Monday, October 26, 2009

Guest Blog (and Book Giveaway!): Norman German's A Savage Wisdom

(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


Sheila said...

I would love to read this book. Please enter me in your giveaway.
Thank you.
ludeluh at yahoo dot com

Jerry House said...

I don't know which struck me as stranger, the portable electric chair or the innovative use of pliers.

word verification: CLONI -- Ms. Anderson's twin sister

Rick Ollerman said...

Here's my entry for the book...

-Rick Ollerman

Mandy said...

Just found your blog and would love to be entered in your giveaway. =)

Michael Bracken said...

Toss my name in the hat for the book.

Rick said...

That sounds fascinating. Please enter me for this book. Thanks

Randy Johnson said...

I'd like a shot myself.

Rittster said...

I love American true-crime stories from the 1920s-1950s. Please add me!


Madwoman-doing-cartwheels said...

Historical true crime is so fascinating. I'd love a chance to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the chance!

bookcat1010 at gmail dot com

Frank Loose said...

Please sign me up, too. Sounds like a chilling read. I wonder why she had to kill the guy just to get his truck. Let's see, i can be wanted for theft by taking, or murder one. Hmmm ....

mindy said...

this looks great thanks minsthins at optonline dot net

lorf927 said...

This sounds like a really interesting read. Please enter me.


LittleEagle said...

I would enjoy winning and reading this book.. Thank you for the opportunity.

Renee G said...

This sounds fascinating. I would love to read this.


kathy55439 said...

Sounds like a great read... Glad I shopped by

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I'd like to be part of the drawing, too. Thanks for the chance.

kakihara said...

Sounds like a great read--thanks for the chance to win!

Norman German said...

I appreciate everyone's interest in A SAVAGE WISDOM. I've never been in the blogosphere, so forgive me if it takes awhile for me to catch on.

Norman German

James Reasoner said...


You're doing just fine. Welcome!

Nickolay said...

This looks like a fantastic book. Thanks for the chance


Norman German said...

About the novel's cover: that's not a bear in the background of the crime scene (as one reader thought). It's not a haystack, either. It's a stack of rice-straw (the straw used for fodder AFTER the rice grains have been harvested).

Another thing that interests me--the raincoat of the detective on the left is see-through. If you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can see his left hand through the pocket.

Norman German

larrygebert said...

sounds good sign me up please

DCMetroreader said...

I would like to read this, please enter me.


Christine said...

I would love to win a copy of this book. It sounds very interesting. I did not realize that Norman was an author. He is an old classmate that I just reconnected with on facebook.

Esme said...

I would love to read this-thanks

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

Bethie said...

This looks like a very interesting book. Please count me in.

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Norman German said...

Don't forget--there will be only one winner. To "beat" everybody in this drawing, you could either 1) order the paperback ahead of time or 2) download the Kindle version (or a free sample chapter) at

Just curious: How many of you own Kindles? I'm so "out of the loop" that I've seen only one, even though SAVAGE has reached #5 three times as a Kindle book.

Norman German

Norman German said...

I should have said that SAVAGE has reached #5 as a Kindle book in the category of Murder & Mayhem--not overall, of course.

Still, the M&M category is quite competitive.

Norman German

Todd Mason said...

I think I'm too late, but it does look interesting.

I don't own a Kindle, but do have an older electronic book reader. My ex housemate, who has rather profound nearsightedness, loves hers.

Norman German said...

A winner in the giveaway for A Savage Wisdom has been selected.

If you're interested in the paperback, you can order it from

I have never had a person say anything except that it's one of the best books they have ever read.

Many thanks,
Norman German

Norman German said...

Visitors to this site might also be interested in my murder mystery CRIPPLE BAYOU TWO-STEP, set in Louisiana. It was a top-5 finalist in the St. Martin's Press Year-2000Private Eye contest.

Currently, it is available only as a Kindle book on

The same publisher that published A SAVAGE WISDOM (Thunder Rain) will publish CRIPPLE next year.

Norman German

Norman German said...


In this anniversary month of Toni Jo Henry's execution, A SAVAGE WISDOM is discounted to $10 (including free S&H), down from the $14 retail price and $4 S&H.

The discount is available ONLY on the Savage website ( and only if you order by U.S. mail, so PayPal is out on this one.