The Savage Breed Story


I came across a discussion on Facebook a few months ago about Savage Breed, a book published in 1959, allegedly by a man from Chesterfield County, SC, my hometown county.  I’d never heard of it, but some of the comments intrigued me.

There were hints of censorship.

When I moved to Cheraw all the kids were talking about this book….could not be sold in Cheraw…could not be in the library…..there was talk back then that it was actually written by a woman.

And scandal.

At the time (60’s) I recognized all the characters. It was really the talk of the county!

And more scandal.

I remember being told the young man’s father tried to buy up as many copies as he could, out of embarrassment over the book’s content.

I wondered if there was any truth to the stories that this book referenced places and maybe even people from home.  So being the computer savvy cat that I am, I set up a few eBay, web and Amazon scripts and waited.  It took almost a year, but I got a hit.  Someone had a used copy for sale via Amazon.

So I bought it.  For $20.

Published by Newsstand Library Books in December 1959.  By William K. Douglas.  126 pages.  Originally 35 cents.   No “about the author” paragraph.  It’s pretty clear from the “other books” pages at the back that Newsstand Library Books featured a lot of soft-core pulp and not much high-brow literature.

Nevertheless, I was happy to receive my copy of the much-discussed book.  Here’s the first sentence:

“Luke Saxon turned off the Bloomfield Bypass, and got on Highway number 9.  He was going to Camel, 13 miles away, to pick up Dot Silvens.”  Hmm.  There’s no Bloomfield back home, but there’s a Bennettsville.  At first I thought maybe Camel was a thinly disguised pseudonym for Cheraw, but that turned out not to be the case.  More on this below.

It takes less than 10 pages to get racy.  By page 20, it’s crude and exploitative.  By 2013 standards.  Beyond that by 1959 standards.

First stop, “Lory’s Drive-In.”  Never heard of it or anything similar to it.  Same with “the Hightower,” described as the local beer joint.

In chapter 2 there’s a mention of Winthrop, “the state college for girls.”  I just think of it as one of the many schools to beat Wake Forest in basketball, since Ron Wellman’s ego assassinated the program.  There’s also a mention, in Chapter 2, of going to a Rock Hudson movie in…wait for it…Cheraw.  That is, however, the one and only mention of Cheraw.

Mostly, it’s just one scene after another in which some brothers and their friends do horrible things to weakly portrayed women.  A literary masterpiece, it is not.  “When you had enough beer, you didn’t need a woman.  They could go to hell, and be damned.”

In sum, two brothers and their friends do horrible things.  One brother is a completely horrible person.  The other brother is only around 90% horrible.  90% marries a girl, who has been abused for years by her pharmacist father.  100% impregnates her, while 90% is at work.  An abused farm hand kills 100%.  The abusive father marries the brothers’ young cousin.  At the end, there is some small nod towards resolution, as the remaining family gathers for a completely dysfunctional Christmas meal.  It’s bad, shallow writing, designed mainly to get from one soft-core scene to the next.

The more interesting question is whether any part of this was based on actual events or people from my hometown.  I’d have to say unlikely, as the events are really just your run of the mill horrible acts by your run of the mill horrible people.  Cheraw was mentioned exactly once, and none of the action takes place there.  One existing road (Highway 9) was mentioned.  Other than that, I saw nothing that sounded familiar.

I will say this, however.  To the extent any of these events or people really occurred or existed, there is no doubt that this book would have been extremely scandalous when written.  I also think the author would have been sued, or killed.

Bottom line?  It’s poorly written, trashy pulp, likely authored by someone in or near Chesterfield County, SC.  If any of the events in the book are factually accurate, it would be surprising and likely unprovable.

Cheraw High School, Class of 1978 Social Network


In light of the recent discussion about social networking, I have been thinking about a platform to allow the class of Cheraw (SC) High School class of 1978 to reconnect a little.  I was inspired by Ethan Johnson’s blog based attempt to avoid the entrapment of and other walled-in social networks.

I want the platform to be community-based, where everyone feels ownership.  For that reason, I decided to create something outside of Newsome.Org.  After looking around a bit, I concluded that Ning was the best beginning point.  Using Ning, I have created the Cheraw High ’78 social network.

Now comes the problem.  Because I am a poor correspondent, I don’t know how to get the word out to my classmates.  So I am going to start by listing a few names and hoping that Google searches will lead a few people to this post, and in turn to the Cheraw High ’78 site.  If that happens, and people spread the word, it might achieve escape velocity and take off.

Or it might not.  But this is all I can do.

The rest is up to Google, and you (I don’t know any married names, so I’m going to go with what I know for the women).

Michael Graham
Kevin Morris
Thomas Burr
Tommy Rollings
Ande Rogers
Jay Leach
Theo Burns
Joe Middleton
Alan Smith
Pam Lovelace
Angie Lovelace
Pam Deprete
Julia Taylor
DeeDee Marsh
Chris Porter
Diane Swain
Sarah Young
Thomas Meyers
Gus Anderson
Ernest Ash
Eleanor Baker
Judy Cranford
Kim Dickens
Whit Fowler
Jim Graham
Bonnie Graham
Ron Korfmacher
Meg Harris

These are just a few names.  If there is any traction, I’ll add more via another post.

Let me add that I know very little about using social networks, including many of the features Ning offers.  We’ll have to figure it out together.

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The Mighty King of Love

I got back from my trip Friday afternoon. The trip was a sad one, as the reason for my return was to attend the funeral of one of my oldest friends, Kinney Stanton. There’s nothing I can say, in person or on the internet, that will dull the pain that Kinney’s untimely death has caused his family and friends. I was told that the line at the visitation at the funeral home on Wednesday evening was the longest in Cheraw history. I don’t doubt it- there were a lot of people there. I hope there’s a TV in heaven so Kinney could see how much he was loved and by how many. And of course so he can watch his Clemson football games.

One last gift Kinney gave his friends was to bring us together at and after his funeral. I saw some dear friends that I hadn’t seen for far too long. The afternoon at that bar on Highway 9 was special, as were the trips back to the ice house and dinner Wednesday night. Kinney was a “people person” and he brought people together, even after he could no longer join us. I rebuilt valued connections with a lot of people whom I care for deeply. Just one more in a long list of things Kinney did for others.

Kinney was not a perfect person- none of us are. But in the end people should be judged by their hearts. And Kinney’s heart was always in the right place. We were lifelong friends. We did good together. We raised hell together. We were allies and, on occasion, we strongly and even violently disagreed. We made each other laugh a lot, and we talked about life’s mysteries and challenges. But through it all, I never doubted Kinney’s heart. He cared for people deeply, maybe even too deeply.

Phil Lee has a song called The Mighty King of Love. The first time I heard it years ago, it reminded me of Kinney. The best part goes:

You call me the King of Love
Don’t I wish I were
I wouldn’t even call myself
A gifted amateur
I am the king of nothing
I am mostly skin and bone
And of all the broken hearts I broke
I mostly broke my own

One final thing I would note, to demonstrate the strength and kindness of the people who come from my hometown. At the visitation, in a time of almost unbearable grief, Kinney’s dad, who was one of my dad’s close friends, told me that he wanted to tell me a story about my dad sometime. The next day, just after the service, he sat me down in a folding chair and told me a story about my dad. The only stories I really know about my dad are the ones that he and others have told me, and I’m sure he knows that. The fact the he would take the time to tell me a story during such a sad time both humbles me as a human being and makes me unbelievably proud of where I come from. It is the Prettiest Town in Dixie, but not just because of the dogwoods.

My trip home was so intensely sad, but it was a healing thing as well. I am still sad about all the loss, but somehow it feels like things might turn out OK. There’s a ways to go, but thanks to the Mighty King of Love, we have a chance.

Thomas and Kinney-713059

Kinney (right) with Thomas Burr, another lifelong friend, on the playground at Robert Smalls Elementary, 1971

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Homeward Bound

For the first time since 1998, when I went back to bury my mother, I am headed home today. The reason why is not a happy one. I will write about that this weekend when I get back and have a chance to sit down with a bottle of whiskey and reflect on things.

House Ice Storm

Today I am thinking about how long I’ve been away. I have warm feeling about my hometown and I love quite a few people who live there. My extended absence comes down to a couple of things. One is my mostly (but obviously not entirely) subconscious desire the break the chain of sadness and loss that began there with my dad’s death in 1968 and ended with my mom’s in 1998. More importantly, however, is the combination of the great distance and my post-9/11 desire to keep my children’s feet on the ground. Cassidy has flown once or twice in 7+ years. Delaney has never been on an airplane. Some (actually most) of my friends think I’m nuts, but anyone who knows me knows that where my kids are concerned, I’m not subject to peer (or any other) pressure. If my hometown was 4 hours away, we’d go all the time. But it’s not. It’s halfway across the country (actually it’s on the edge of it; we’re halfway across it). So until I can plan a cross-country drive, my kids are going to have to wonder what Daddy’s hometown is like, kind of like they wonder about Paris, Sydney and NYC. Yes, my position will soften as they grow up and demand to see far away places, but we aren’t there yet.

Nevertheless, as I return to my hometown, I fully realize that I am going back to face my failures. My failure to visit. My failure to call often enough. Sometimes even my failure to send a Christmas or birthday card to people I love. It’s hard, but it’s only hard because I haven’t worked to keep the connections that once meant everything to me- that made me who I am.

It’s going to be a strange and sad trip. But my hope is that some small good will come of it. That I can remind a lot of good people that I care about them. That they are a part of me, and by association a part of my children. That they have been in my prayers every night since I left (at least every night I remember to say my prayers).

If I can tell a few people that, maybe it will be easier than I think. I hope so.

For a Friend

Kinney’s Song

“I’m tired” he said
“It’s been another lost day.
I think I’ll just go to bed”

He smiled at me
“Don’t worry I’ll be OK.
Some shut eye is all I need”

I’ve walked down that suffering road before
And there is darkness all along the route
But past the haints and the widow’s weeds
Are thorny bushes with the sweetest fruit

“It’s hard” he said
“When you outgrow all the dreams
That used to fill up your head”

I touched his hand
“It’s not as bad as it seems,
And you are such a good man”

I’ve walked down that suffering road before
And there is darkness all along the route
But past the haints and the widow’s weeds
Are thorny bushes with the sweetest fruit

So if you want to sleep
Sleep, my friend sleep
And in the morning
You will see
That it’s all right
Everything will be fine
The sun will still rise
And you’ll still be a friend of mine

I’ve walked down that suffering road before
But there’s a light at the end of the route
And past the haints and the widow’s weeds
Are thorny bushes with the sweetest fruit