Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 2
Fall 2010

A Democracy of Ghosts
[Excerpt + Reviews]

by John Griswold

• Based on the Herrin Massacre of 1922, A Democracy of Ghosts is a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year for 2010 in historical fiction. The novel won the Delta Award from Southern Illinois University’s Friends of the Morris Library (Southern Illinois-Carbondale) for writing with distinction, as well as the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award in the micropress category.

Read an excerpt from the novel.

• The following links to an interview of John Griswold by Brent Stewart, in which they discuss the background of the novel:

Digging Up “Ghosts” – Herrin Native Explores History and People in Fictional Account of Infamous 1922 Massacre

Excerpts From Reviews

[Griswold] is able to describe the most violent scenes with the lyricism of Steinbeck, and he can effortlessly shift into the stark beauty of narrative like Truman Capote.... As in The Grapes of Wrath, many of Griswold’s characters are...absorbed in day-to-day living but are still aware of their status as tiny the engine of a larger corporate machine. Unlike Grapes of Wrath...[A] Democracy of Ghosts doesn’t get caught up in Steinbeck’s inclination towards melodrama and moralizing.

Readers may uncomfortably identify with the characters in Ghosts.... Neither saints nor sinners, but possessing the qualities of both, the characters of A Democracy of Ghosts are liars, cheaters, killers, torturers, and opportunists; at the same time, they are loving, humorous, protective, and very human.

—Lee Gooden, Foreword Magazine

With iron and blood, it seems, and from the rich depths of the earth, John Griswold has fashioned a classic American novel, its dignified intonations of our young nation’s sweat and tears evocative of the indelible storytelling of Dos Passos, Frank Norris, and Upton Sinclair.

—Bob Shacochis, winner of the National Book Award for First Fiction and author of Swimming in the Volcano and Immaculate Invasion

A brilliant and lyrical historical novel, [A] Democracy of Ghosts conjures the affairs behind one of the most violent labor disputes in American history—the brutal killing of 21 scabs and coal miners at a strip mine in southern Illinois in 1921.

In some ways a horrifying cautionary tale for today’s mining conflicts in the coalfields, [A] Democracy of Ghosts explores the entangled love affairs between couples caught up in the great coal-mining strike that ultimately shattered a region, and turned one of the most radical communities into a social pariah.

Griswold’s narrative is riveting. This original novel deserves as large an audience as possible—pass the word.

—Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Post

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury