I am the co-executor for the estate of Raymond Andrews. He published four novels and an autobiography that offers insight into African American life in the American South. Critics regard Raymond’s first published novel, Appalachee Red, as his impressive debut in the literary world; the book was awarded Dial Press’s first James Baldwin Prize for Fiction in 1978 at a ceremony with Baldwin present. The novel was the first in Andrews’s Muskhogean County trilogy set in Appalachee, a fictional African American community in rural Georgia. Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee and Baby Sweet’s complete the trilogy. In these three works, as well as in his fourth book, “Jessie and Jesus” and “Cousin Claire,” and his autobiography, The Last Radio Baby: A Memoir, Andrews draws heavily on the oral tradition and his experiences growing up in the South.
With the publication of these five works in a thirteen-year period, a number of critics, impressed with Andrews’s storytelling talents, began comparing him to William Faulkner and Mark Twain. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1991.
Appalachee Red, the first part of Raymond Andrews’s Muskhogean Trilogy, traces the development of African American life in the American South from just after World War I until the end of 1963. Although the novel is perhaps best described as tragicomic, it presents readers with many truths of the cultural, social, political, and historical milieus of the South during the first half of the twentieth century.
The novel opens in late autumn of 1918, when Big Man Thompson, a twenty-one-year-old African American man, is arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. This is the first of a number of tragic but realistic injustices experienced by African Americans in the South that the author catalogs. Other such experiences include economic oppression, political manipulation, terrorization of the African American community by law enforcement officials, and forced concubinage of African American women as a rite of southern white manhood. These are accepted codes of conduct in Muskhogean County, Georgia, Andrews’s microcosm of the rural South.