Surprised by Death


A Novel of Arkansas in the 1840s
George Lankford
978-1-935106-08-1 (paper)
April 2009


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Opening with the senseless killing of a boy, and not just any boy but the scion of a proud family, Lankford’s novel is the stuff of classic fiction. Who would harm such a promising lad; perhaps the folks whose farmhouse is nearest? A man lives there who has sworn to get even with the boy’s father. Has he done so by killing an innocent? To many it is sensible to assume so. A posse is formed, a manhunt ensues. Is it really necessary, given the blood feud between the boy’s pa and the man whose house overlooks the killing scene?

Lankford’s novel is based on extensive historical research; it may even contain more fact than fiction. Yet it is the unsolved murder at the core of the story that propels the reader from page to page. And it is the quest for resolution that drives the characters—in their interwoven stories—in search of an answer to the identity of the killer. Lankford delivers a very satisfying historical novel, delivered within the setting of real Arkansas history.

George Lankford, professor emeritus of Lyons College, Batesville, Arkansas, is the author of many books and the recipient of many awards, including the Arkansas Historical Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the editor of Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery and wrote the introduction to Cavorting on the Devil’s Fork: The Pete Whetstone Letters of C. F. M. Noland.

Distributed for the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.