A historical-literary novel, The Empty Cell follows four characters whose lives are upended by a lynching and trial in South Carolina in 1947 as they search for their own forms of freedom during the Jim Crow fifties up to the early days of the civil rights movement. Given our present moment of national reckoning regarding racial injustice, The Empty Cell is a timely book.
Excerpt From 'The Empty Cell'
Earlier that afternoon, Lawton had driven out to see the site where Earle was killed on old Bramlett Road, near a slaughterhouse, of all places, on a lane called Gethsemane, of all names. The slaughterhouse, which was no longer in operation, was a rickety wood structure with a high shingled roof where farmers brought their livestock to be killed and processed. It was hard, dirty, bloody work, the slaughter of those beasts on a daily basis, the stripping of their hides and then hoisting them by their hind legs on pulleys to hang from metal beams above.
The tall scrawny pines in the adjoining woods competed for whatever sun they could reach and whatever nutrients they could derive from the poor soil. Lawton parked near a deep ditch full of brown weeds and briars and jumped it to walk into the forest. The police had been all over the site initially, but now the place was totally deserted, evoking an empty, melancholy feel. They hadn’t gone far into the woods, and the actual killing hadn’t taken that long. But it must have been an eternity to Willie Earle, from the time he heard voices and footsteps on the jail stairs to the time he lay pulverized on the brown pine needles.