacher with the peculiar first name of Strom.  Clearly, he’s a young man going places.  Sue, though not graduated from high school, sets her heart on becoming a school teacher.  Shortly after Strom’s election to the office of local superintendent of schools–and a steamy and on-again off-again fling with Sue–she is appointed teacher of the local school.  A dozen more years pass.  Strom is now a judge and the family enemies are in control of the school board.  Sue is dismissed as a teacher.  Worse, her husband of record is slain by one of the folks the clan is on the outs with. 

            By now it is the 1940s, and the modern world is beginning to impinge even on the Deep South.  Brother George and wife-of-record Sue decide a straight-out assassination, the way matters of this sort had been handled for decades, might be messy and attract unhappy legal attention.  So they enlist a nephew who was a policeman to find a hit man.  The fee:  five hundred dollars.  Sue writes a check for her half of the hit man’s charge.  After a couple of months the policeman nephew sings like a canary.  The local sheriff, a first cousin to George, goes unarmed to the family seat to collect George and Sue.  After giving his regards to Momma Anna, the sheriff politely asks George and Sue to come along to the courthouse.  George shoots him in the face, but the deputy–who was thoughtfully armed–returns fire.  George is only grazed but the deputy and a family retainer are killed in the fracas.

            George and Sue and the hit man are put on trial.  The two lovebirds are only accused in the first trial of being accessories to murder, but they are convicted.  Along with the hit man, they  are sentenced to fry in the electric chair in January of 1943.  In the scene that even Faulkner could not have conjured in a realistic way in a novel, Strom Thurmond, by now a state senator turned captain in the Army reserves, is charged with delivering Sue from the women’s penitentiary to the place of execution.   He and Sue have one last sexual romp in the back seat while his longtime driver dutifully chauffeurs Sue to the so-called Death House.  Although it is claimed Strom was pulling wires behind the scenes on her behalf, Sue was dispatched on schedule, the first woman put to death in South Carolina’s electric chair.

            Anna Flowers has produced a historical true crime book that is Southern Gothic in tenor and content. It is the sort of thing that Poe as well as a long line of Southern writers would look on with favor.  Good going.