Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Intimate Conversation with Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., is the author of the novels The Last Thing You Surrender, Grant Park, Freeman, and Before I Forget, as well as two nonfiction works. He was a journalist for more than forty years, including a long tenure as a nationally syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald. He is the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, in addition to many other awards. Born and raised in Southern California, Pitts now lives in suburban Washington, DC.

Ella: When did you first realize you wanted to be a full-time writer after retiring?
Pitts: I’ve been a full-time writer since 1976. I’ve always known I wanted to be a full-time novelist going back even before that. Retiring just allowed me time to fulfill that particular dream.

Ella: If you had to describe yourself as a writer in three words, what would they be?
Pitts: Rhythm and blues.

Ella: How did you become involved with the subject of your book, 54 Miles?
Pitts: 54 Miles picks up some plot threads that were left dangling after my last novel, The Last Thing You Surrender. There was a particular storyline that I wanted to resolve, concerning Floyd Bitters, who led the lynch mob that killed Luther and Thelma’s parents. I couldn’t make it work within the confines of the earlier book, so I decided to rejoin the same characters twenty years later and tackle the issue then.

Ella: Please introduce us to your most recent work, 54 Miles. What is the key theme?
Pitts: 54 Miles is the distance from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. It’s the span that was walked by civil rights protesters in March of 1965 to push for the Voting Rights Act that was signed into law later that year. The novel of the same name uses that campaign as a backdrop for some family business: Adam Simon, the Harlem-reared son of a black father and a white mother, returns to his parents’ home state to join the protest, but gets more than he bargained for when he is first clubbed senseless by Alabama state troopers and then stumbles into an awful secret that upends everything he thought he knew about his mother, his father and himself.

Purchase 54 Miles: A Novel by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Read more – https://a.co/d/05RZiJAx

Ella: Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Pitts: Sure. It’s also a story that asks us to think about what justice looks like.
Luther Hayes has been haunted for 42 years by the fact that he saw his parents brutally murdered at his front door when he was a boy of just nine. Now, on an ordinary Sunday, while visiting a friend at a nursing home, he encounters the last person he ever wanted or expected to see: Floyd Bitters, the man who led the lynch mob that killed his mom and dad – the man who was never held accountable, even though everyone knew he was guilty. Now, here is, an old man in a room alone, lying there helplessly before Luther, having recently suffered a stroke that left him feeble and mute. What does justice demand? What should Luther do?

Ella: I want to share a few of the reviews for 54 Miles. The early readers are loving it!

Praise for Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s novel 54 MILES:

“Historical fiction fans ought to snatch this up.” —Publishers Weekly

“[A] gripping historical novel.” —Foreword Reviews, starred review

“One of the most gifted writers of historical fiction…54 Miles is a true literary tour de force.” —Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author of Long Time Coming

“Pitts’ mastery of the historical context pulls the reader into this bracing story.” —Booklist

“54 Miles is a stunning historical novel—heart-wrenching, propulsive, and beautifully written. Leonard Pitts, Jr. works powerful magic in this unforgettable story.” —Jonathan Eig, author of King: A Life

“In his stirring new novel, Leonard Pitts, Jr. takes us back to 1965 Selma, around and through the dizzying changes happening in society to tell a deeply reflective story of two families dealing not only with that era’s upheavals, but also memories of a brutal and painful past.” —Denise Nicholas, author of Freshwater Road

“A well-researched, powerfully written novel that takes readers into the heart of the civil rights movement in the South.” —Library Journal, starred review

Ella: What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?
Pitts: Probably that Martin Luther King enjoyed broad, enthusiastic support from black people as he pressed his campaign of nonviolent social change. The opposite was actually true.

Ella: Mr. Pitts, can you share some ways that readers can support you?
Pitts: Sure. Buy my book, read my book and tell people about my book. One other way is to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads or some other platform.

Ella: What other projects are you working on at the present?
Pitts: I just finished my first draft of The Angry House, in which a Southern governor who passed a bill outlawing the teaching of black history in his state, is planning to hold a Confederate-themed political fundraiser on a former plantation where the mansion and the enslaved person’s cabins have been converted into a bed and breakfast hotel. But what the governor doesn’t know is that one of the old cabins is sentient, haunted by the traumatic things it has seen over 200 years. And it is very, very angry.

Ella: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Pitts: My website is leonardpittsjr.com. I’m active on Threads and semi-active on the former Twitter.

Purchase 54 Miles: A Novel by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Read more – https://a.co/d/05RZiJAx

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