Troy University professor releases first novel
Published 9:09 am Tuesday, December 5, 2023
On Nov. 30, Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business Associate Dean and Grady Rosier Professor Allen Mendenhall released his first novel “A Glooming Peace This Morning.”
Mendenhall is a native of Atlanta, Ga., who has spent a career as a lawyer, holding a Master of Laws degree in transnational law from Temple University. Unlike many lawyers, however, Mendenhall also holds a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D in English from Furman University, West Virginia University and Auburn University.
Mendenhall – whose parents are natives of Opelika and Columbus, Ga. – has been a professor at Troy University since 2020. He also directs the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.
During his career, Mendenhall has released a total of seven books previously with all but one of those being non-fiction academic books. The one exception was “Of Bees and Boys: Lines from a Southern Lawyer,” which was a collection of creative essays. His new book, though, was actually the first book he ever began writing, way back in college.
“I actually started writing the novel long before I started writing any of my other books,” Mendenhall recalled. “I started writing it in about 2006. I had written a short story that was too long to hang together. I had introduced too many characters, so I decided to expand it into a novel but I just didn’t have the story yet.
“I didn’t know what my story was going to be. Other than the short story I had written I didn’t know what the whole novel was.”
That story came to him during a criminal law class.
“I read a case and it was my Eureka moment,” he emphasized. Suddenly, the entire story popped into my head from that case. I started writing a section of a the novel about the case and another section involving the multiple characters and then I integrated the two sections over the course of several years.”
Mendenhall says he doesn’t even remember the case that inspired him or how it worked out.
“After I read it in law school I never went back to it and never tried to figure out exactly what it was because I didn’t want the story that had come into my mind to be messed up by the real case,” he said. “I didn’t want the real case to cloud the story that I envisioned. I couldn’t even tell you what the case was now other than it involved the issue of statutory rape.”
Mendenhall described his novel as a “Southern Gothic retelling of Greek tragedy, loosely based on Romeo and Juliet.” In fact, the title of the book stems form a line in the famous Shakespeare tragedy. The novel is also set in the fictional town of Andalusia – not the real town in Alabama – in fictional Magnolia County.
“That could be anywhere in the Deep South,” Mendenhall said. “I never even say what state the book takes place in. The setting is very important to the novel and is reminiscent of several different places that I’ve lived throughout my life, including Morgantown, WV; Greenville, SC; Marietta, Ga.; Opelika; and other small towns in Alabama. I had all of these different towns in mind as I wrote the story.”
The book is narrated from the perspective of a character named Cephas, who tells stories from his childhood alongside the trial of Tommy, an 18-year-old mentally disabled man who is arrested for having a relationship with an underage girl.
“One of the issues at play in the trial is whether he can meet the mens rea element of the crime, in other words can he form the requisite intent to be found guilty of the charges against him,” Mendenhall said. “Under statutory rape it’s actually immaterial whether he forms the intent because whether he meant to or not, it’s strictly a liability charge.”
While it took Mendenhall 15 years – writing pieces of the book here and there – he said that he thoroughly enjoyed it and hopes to write more novels.
“If I could make a living doing nothing but novels, I’d do it,” he said.
The book is available online on Amazon and Troy University will be hosting a book launch on Jan. 22, 2024.