The stunning true story of a murder that rocked the Mississippi Delta and forever shaped one author’s life and perception of home.
“Mix together a bloody murder in a privileged white family, a false accusation against a Black man, a suspicious town, a sensational trial with colorful lawyers, and a punishment that didn’t fit the crime, and you have the best of southern gothic fiction. But the very best part is that the story is true.” —John Grisham
In 1948, in the most stubbornly Dixiefied corner of the Jim Crow south, society matron Idella Thompson was viciously murdered in her own home: stabbed at least 150 times and left facedown in one of the bathrooms. Her daughter, Ruth Dickins, was the only other person in the house. She told authorities a Black man she didn’t recognize had fled the scene, but no evidence of the man's presence was uncovered. When Dickins herself was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the community exploded. Petitions pleading for her release were drafted, signed, and circulated, and after only six years, the governor of Mississippi granted Ruth Dickins an indefinite suspension of her sentence and she was set free.
In Deer Creek Drive, Beverly Lowry—who was ten at the time of the murder and lived mere miles from the Thompsons’ home—tells a story of white privilege that still has ramifications today, and reflects on the brutal crime, its aftermath, and the ways it clarified her own upbringing in Mississippi.
In this thought-provoking memoir, Lowry (Who Killed These Girls? The Unsolved Murders That Rocked a Texas Town) weaves her story of growing up in mid-20th-century Mississippi with the story of a white socialite's murder and its aftermath. In 1948, Idella Thompson, the widow of a prominent planter, was stabbed 150 times in her house in Leland, deep in the Mississippi Delta. The victim's 42-year-old daughter, Ruth Dickins, was home at the time and claimed a Black man was the killer. Given the lack of evidence pointing to an unknown intruder, Dickins was eventually left as the only suspect. She was brought to trial, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in 1949. However, after Dickins's well-off white friends and family applied political pressure and embarked on a letter-writing campaign, Dickins was released having spent six years in prison and given a full pardon. Focusing less on the crime itself and more on white privilege in that time and place, Lowry elegantly details Southern daily life and the struggles for equality that eventually led to desegregation. This timely reminder of the injustices of America's past deserves a wide readership. Agent: Anne-Lise Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary.