SIWG Author Caravan Brings Local Writers to Area Libraries

West Frankfort event offers autographed books just in time for Christmas

MARION, Ill. — Members of the Southern Illinois Writers Guild are holding a series of book signings this month throughout Southern Illinois, including one at the West Frankfort Public Library during lunch time from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12.

The authors include regional historian Jon Musgrave of Marion and historical novelist Lois Barrett of Harrisburg. Both are former reporters in the region.

Musgrave’s latest, “Secrets of the Herrin Gangs,” provides an insider account of the region’s dramatic 1920s Prohibition Era history from a member of the Shelton Gang who hailed from Benton and lived in Herrin during the period the bootlegging brothers fought the Ku Klux Klan and then Charlie Birger.

“It’s amazing what we’re still finding out about the region in the 1920s. Just when you think you know what the story is, something else gets uncovered and we write the history again,” said Musgrave. “We forget sometimes the Sheltons well-established themselves in Williamson County before they moved on East St. Louis.”

The “Secrets” book is Musgrave’s first venture into the 20th Century history of the region, having previously focused on the Old Slave House, Lincoln stories from the Civil War, and the Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois from the 1870s.

“Now I’m fully engrossed in the 1920s ,” said Musgrave who’s working on what he describes as about a half-dozen different Bloody Williamson era projects, including a pictorial history of the region during that turbulent decade set to be called, appropriately, “The Bloody Years.”

In addition he will have his books on the Old Slave House, the Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, Gallatin County, and new for 2011, 18″ x 24″ posters of the Birger Gang at Shady Rest.

Barrett’s latest book, “A Love Story: Shuugh, God and Lulu,” is a break for her historical fiction series, “When the Earthquake Spoke.” The new book tells the story of a survivor of domestic abuse. Her earlier works include, “Preacher’s Son and Henry Brown,” “Gulf Coast Love Affair,” and “There Oughta Be a Law.” The last deals with Texas vigilante targeting criminal sex offenders.

Her series, “When the Earthquake Spoke” follows a set of families the earliest days on the frontier to the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes and finally the Texas Gulf coast following the devastating Galveston hurricane in the early 20th Century.

The next author caravan event will take place Monday evening at GenKota Winery in Mount Vernon from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.  when Musgrave will be joined by Anne-Marie Legan, a murder mystery novelist from Herrin, and ghost hunters Bruce and Lisa Cline of Carbondale with their new book on “History, Mysteries and Hauntings of Southern Illinois.”

On Tuesday the caravan travels to the DuQuoin Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m. where those same three will be joined by family friendly novelist Ed DeRousse of Sparta, author of “Adventures of a Common Man,” and Dan Barnett of DuQuoin whose courtroom drama, “Thou Shalt Take Up Serpents” came out earlier this year, follows the legal struggle of a eastern Kentucky snake-handling pastor who’s charged with murder after a member of his church dies of snakebite.

More about Musgrave’s historical writings can be found at Barrett is online at

The Southern Illinois Writers Guild meets monthly at John A. Logan College on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. It’s online at


Local author addresses domestic abuse in book,
The Southern Illinoisan 

Domestic violence month ends today and Harrisburg author Lois Fowler Barrett has already looked to the future.

She has addressed the troubling societal problem with her newly released novel, “A Love Story: Shuugh God and Lulu,” that is based on a personal genesis with the issue over several years.

And she has prepared a speech addressing the subject she is planning on delivering to agencies and organizations that address domestic violence.

She talks about the issue in an interesting way, neither pointing fingers nor latching on to a personal dogma. Rather, Barrett’s view about domestic violence is that it reflects or is an indicator of human frailties and that as an imperfect condition, it’s likely to endure.

“The mentality is taught and unfortunately learned that a woman or man can be controlled by a stronger power than love. Fists or mouth, it makes no difference,” Barrett said.

Her novel also delves into the troubling pattern of two people getting abusive to each other; they split from each other and then gravitate toward each other again and again.

“When I wrote the book, I wanted to explore how a woman gets involved in a domestic abusive situation and she can get domestically abusive herself. There like many other relationships, are good times. And the players keep going back to each other. They don’t why, knowing it’s not going to work,” Barrett said.

The book is a departure from Barrett’s previous three books that are historical fiction with many settings in factual settings such as hurricanes and earthquakes.

She is self-published, saying if she relied on the commercial route that she attempted for a year, no one likely would have seen her work.

And her writing began many years earlier as a newspaper reporter before she ended her work career as a state employee .

Barrett worked news beats for The Daily Register in Harrisburg and The Daily American in West Frankfort.

She left the business because of other salary opportunities and a chance to spend more time with the children she raised.

But, she admits she will always remain a reporter at heart, saying with a smile, “I was never bored with reporting.”

Harrisburg woman has new novel,
The Southern Illinoisan

Lois Fowler Barrett has new novel on domestic abuse, “A Love Story, Shuugh, God and Lulu.”

Barrett has addressed the subject of abuse as a sharp contrast to her preferred writing genre, historical fiction.

“Although a very hard novel to write, it is a tale of two older people marrying in their mid-fifties who cannot seem to get their act together when it comes to adjusting lifestyles from two different cultures, or I might say worlds,” Barrett said.

The 76-year-old author hopes the book may build a bridge of understanding for those who have been or could become involved in domestic abuse. The Illinois/Texas author of four novels prior to this is also known for historical fiction writings, newspaper background, magazine articles, short stories, and poetry.

A member of the Southern Illinois Writers Group at John A Logan College, Barrett was recognized as “Woman of the Year” by the National Association of Professional Women for 2010-2011 while living in Texas for “demonstrated excellence and dedication” within her profession. She is registered with Biltmore Who’s Who for 2010, a recognition while in Texas.

Barrett’s books may be found at Book Emporium in Harrisburg and The Book Worm in Carbondale. They also are available on Amazon Kindle, Google and from Brick Hill Publishing.

Barrett will be present the first weekend of November at the Heritage Festival, Southeastern Illinois College, Harrisburg, Autumn Fest Arts and Crafts Show, John A. Logan College, and Starview Vinyard near Cobden on Nov. 17. 

Lois Barrett addresses subject of domestic abuse in new book,
The Daily Register 

Harrisburg author Lois Barrett is tackling the issue of domestic abuse in her new novel “A Love Story: Shuugh God and Lulu.”

Living in Pankeyville after living several years in Texas, Barrett switched course in her typically historic fiction to address a universal problem.

“It’s about an older couple that gets married late in life. He has a temper she doesn’t know about,” Barrett said.

Barrett says her main characters come from different worlds. His is in Texas. She is a northerner. Each subscribe to a different faith and each has the ability to hurt the other.

“The woman’s got a mouth on her and the man has a fist on him. She sets him off every once in a while,” Barrett said.

The book opens with a graphic beating and flashes back to six years earlier. The couple has been married, divorced and remarried more than once. The two can’t seem to stay together, but neither can they remain apart.

“It’s a love story of a relationship about two people trying to get along and just aren’t able to,” Barrett said.

Barrett said she draws in part on her own life and the book was not an easy one to write.

“It was extremely difficult for me to write. I put it down several times. But it kind of serves as a closure to me,” Barrett said.

She has decided abuse is related to control and both parties in a relationship need to relinquish control in order to find harmony.

Though she draws on her own life experience she said the book remains fiction.

“Don’t get any idea it’s my life,” Barrett said.

The book is or will be available at Book Emporium in Harrisburg and Barrett plans to sell it at fall festivals.


Cuero author says writing saved her life,
The Victorian Advocate 

“I never got another chance to touch it, what with raising kids
and working as a reporter. So I decided to dust it off and for
the next 30 days and most nights, I wrote” Barrett, 73, said.
“Soon I had a rough draft of a novel.” As a first-time novelist,
Barrett had trouble getting agents and publishers to even look
at the book.

Not to be deterred, she started her own publishing company
called Brick Hill Publishing. Five years and four published
novels later, Barrett has found a new lease on life.

“I remember thinking to myself, I’m 69-years-old and
I can’t find anyone to publish this book. I probably won’t live
to see it published. So I’ll just do it myself,” she said. “And I did.”

Three of her books, including her latest, “Gulf Coast Love Affair,”
are historical fiction that follows the lives of the Smith family.
Barrett takes real life natural disasters, such as the 19th-century
earthquakes that rocked Illinois and the hurricanes that ravaged
Indianola, and puts her characters into the thick of it, she said.

The other two titles in the series are “When the Earthquake Spoke”
and “Preacher’s Son and Henry Brown,” which is about the War of 1812.

She also wrote a book that is not in the series called “There Oughta Be a Law.”

A huge history buff, Barrett does her homework for each book,

researching everything from the clothing people wore back then
to the real life accounts of the natural disasters.

“I love research, always have. That’s why I became a reporter in the first place,” she said.

She was only 18 when she started her “great American novel,”
but for Barrett, it’s more than finally accomplishing her adolescent dream.

Despondent from her health problems and recovering from three surgeries
in nine months, it was writing that gave her a reason to get up in the morning.

“I’m more apt to write books than clean house,” she said.
“I thought I was going to stop after the first one, but I already
have the idea for a fifth book in my head.”


Lois Barrett takes her characters to hurricane country,
The Daily Register 

It is not an easy life being a character in Lois Barrett’s
historical fiction. She has previously placed Campbell Smith
in the middle and in the aftermath of the
great earthquakes of 1811 and 1812.

Now she is sticking her characters in the middle of the
devastating hurricanes on the Texas coast in 1875 and
1886 in her book “Gulf Coast Love Affair.”

Barrett divides her time between two towns, Harrisburg
and Cuero, Texas. When in Southern Illinois her mind
is on earthquake history and when in Texas she writes
about tropical storms.

Barrett bought a house in Cuero, Texas, that had been
moved there from Indianola, Texas. Many houses
moved inland after a hurricane in 1886.

“It was wiped clean to the sand,” Barrett said.

She decided to take the Smith family from Boston to
the west and place them in hurricane country.

Barrett researched historical hurricanes, especially the
ones in 1875 in Galveston, Texas, 1886 and 1900 that
destroyed the homes of 8,000 people.

She became fascinated with the psychology of coastal

“I was researching why people keep going back to the coast,” Barrett said.

She came to believe that even though destructive
storms are almost guaranteed, the sense of home and
belonging overcomes the fear.

Barrett’s husband pointed out to her risk is everywhere.

“I keep coming up here for the earthquakes just like
people move back to the hurricanes,” she said.

While coastal residents have a love affair with the
coast, Barrett’s main characters pursue a love affair of
their own, one of a forbidden relationship due to
religious conviction.