Clarksville, TN – West End by Crockett White, the pseudonym of Jim Squires, is described as “a novel of envy, revenge and dirty money.” According to Squires, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, the book relates events that happened to Nashville attorney and entrepreneur Frank Woods, civil rights attorney George Barrett, attorney Cecil Branstetter, civil rights activist and editor of The Nashville Tennessean John Seigenthaler, and John Jay Hooker, former Democratic nominee for Tennessee governor in 1970 and 1998 and a longtime attorney and interesting character in Tennessee politics.
Squires has stated numerous times, among them as banquet speaker for Clarksville Writers’ Conference where he was awarded the Patricia Winn Award for Southern Literature in 2016, that the last chapter of the book is closest to the truth. The funeral of John Seigenthaler was attended by at least 1,000 people after 3,000 were at the wake previously. The rest of West End is a swirl of reality and fiction with events in the lives of numerous people on the Nashville scene included.
West End is a fascinating look at how the newspaper business works and how it has changed over the last five or six decades. Hinting at the rivalry between The Nashville Tennessean and The Nashville Banner, the book calls the newspapers the Clarion and the Defender. It reveals the nitty gritty of how newspaper reporters get their stories and how politics and the news intertwine.
Since Squires was librarian, reporter and city editor at The Tennessean before becoming editor at the Orlando Sentinel and Chicago Tribune, his portrayal of life within the walls of a newspaper office rings true. In the days before private lives of politicians hit the front pages, reporters knew the down and dirty on people and countless times used it to their advantage to flush out other stories that were printable at the time.
West End has enough sex, scandal and titillating events to keep the reader engaged at all times. Squires has not revealed the possibility of real women being involved in the plot but insiders in Nashville probably have a good idea of who some of them might be.
Squires himself is an interesting character. Owning a farm in Kentucky, his horse, Monarchos, won the 2001 Kentucky Derby. Squires is also author of Read All About It: The Corporate Takeover of America’s Newspapers (Times Books, 1993), Secrets of the Hopewell Box (Random House, 1996), Bigger ‘n Texas (2013), Horse of a Different Color (2002, and Headless Horsemen (2009).
An excellent public speaker, he is self-deprecating to the point that he says his teachers would be horrified to think of not only his writing for a living but would be aghast that he was the keynote speaker at a literary gathering.
Fond of quoting his favorite author, Robert Penn Warren, Squires has written a book that every middle Tennessee reader should have on their must-read list. West End is a ride through Tennessee politics not to be missed.