A ‘Cold Case’ murder in the Alabama backwoods draws authors investigation! Fiction and non-fiction treatment seek to get at the truth of ‘an unfortunate incident.’
The second morning session of the Clarksville Writers’ Conference on July 12th was spent with the authors Suzanne Hudson and Joe Formichella, both from Fairhope, Alabama. The town of Fairhope proved to be a most fertile resource for this year’s conference. Ms Hudson is the author of In a Temple of Trees, a fictional accounting of an actual unsolved death. Mr. Formichella authored Murder Creek: The Unfortunate Incident of Annie Jean Barnes, an investigative non-fiction accounting of facts as they could be ascertained about this same death. These two authors shared their experiences in researching the details of the mysterious and unresolved death of Annie Jean Barnes.
Ms Hudson, using a fiction model, tells her story via the creation of a fictional African American character who speaks from a first person perspective and gives the reader access to the convoluted web of deceit and deception that is widely perceived to shield this unresolved death.
Mr. Formichella, utilizing a creative non-fiction model, establishes a scenario of acknowledged facts and strongly held contentions, supported by both official and unofficial statements which has not been admitted into the official legal record. All of this information yields a very plausible, and to many, truthful accounting of the ‘unfortunate incident of Annie Jean Barnes’ death. It also explains the subsequent vigorous denials, the hue and wail to forget this and ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ that were voiced by those suspected of involvement in the death, and its subsequent cover-up, and some who ‘have done quite well’ since.
Additionally, the authors spoke of how the vagueness of the Alabama State Constitution actually worked to protect and shield some of the individuals who were suspected as being culpable in this woman’s death. Circumstances surrounding this death and the unwillingness/inability of law enforcement to pursue its resolution is disturbing to anyone with a deeply held sense of justice. The investigation of facts and circumstances in this case brought the authors the attention of Alabama politicos whose gaze they did not enjoy, and would have preferred to not be focused upon them. Real life experiences with vestiges of the Southern small town sheriff holding dominion over the lives of the inhabitants were also part of their presentation. Class discrimination plays a major role in the continued obstruction of justice that exists in this case.