New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb will present a program on her Ballad novel “The Unquiet Grave” on Saturday, May 11 at 10 a.m. at the Eagle Rock Library. “The Unquiet Grave” is a carefully researched retelling of a true West Virginia ghost story, in which an 1897 murder trial hinges on the testimony of a ghost.

Sharyn McCrumb is a “New York Times” bestselling author.
Submitted Photo

The novel, published by Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), tells the story of The Greenbrier Ghost of Greenbrier County, W.Va., as told in alternating voices by the victim’s mother, Mary Jane Heaster, and James P.D. Gardner, the African-American attorney who second-chaired the killer’s defense. The trial of Trout Shue is hailed as the only case in America in which a man was convicted of murder based on the testimony of his victim’s ghost.

Unlike the previous accounts of the Greenbrier Ghost incident, which treated the story as folklore, McCrumb has thoroughly researched the story, using census materials, birth and death certificates, newspaper accounts, etc. to evoke the life and times of Zona Heaster in 1890s Greenbrier County. She made discoveries that no one has found before.

Using a century of genealogical material and other historical documents, McCrumb discovered new information about the story and in this book she brings to life the personalities in the trial: the prosecutor, a former Confederate cavalryman; the defense attorney, a pro-Union bridge burner, who nevertheless had owned slaves; and the mother of the murdered woman, who doggedly sticks to her ghost story— all seen through the eyes of a young black lawyer on the cusp of a new century, with his own tragedies yet to come.

Inco-Check