(Here's some information from Louisiana author Norman German about his latest historical crime novel, which sounds like an excellent book. I plan to read it soon. In the meantime, the publisher is giving away a free copy to one of the readers of this blog, and if you'd like to be entered in the drawing for it, post a comment saying so between now and 6 pm CDT Thursday October 29. That's a little over three days from now. I'll hold the proverbial random drawing for the winner on Thursday evening.)
Texas Completes the Circuit to Louisiana’s Electric Chair
The only woman to sit in Louisiana’s electric chair wound up there by killing a Texan.
In a portable electric chair nicknamed “Little Sizzler,” Annie Beatrice McQuiston was executed on November 28, 1942 for the Valentine’s Day slaying of a Houston salesman.
Annie grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, the daughter of a hard-drinking, abusive Irishman. Her mother died of tuberculosis, compelling her to work in a macaroni factory until she was fired when the TB risk was discovered. She left home at 13, became addicted to cocaine, and resorted to prostitution to make her way in the world.
In 1939 in a brothel she called home, Annie, now going by “Toni Jo,” fell for Claude “Cowboy” Henry, an ex-prize fighter. On November 25, 1939, shortly after he isolated her in a hotel room and forced her to go “cold turkey,” they secured a marriage license in Lake Charles and married in Sulphur.
Cowboy’s arrest for murdering San Antonio policeman Arthur Sinclair (before meeting Toni Jo) cut their honeymoon short. In January 1940, Cowboy was sentenced to fifty years in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville.
Her thinking clouded by desperation, Toni Jo hatched a plan to rob an Arkansas bank for money to shorten her husband’s sentence by legal appeal or perhaps bribery. On Highway 90 just east of Orange, Texas, outside the Night Owl bar, Houston tire salesman Joseph Calloway picked up Toni Jo and Army deserter Horace Finnon Burks. Wanting his Ford V8 as their getaway car, they forced him at gunpoint to a field south of Lake Charles and led him by pliers clamped to his penis to a rice-stalk stack, where Toni Jo plugged him once in the forehead with a .32.
At home in Houston that frosty Valentine’s night were Calloway’s wife and nine-year-old daughter.
Four days before Toni Jo was sentenced to die, Cowboy stole a truck from a Sugarland prison farm and headed for Lake Charles to spring her from jail. He was captured at a Beaumont hotel and thrown in solitary back in Huntsville. The day before her execution, Toni Jo told Cowboy via telephone to lead a straight life and “go out the front door” of the Texas prison instead of trying to escape again.
Cowboy was freed six years later because of terminal heart disease but a few months later was shot to death before he could die naturally.
About the Author
Dr. Norman German is Professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University, Fiction Editor for Louisiana Literature, and Winner of the Deep South Writers' Contest for No Other World. A Savage Wisdom is his third novel.
A specialist in twentieth-century American literature, he has also published award-winning short stories, poems, and literary criticism. His stories have appeared in commercial and literary magazines, including Shenandoah, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Sport Fishing, and Salt Water Sportsman. His scholarly articles cover a wide range of major American authors including Ernest Hemingway, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Raymond Carver, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, James Dickey, and Anthony Hecht.
Visit the author and buy the book at www.asavagewisdom.com.
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