Click on the Indie View heading to read an interview with me about how I write and why I wrote Conjure Woman's Cat.

Florida Water - For purification of home and self.

Malcolm R. Campbell

Malcolm R. Campbell grew up in the Florida Panhandle and found secret worlds between the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Rivers where panthers, limpkins and cottonmouth moccasins called the gods and devils by their names.

Conjure Woman's Cat

I live in northwest Georgia. So, I can't say I was really prepared for the blizzard (Jonas) my wife and I found when we visited my granddaughters in Maryland. Like I know how to operate a snow shovel!

Malcolm R. Campbell Florida Folk Magic

Eulalie chews an old, plain "scrap" (loose leaf) tobacco.

Hoyt's - For good luck at poker and playing the numbers.

Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines rule the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.

When some white boys rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the sawmill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.”

But Eulalie has secrets of her own, and it’s hard not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending. 

How the Story Begins

So Eulalie slept.

The mid-summer afternoon was hot and clear. We lay on the back porch beneath the bright sky because we needed clouds for our work. The sleeping sign hung on a rusty nail over the front door. Everyone who knew what was what hurried past our front gate and brick walk when the black scrap of wood scrawled with the blood-red word “sleeping” hung above the threshold.

After we hung the sign, Eulalie curled up on the back porch between baskets overflowing with pot marigolds and fell asleep before I settled down low on my sleeping spot beneath the old sofa where folks sit and speak of sorrows, troubles and the blues. The marigolds’ sunshine-yellow flowers drooped into sweet dreams because they can’t steal a fever or find lucky numbers without a dab of wind or rain.

While the porch planking was grey, worn soft by the calloused soles of many feet and easy on sleepers, I did not sleep. I watched because I knew fire was coming. The creek separating the well-kept yard of longleaf pines from the overgrown piney woods of trees cat faced by turpentiners and half-strangled by trespassing shrubs did not sleep.

There was Coowahchobee, fierce and swift like her namesake the panther. She licked the forest clean, protected the house and yard from spirits and carried away the remains of spent spells westward across sanctified Florida soil into the Apalachicola River. Low fire she could stop; a forest canopy fire borne on the wind was out of Coowahchobee’s reach.