Read Jerry’s interview with “Booksandauthors.net”
Booksandauthors.net: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
Jerry Barksdale: I grew up on a farm in North Alabama chopping and picking cotton. Being the only child of an alcoholic father, I discovered reading as an escape from the drudgery of hard work and unhappiness. When I was age 15, my mom and I fled and moved to Milltown in Athens. While attending Athens High School I read Clarence Darrow for the Defense. Darrow a famous criminal defense lawyer represented John Scopes in the “Monkey Trial”. Later, I attended the trial of Joe Henry Johnson, a black man who was charged with the rape and murder of a local white woman. The lawyers struggled in the courtroom – one to take John Henry’s life, the other to save it. It was high drama and I was hooked. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.
Booksandauthors.net: Why do you write?
Jerry Barksdale: Southerners are born storytellers. That’s how we communicate best. I grew up sitting around the fireplace or on the front porch during the summer, shelling peas, listening to my folks and neighbors tell stories. I have thousands of them thrashing around inside my head.
Booksandauthors.net: “The Fuhrer Document ” is a very interesting novel — Where did the idea for this book come from?
Jerry Barksdale: In 1994 I wrote a story about my business neighbor who was in the 101st Airborne Division that captured Bertchesgarden in the closing days of World War II. He told me about how he and the other paratroopers were looking for souvenirs. The following year, while on a skiing trip in Kitzbuhel, Austria, I took a day trip to Eagle’s Nest and toured the bunker tunnels. What would happen, I wondered, if a soldier searching for souvenirs discovered something that was so secret and deadly that it would threaten his son’s life fifty years later.
Booksandauthors.net: How did you research for “The Fuhrer Document”? What did you learn while writing this book?
Jerry Barksdale: I wrote When Duty Called, a collection of stories of World War II Veterans and learned a great deal about the war. I am also a collector of American and Third Reich World War II memorabilia which was useful in writing the novel. I visited every scene in the novel, Huntsville, Washington, D. C., New Orleans, Austria and Bavaria.
Booksandauthors.net: Hardy Jackson is your main character (a lawyer like yourself) in “The Fuhrer Document” – Is this character based on anyone you know?
Jerry Barksdale: Hardy is a lot of me. I love writing but, unlike him I’m a serious lawyer. I’ve tried hundreds of cases. I have a lawyer friend who, like Hardy, played college football and is lazy – like a lot of lawyers I know.
Booksandauthors.net: “The Fuhrer Document” is set in the South which always makes for great settings — In your opinion what makes the South so great for literature? Would you like to follow in the footsteps of another southern-novelist, who once was an attorney, John Grisham?
Jerry Barksdale: The south is brimming with eccentric characters who do bizarre things. For example, Athens is home of Coon Hunters for Christ. For two years in a row our Christmas Queen was a pig named Julia. We refuse to be homogenized. I would love to write full time like John Grisham.
Booksandauthors.net: What do you hope to achieve with your books? What do you hope readers will take away after reading your books?
Jerry Barksdale: Goodness may flounder at times but will eventually triumph and that plain, ordinary people can make a difference.
Booksandauthors.net: What has been your feedback from readers?
Jerry Barksdale: “I couldn’t put it down.”
Booksandauthors.net: What’s next?
Jerry Barksdale: The Magnolia Sanction. It’s about Josh Hardin, an honest but bumbling young lawyer living in small Magnolia, Alabama, who can’t earn a living anymore. He drives a depreciating Ford Escort, has a materialistic wife, two suits – both in the cleaners – and a shyster boss. He strikes out on his own. While representing Shelley Davenport against her brother in a will contest he becomes entangled in the seamy Caribbean underworld of hired killers, drug smuggling and trading human body parts. Josh is a marked man.
Booksandauthors.net: What was the last book you read?
Jerry Barksdale: A God In ruins, by Leon Uris. I am currently reading Burning Angel by James Lee Burke and Last Lion by William Manchester.
Booksandauthors.net: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
Jerry Barksdale: I write a column for the Athens News-Courier and collect World War II memorabilia, particularly original posters. I also collect Third Reich daggers. Writing the column sharpens my skills and forces me to say more with fewer words.