The Americana Series Monthly Challenge – July 2019: Alabama

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The Americana Series Monthly Challenge – July 2019: Alabama

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Jun 30, 2019, 3:45am

Each month, we will visit a different state in the United States of America for the Monthly Reading Challenge in the Mystery & Suspense Extra! Group. This month, we travel to the “Heart of Dixie” – the state of Alabama.

The Americana Series Monthly Challenge – July 2019: Alabama


Alabama (/ˌæləˈbæmə/) is nicknamed the Yellowhammer State, after the state bird. Alabama is also known as the "Heart of Dixie" and the "Cotton State". Alabama's capital is Montgomery. The largest city by population is Birmingham, which has long been the most industrialized city; the largest city by land area is Huntsville. The oldest city is Mobile, founded by French colonists in 1702 as the capital of French Louisiana.

From the American Civil War until World War II, Alabama, like many states in the southern U.S., suffered economic hardship, in part because of its continued dependence on agriculture. Following World War II, Alabama grew as the state's economy changed from one primarily based on agriculture to one with diversified interests. The state's economy in the 21st century is based on management, automotive, finance, manufacturing, aerospace, mineral extraction, healthcare, education, retail, and technology.

With exploration in the 16th century, the Spanish were the first Europeans to reach Alabama. More than 160 years later, the French founded the region's first European settlement at Old Mobile in 1702. This area was claimed by the French from 1702 to 1763 as part of La Louisiane. After the French lost to the British in the Seven Years' War, it became part of British West Florida from 1763 to 1783. After the United States victory in the American Revolutionary War, the territory was divided between the United States and Spain. The latter retained control of this western territory from 1783 until the surrender of the Spanish garrison at Mobile to U.S. forces on April 13, 1813. Alabama was admitted as the 22nd state on December 14, 1819.

Southeastern planters and traders from the Upper South brought slaves with them as the cotton plantations in Alabama expanded. The economy of the central Black Belt (named for its dark, productive soil) was built around large cotton plantations whose owners' wealth grew mainly from slave labor. The area also drew many poor, disenfranchised people who became subsistence farmers. Alabama had an estimated population of under 10,000 people in 1810, but it increased to more than 300,000 people by 1830. Most Native American tribes were completely removed from the state within a few years of the passage of the Indian Removal Act by Congress in 1830.

Following the Civil War, Alabama’s slaves were freed with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. Alabama was under military control from the end of the war until it was restored to the Union in 1868. From 1867 to 1874 with most white citizens barred temporarily from voting and freedmen enfranchised, many African Americans emerged as political leaders in the state. Alabama was represented in Congress during this period by 3 African American congressmen – Jeremiah Haralson, Benjamin S. Turner and James T. Rapier.

Reconstruction in Alabama ended in 1874 when the political coalition of white Democrats known as the Redeemers took control of the state government from the Republicans, in part by suppressing the Black vote through violence, fraud and intimidation.

After 1890, a coalition of White Democratic politicians passed laws to segregate and disenfranchise African American residents, a process completed in provisions of the 1901 constitution. Provisions which disenfranchised Blacks resulted in excluding many poor Whites. By 1941 more Whites than Blacks had been disenfranchised: 600,000 to 520,000. The total effects were greater on the Black community, as almost all of its citizens were disenfranchised and relegated to separate and unequal treatment under the law.

From 1901 through the 1960s, the state did not redraw election districts as population grew and shifted within the state during urbanization and industrialization of certain areas. As counties were the basis of election districts, the result was a rural minority that dominated state politics through nearly three-quarters of the century, until a series of federal court cases required redistricting in 1972 to meet equal representation.

Alabama state politics gained nationwide and international attention in the 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights movement, when whites bureaucratically, and at times violently, resisted protests for electoral and social reform. Notable moments in Alabama included the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956), Freedom Rides (1961) and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. Governor George Wallace, the state's only four-term governor, was a controversial figure who vowed to maintain segregation. Only after passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 did African Americans regain the ability to exercise suffrage, among other civil rights.


Alabama is located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

The state ranges in elevation from sea level at Mobile Bay to over 2,413 feet in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. Alabama is 67% forest (22 million acres/89,000 square km).

Natural wonders include: the “Natural Rock Bridge,” the longest natural bridge west of the Rockies, Cathedral Caverns named for its cathedral-like appearance, Noccalula Falls which features a 90 foot waterfall and Dismals Canyon which is known not only for its 6 waterfalls and 2 natural bridges but also as the alleged hideout of legendary outlaw Jesse James.

Fun Facts

The state tree is the longleaf pine, and the state flower is the camellia. The state nut is the pecan.

Alabama is the only state to have an alcoholic beverage (Conecuh Ridge Whiskey) as its state drink

On November 30, 1954, Ann Hodges of Oak Grove was hit by a meteorite while napping on her couch. Ann survived and is the only confirmed person in history to have been hit by a meteorite

Alabama was the 4th state to officially cede from the Union in January 1861 and formally kicked off the Civil War with a written invitation. In April of that year, Confederate soldiers attacked Fort Sumter after receiving a telegram sent from Montgomery instructing them to move forward.

The efficacy of submarines in war was the subject of some debate before one built in Mobile put the matter to rest. The Confederate-operated H.L. Hunley torpedoed the Union’s USS Housatonic in February 1864, the first time in history a submersible has successfully downed an enemy ship.

The boll weevil burrowed into the state near the Mississippi border beginning in 1909. Over the year, the cotton-munching bug destroyed such a large portion of land that farmers were forced to look elsewhere for natural resourced to plant, resulting in a greater variety of crops. A tribute to the noble weevil was erected in 1919 (with the addition of a sculpture of the pest in 1949). The town of Enterprise houses the Boll Weevil Monument to acknowledge the role this destructive insect played in encouraging farmers to grow crops other than cotton.

The United States Army’s Chemical Corps Museum at Fort McClellan contains over 4,000 chemical warfare artifacts.

The world's first Electric Trolley System was introduced in Montgomery in 1886.

In 1902 Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performed the first open heart surgery in the Western Hemisphere by suturing a stab wound in a young boy's heart. The surgery occurred in Montgomery.

At the Battle of Mobile Bay Admiral David Farragut issued his famous command, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." The event occurred on August 5, 1864.

Visitors to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville often honor a “monkeynaut” by leaving bananas on her memorial. Miss Baker was a squirrel monkey, one of a pair of monkeys that were the first animals to be launched into space and be recovered alive. Miss Baker was born in 1957 and made her 16-minute space flight in 1959. She and Able, a rhesus monkey, returned to earth healthy and were treated as celebrities. Able would die four days later from complications of surgery to remove electrodes embedded for her flight. Miss Baker lived out her life in Huntsville, dying of kidney failure Nov. 29, 1984.

Notable Residents

Sports: Hank Aaron and Willie Mays (Baseball), Bart Starr (Football), Joe Louis (Boxing), Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis (track)

Entertainment: Nat King Cole, Bobby Goldsboro, Emmy Lou Harris, Lionel Richie, Toni Tennille (Music), Tallulah Bankhead, Kate Jackson, Jim Nabors and Octavia Spencer (Acting).

Authors: Harper Lee, Helen Keller, Anne Rivers Siddons and Zelda Fitzgerald

Politics: George Wallace (Governor during and opposing the Civil Rights Movement), Condoleeza Rice (US Secretary of State)

Some of the movies filmed in Alabama include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 42, Selma, Big Fish, The Final Destination and Due Date.

In honor of Alabama, read a Mystery/Suspense book (any sub-genre will do!) that satisfies one or more of the following:

• A Mystery/Suspense book with “South,” "Heart," "Black," "Civil," or "Space" in the title or an animal or insect on the cover;

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place during a war/conflict or involves a family dispute, or

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's initial (either the first OR last) can be found in ALABAMA

Happy Reading ❤

Edited: Jul 29, 2019, 1:12am

Brenda's July 2019 Americana Challenge - Alabama
3 of 3 Complete

In honor of Alabama, read a Mystery/Suspense book (any sub-genre will do!) that satisfies one or more of the following:

• A Mystery/Suspense book with “South,” "Heart," "Black," "Civil," or "Space" in the title or an animal or insect on the cover;
Black and Blue by James Patterson and Candice Fox; Black; finished 7/28/19; 4 stars

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place during a war/conflict or involves a family dispute, or
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie; family dispute; finished 7/5/19; 4 stars

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's initial (either the first OR last) can be found in ALABAMA
Betrayal in Time by Julie McElwain; M; finished 7/24/19; 4 stars

Edited: Jun 30, 2019, 6:58am

Lynda and Oliver's July 2019 Americana Challenge - Alabama

of 3 Complete

In honor of Alabama, read a Mystery/Suspense book (any sub-genre will do!) that satisfies one or more of the following:

• A Mystery/Suspense book with “South,” "Heart," "Black," "Civil," or "Space" in the title or an animal or insect on the cover;

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place during a war/conflict or involves a family dispute, or

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's initial (either the first OR last) can be found in ALABAMA

Edited: Jul 8, 2019, 6:29pm

Carol "Rolls with the Tide". May my children in Louisiana forgive me.
📌- ★

3/3 -DONE

📌1. A Mystery/Suspense book with “South,” "Heart," "Black," "Civil," or "Space" in the title or an animal or insect on the cover.
Ruff vs Fluff by Spencer Quinn - 4.5★

📌-2. A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place during a war/conflict or involves a family dispute,
Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole - 4★

3. A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's initial (either the first OR last) can be found in ALABAMA
📌Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena - 4★ -4★ (L)

Jun 30, 2019, 9:13pm

>4 Carol420: Your children might forgive you, but I won't. :0P


Edited: Jul 31, 2019, 11:43pm

Jaret's Awesome Adventures in Alabama
(3/3 completed)

• A Mystery/Suspense book with “South,” "Heart," "Black," "Civil," or "Space" in the title or an animal or insect on the cover;
Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams 2 stars 7/28/2019 dog on the cover

• A Mystery/Suspense book that takes place during a war/conflict or involves a family dispute, or
Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich 4 stars 7/4/2019 plot revolves around feuding cousins

• A Mystery/Suspense book where the author's initial (either the first OR last) can be found in ALABAMA
Better Homes and Corpses by Kathleen Bridge 3 stars 7/17/2019 author's initial is in alaBama

Jul 1, 2019, 6:34am

>6 jguidry: I'll have to do some kind of penitence to get back in the good graces of you Louisiana folks:)

Jul 1, 2019, 12:36pm

I’m going to read The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover by Susan Wittig Albert. Last name initial is ‘A’ plus it’s set in Alabama.

Will also read I See You by Clare Mackintosh. Last name initial is ‘M’.

Edited: Jul 3, 2019, 12:04pm

#2 Takes place during a conflict or a war

Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole (Susanna Kearsley)

When an old man strikes up a conversation with her on the steps of St. Paul’s and makes a mystifying mention of murder and an oddly familiar comment about her grandmother, Kate Murray is intrigued. But she never gets to hear the rest of Andrew Deacon’s tale. Shocked by his unexpected death, she wonders whom this strange, old man is, and what the odd reference to her grandmother could mean. Interest piqued by the story never told, Kate becomes drawn into an investigation, uncovering secrets about the grandmother she thought she knew and a man she never did. Soon she is caught up in a dangerous whirlwind of events that takes her back into her grandmother’s mysterious wartime past and across the Atlantic as she tries to retrace Deacon’s footsteps. Finding out the truth is not so simple, however, as only a few people are still alive who know the story…and Kate soon realizes that her questions are putting their lives in danger. Stalked by an unknown and sinister enemy, and facing death every step of the way, Kate must use her tough journalistic instinct to find the answers from the past in order to have a future.

It was one of those books that I didn't want to end. The mystery is well plotted,with plenty of twists and turns while the characters...both past and present...keep the plot moving along without taking anything from the story. War-time New York and Lisbon come to life with just the right amount of detail for the period. Kate...the heroine, is motivated and easy to cheer for as she unravels the past while trying to keep herself alive. I especially liked the way the author dropped subtle hints throughout the story. A very enjoyable read.

Jul 4, 2019, 9:05am

#3 - Author's first or last initial can be found in ALABAMA (L)

Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind. There's a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town. The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good. Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won't stop asking questions. Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

This is the 3rd book that I have read by this author. I enjoyed the book but so far nothing has taken the place of her first book The Couple Next Door. The thing that bugged me is teh same thing that bugged me in the first book and the second book...this authors love of the short sentence. I guess it is just her writing style and I will eventually get used to it. The story was predictable if you read many mystery & suspense novels but it did have some surprises. I really didn't form any real attachments to any of the characters but still it was a worthwhile read.

Edited: Jul 22, 2019, 11:34am

1) 4 July 2019 - Old Black Magic - Ace Atkins 4★s (Book with 'Black' in the title.)
2) 9 July 2019 - Blade of Light - Andrea Camilleri 4.5★s (Author's initial in ALABAMA.)
3) 22 July 2019 - SS-GB - Len Deighton 4★s (Story takes place during conflict - a fictional, post-WWII, German-occupied Britain.)

Jul 8, 2019, 5:58pm

#1 - an animal...actually 2 animals...on the cover

Ruff vs Fluff by Spencer Quinn

From the outside, Queenie the cat and Arthur the dog appear to have a lot in common. Both pets live in the charming Blackberry Hill inn. They both love their humans, twins Harmony and Bro. They both have a fondness for sausage. But that doesn't change the fact that they are mortal enemies. Goofy, big-hearted Arthur loves everyone he's ever met . . . except the snobby, scheming cat who's devoted her life to ruining his. Queenie is a bit choosier. And who can blame her? When you're brilliant AND exquisitely beautiful, you can't be expected to rub tails with commoners. Especially not slobbery dogs. But when the twins' beloved cousin is framed for murder, Queenie and Arthur must work together to clear his name . . . something Queenie finds even more distasteful than inexpensive caviar. Can two enemies put aside their differences long enough to solve the mystery?

Yeah... I's a kid's book. But hey... it had a dog...and a cat...on the cover. Not just any dog and cat but a CUTE dog and cat. Queenie and Arthur. One chapter is the dog "speaking" and the next one we hear from the cat. They very much have their own insights about their humans, the murder, It's 304 pages of pure delight. I just wish Spencer Quinn had written the two little balls of fur to be able to communicate with one another.

Jul 8, 2019, 5:59pm

Thanks Brenda.

Jul 8, 2019, 9:45pm

>4 Carol420: Good job, Carol!

Jul 11, 2019, 1:22pm

>14 bhabeck: Thanks, Brenda.

Jul 14, 2019, 5:00pm

Author's Initial in Alabama

I See You by Clare Mackintosh
3.5 ★

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her. Then she sees her image in a classified add with a phone number and website address and she is determined to find out why it's there but the photo in the advertisment changes daily. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make?

As a former commuter via subway, I thought the premise was interesting and a little different. Zoe’s live-in boyfriend, boss, daughter’s boyfriend, son and good friend’s husband all seemed suspicious to me and I enjoyed trying to figure out which might be the culprit. Unfortunately, there was a lot of family bickering which got a bit annoying. Also, the ending was far-fetched and disappointing. This was a mixed bag for me but I might try another by this author.

Jul 19, 2019, 8:02pm

Author's Initial in Alabama plus set in Alabama

The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover by Susan Wittig Albert
3 ★

It looks like the music has ended for Darling's favorite barbershop quartet, the Lucky Four Clovers - just days before the Dixie Regional Barbershop Competition when a car accident kills one of the singers.

This cozy mystery took place in Darling Alabama and was a little too cutesy for my taste with references to “Darling” this and that. But there was a decent murder mystery and investigation that involved the help of some of the members of the ladies garden club, the “dahlias”.

Jul 30, 2019, 11:14pm

>2 bhabeck: ah...finally finished this one. I had to rush to find the last one when I realized that the one I'd picked wasn't a mystery and had to substitute in Black and Blue instead.

Stupid work...always getting in the way of the fun stuff....

Jul 30, 2019, 11:18pm

>16 gaylebutz: I picked up that one and I Let You Go by Mackintosh the other day at the library bookstore. They looked like interesting reads

Edited: Jul 31, 2019, 6:26am

>18 bhabeck:

Great Job. Maybe you can get a job in a library. Wouldn't that be perfect?

Jul 31, 2019, 11:44pm

Snuck this finish in at the last moment...

Aug 1, 2019, 9:28am

>21 jguidry:

Good work. Tell Bobtail I know he helped:)

Aug 1, 2019, 1:15pm

Aug 1, 2019, 5:44pm

>22 Carol420: He did. He loves to sit and "read" with me. It's his favorite thing. Okay, chicken's his favorite thing, but reading is his second favorite. Okay, tuna is his second favorite, but reading is up there...LOL

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