Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One Night of Madness (copy)

Attala County, Mississippi, drew national attention in 1950 for a horrible slaughter and the bloodhound assisted manhunt that followed. Afterwards, time passed and the events were forgotten.

Out of the tragedy rose one bright occurrence. A young reporter working for The Kosciusko Star-Herald snapped a picture that would continue on to win America’s Best Journalistic Photograph awarded by the National Press Photographers Association.

The picture depicts two men spread eagle on a hard dirt surface of someone’s farm. In the middle of the picture is a man dangling a cigarette from his close-lipped mouth, wearing prison stripped pants and holding two revolvers at the ready. The man laying in the front is being frisked by an officer while two men are frisking the other suspect.

That young reporter who happened to be married to the newspaper editor’s daughter took the famous shot which was lovingly placed in a scrapbook to highlight his accomplishment. With the picture as centerpiece, the scrapbook became filled with news items from all over the U.S. reporting on the event. It soon out grew the family photo keepsake and the material was moved to a 30 x 30 inch book used in the newspaper business as a page layout.

For as long as he can remember, Stokes McMillan knew an aura of pride surrounded the huge scrapbook. It was brought out from under the bed on special occasions and the family gathered to listen quietly as a proud Mrs. McMillan retold the story. He, himself, had pulled the book out and flipped through the pages on many an afternoon, but he never took the time to read the articles. Finally, Stokes became a family man and the scrapbook was relocated to the darkness under his own bed.

It took a request from his son to finally make him read the articles. His son was going to college and asked his dad for a poster size copy of the photograph for his dorm room. Stokes got the picture and some others taken by his dad on that fateful day and had them blown up. While waiting around he figured he better read the articles for details when giving the presents.

Stokes became fascinated by the newspaper accounts and felt there was a book waiting to be written. One Night of Madness is written in Truman Capote style where literary license is used to move the story forward. One can purchase the book through his website