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We all have favorites across books, movies, TV shows, etc. Some even show up in multiple categories. Yet, I wonder if I said Margaret Mitchell, James Jones or Harper Lee, how many of you would know them?

More than expected I imagine, mainly due to their prominence, but also that their writing efforts were turned into movie classics – “Gone With the Wind,” “From Here to Eternity,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I marvel at them and can only dream of what it would feel like. Yet, while they have written other things, nothing even came close.

Jones, in particular, intrigues me. He was from Robinson, down in Crawford County. I spent nine years there in administration. While I was very familiar with his work, I sought out people who grew up with him or knew him personally. That became more of a chore than I thought it would be. His second book, “Some Came Running” was a thinly veiled expose of Robinson and many of its “characters.”

Interestingly, he put the finishing touches of "From Here to Eternity" in a house just a few blocks from my house there. Many of his schoolmates were still around and said he was a bit of a “hellion” at the time, yet others simply said he was just your small-town kid who had a few “scrapes.” His family life was not the best,

How do these books happen? Does a “fairy sprinkle pixie dust” on someone? How did Mitchell dream up that storyline or characters like Scarlett and Rhett? I know Lee’s Atticus Finch was based on a real person, but to tell the story, amazing.

I’ve written three books. One, “A History of Decatur Basketball” is still an on-going affair, although another writer did use my first page, with permission, but no credit to me, which would have been nice. The second is an autobiography (Haven’t we all done that?) and the third, a fictional account of a real catastrophe of an epidemic that swept through a small town. If I can finish that last one, I think I may have something, not on par with others I’ve mentioned, but … .

Prairie Talk: When and why did that fear take hold?

But back to Jones and “Some Came Running.” If you have ever lived in a small town (population c. 7000), you know the “characters” who live there. The “Power” group; the gossip – both true and false – even the ongoing “battle” between the banking institutions! Usually, there is someone who is the “keeper” of all the town’s secrets.

The town gambler (Dean Martin) as “Alabama” in real life “Arky” (Arkansas). One banker really did sit by a window and watch who was going into that bank. One of the major employers was a factory that made “toilet facilities” became a bra factory in the movie.

When Jones returned to Robinson after the War and continued working on "From Here to Eternity," he was mocked by many people. When the book and movie hit it really big, those same people tried to pretend it never happened. Jones rebuffed them and took his future writing plans to around Marshall and formed a Writer’s Colony.

There’s one story I couldn’t verify, but fits. After "From Here to Eternity," Jones drove his motorcycle in to the dining room of the local country club! True? I don’t know, but it fits his attitude and feelings of the time!

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Joe Trimmer is a Decatur historian.


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