Every family has its legendary stories, and A Murder Before Eden is ours. Tom Pratt of Leaksville, North Carolina, was my great-grandfather, who died 10 years before I was born. I grew up knowing about his scandalous marriage to his second wife, Ruby, his brutal murder on a hot August night, and my grandfather's and great-uncle's difficult decision to defend Junior Thompson, the black teen accused of the crime. It took folks outside the Pratt clan–my husband and mother-in-law–to point out the obvious: it's a remarkable tale of the moral imperative of justice that was contrary to the expected social norms in the South of 1947.
So I started digging, and I discovered a treasure trove of historical information that had never been assembled before. Newspaper articles on microfilm, court records, and interviews with Eden (formerly called Leaksville) residents became the clues for piecing the story together. I first published it as a history article in The Journal of Rockingham County History and Genealogy in June 2010. I then decided to expand on the characters and write it as a nonfiction novel. The facts are true, but I had to wonder what these people thought, what conversations they must have had, for these events to have occurred. In short, the people were too real not to have a voice of their own. Culled largely personal interviews and from the excellent newspaper reporting of acclaimed Greensboro journalist Mutt Burton, who followed the story in 1947, the story now unfolds as Tom, Ruby, Junior and the denizens of Rockingham County may have experienced it.
About me: I'm a clinical psychologist living in Long Island, New York. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where I saw Mutt Burton act in plays on campus in the late 1970s. I later graduated from the University of the Pacific (Stockton, Ca.) and the City University of New York. I divide my time between my private practice, family, and other volunteer pursuits.