Cape Fear Rising

Cape Fear Rising

5.0 2
by Philip Gerard

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In August 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina, was a mecca for middle-class Negroes. Many of the city's lawyers, businessmen, and other professionals were black, as were all the tradesmen and stevedores. Negroes outnumbered whites by more than two to one.

But the white civic leaders, many descended from the antebellum aristocracy, did not consider this progress. They

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In August 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina, was a mecca for middle-class Negroes. Many of the city's lawyers, businessmen, and other professionals were black, as were all the tradesmen and stevedores. Negroes outnumbered whites by more than two to one.

But the white civic leaders, many descended from the antebellum aristocracy, did not consider this progress. They looked around and saw working class whites out of jobs. They heard Negroes addressing whites "in the familiar." They hated the fact that local government was run by Republican "Fusionists" sympathetic to the black majority.

Rumors began to fly. The newspaper office turned into an arsenal. Secret societies espousing white supremacy were formed. Isolated incidents occurred: a shot was fired through a streetcar bearing whites, a black cemetery was desecrated.

This incendiary atmosphere was inflamed further by public speeches from an ex-Confederate colonel and a firebrand Negro preacher.

One morning in November, the almost inevitable gunfire began. By the time order was restored, many of the city's most visible black leaders had been literally put on trains and told to leave town, hundreds of blacks were forced to hide out in the city's cemetery or the nearby swamps to avoid massacre, and dozens of victims lay dead.

Based on actual events, Cape Fear Rising tells a story of one city's racial nightmare--a nightmare that was repeated throughout the South at the turn of the century. Although told as fiction, the core of this novel strikes at the heart of racial strife in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
No, this is not another sequel to the 1962 movie; it is a complex and convincing (if slightly overwritten) story of a little known incident that took place amidst the chaos of the post-Reconstruction South. The villain is not a twisted individual but rather a twisted society, the upper crust of Wilmington, N.C., in 1898. Alarmed by a burgeoning black middle class and a Fusionist-Republican regime favorable to the black majority, a powerful group drawn from the white establishment plots to take back ``their'' city. Secret, shifting alliances create confusion and discontent among out-of-work whites, and post-election day violence results in the deaths of numerous black citizens and the expulsion of thousands of others. The kaleidoscopic action is seen through the eyes of a fictional reporter newly arrived from Chicago with his wife, Gray Ellen. Her bafflement reflects Southern white society perfectly ``. . . it was like hearing every second word of a question and being expected to come up with a good answer.'' As the white plotters invent horror stories of dangerous blacks, amass troops and plunge towards violence, blacks walk a thin line between preserving pride and keeping a low profile. Some of the dialogue and asides could have profitably been trimmed, but Gerard's ( Hatteras Light ) well-researched story smartly limns the tangled combination of economic, social and visceral elements that led Wilmington to violence and two years later would lead North Carolina to adopt constitutional amendments that virtually disenfranchised blacks. Caveat lector : epilogues of various characters at the end of the book fail to note which are fictional and which are historical. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Stilted writing and a lack of character development obscure the powerful subject matter of this historical novel by the author of Hatteras Light ( LJ 10/15/86). Sam Jenks comes to Wilmington--in 1898 the largest city in North Carolina--to work for the local newspaper. He and his wife, Gray Ellen, find a city in the throes of racial conflict. A small minority of the white citizens, greatly outnumbered by the generally middle-class black population, feels threatened by that group's growing power. In revenge, they arrange for bands of armed men to attack the mainly innocent and defenseless black populace. Thousands of the survivors, along with their white supporters, flee the city, never to return. Even the interesting and well-rounded character of Gray Ellen cannot bring this novel to life, but regional collections should consider purchase.-- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle

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Product Details

Blair, John F. Publisher
Publication date:
Salem Selections Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.95(d)

Meet the Author

Philip Gerard was born in 1955 and grew up in Newark, Delaware. He attended St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. At the University of Delaware, he earned a B.A. in English and Anthropology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. After college he lived in Burlington, Vermont, tending bar and writing freelance articles, before returning to newspaper work in Delaware and then going west to study fiction writing at the Arizona writers workshop with Robert Houston, Vance Bourjaily, Richard Shelton, and others. He earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 1981 and almost immediately joined the faculty at Arizona State University as a Visiting Assistant Professor and later as Writer in Residence. He remained at ASU until 1986, then taught for a brief time at Lake Forest College in Illinois before migrating to coastal North Carolina, where he had spent many happy summers during his teenage years roaming the Outer Banks of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.
He has written nine half-hour shows for Globe Watch, an international affairs program, for PBS-affiliate WUNC-TV, Chapel Hill, N.C., and international broadcast, and scripted two hour-long environmental documentaries, one of which, "RiverRun- down the Cape Fear to the Sea," won a Silver Reel of Merit from the International Television Association in 1994. Two of his weekly radio essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

Gerard's Writing a Book that Makes a Difference (Story Press, 2000), combines his dual passions of writing and teaching. His latest book of nonfiction Secret Soldiers (Dutton 2002; Plume softcover 2004) tells the story of an unlikely band of heroes in World War II: artists who fought the Nazis by creating elaborate scenarios of deception, conjuring phantom armored divisions out of sound effects, radio scripts, pyrotechnics, and inflatable tanks.

In keeping with his conviction that writers should give something back to their profession, he has served on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers Network and from 1995 until 1998 on the Board of Directors of the Associated Writing Programs, for two of those years as President. He has been appointed by Governor Mike Easley to a second three-year term on the North Carolina Arts Council.

He lives on Whiskey Creek near the Intracoastal Waterway and sails his sloop Suspense on the Atlantic Ocean.

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Cape Fear Rising 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book took me just 2 days to read. It's a book that once you start you don't want to put it down.I'm from Wilmington and it is great history.