Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

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Early Mysteries by Mississippians

Colonel William C. Falkner

In 1880, when the office of the Ripley Advertiser burned down, Colonel W.C. Falkner not only advanced the capital required to resume operation, he also contributed an original story to re-launch the Mississippi newspaper. Beginning in August of 1880 and continuing through the following spring, the installments of Falkner’s serial novel The White Rose of Memphis caused a spike in the paper’s circulation. In 1881, publishers released both hardback and cheaper paperback formats for national distribution, and over the next forty years thirty-five editions fed popular demand for the title. After several years out of print, Coley Taylor and the Bond Wheelwright Company released yet another edition in 1953.

Described for years as a Southern romance, critics of the mid-twentieth century have reclassified the work as a mystery and thriller. Faked suicides, star-crossed lovers, disguised detectives, mistaken identities, and elaborate masquerades provide the melodrama surrounding a murder set in the Reconstruction South. Elements of the complicated plot echo episodes in the author’s own life. Brought to trial twice for the murder of men who had attacked him, the jury acquitted Falkner both times on the basis of self-defense. In order to prevent greater community violence, the author agreed to meet the brother of the first victim in a duel. The White Rose of Memphis is dedicated to Colonel M. C. Galloway, the man who worked out a compromise that avoided the duel and ended the feud.

On the night of his election to the Mississippi legislature in 1889, a former business associate shot Falkner in the streets of Ripley. His great-grandson, William Faulkner, would ultimately use the colonel’s life as inspiration for several literary plots and characters.

To the right is a telegram delivered on November 5, 1889 to J.W.T. Falkner in Oxford stating that his father “this evening badly shot.”

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