Magic Time A Novel

Doug Marlette




Trade Paperback

592 Pages



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Carter Ransom has left his past behind. Born and raised in Mississippi, he has come to New York and established himself as a columnist and muckraker with one of the city's big newspapers. But when his New York life falls apart, and he heads back home to recover, all the conflicts and compromises of his youth instantly surround him again. A twenty-five-year-old civil rights murder case has just been reopened, a church bombing that cost Carter his first love. The judge in the case was his own father, who's still dominating the household Carter has come back to.

Moving between New York City and the New South of the early 1990s, with flashbacks to Mississippi's cataclysmic Freedom Summer of 1964, Magic Time is at once a powerful love story, a courtroom drama, and a complex portrait of the civil rights revolution.


Praise for Magic Time

"The storytelling is involving and the plot wondrously complicated . . . With his caricatures in Magic Time, and in that phrase, Marlette has captured something essential about the spirit of our age."—Christopher Dickey, The New York Times Book Review

"Marlette unravels a powerful plot that straddles every genre from historical fiction to love story."—Halley Bondy, New York Daily News

"[A] sense of history in the everyday, and that what we do matters, is what he captures in his un-put-downable novel."—Kathleen Parker, Orlando Sentinel

"This new book has an urgency and timeliness all its own . . . It's an intricate piece of work: multi-layered, interwoven and even Dickensian . . . Magic Time ultimately succeeds as both a heartfelt novel and a serious one too, under-girded by a keen eye for historical and social detail, driven forward by a sense of justice, and revealing in so many instances a sometimes-surprising optimism and a generous sense of humanity."—Art Taylor, Metro Magazine

"Marlette presents a sketch of the South . . . with skill . . . His story . . . invites us into a personal memory of the South told . . . as only a Southerner can tell it."—Adera Causey, Chattanooga Times Free Press

"Marlette demonstrates again that he is a first rate writer . . . It has a wonderfully drawn character and is a good tale all around."—D.G. Schumacher, The Sun News

"Marlette draws a classic story . . . . Marlette is a smart writer . . . .His words are vivid, distinct, and shot through with real fondness. Every once in a while he lays down a perfect observation about human nature."—Duncan Murrell, The Independent

"Marlette is a storyteller . . . His novels have that sine qua non, energy, with characters one comes to care about, who learn and have real experiences that change their lives."—Don Noble, Tuscaloosa News

"Doug Marlette takes us deep into the heart of America, and deeper into the American heart. His past and present not only lives and breathes, it lingers and haunts your soul."—Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors

"Doug Marlette asks urgent questions about society and directs us to look for the answers within our own hearts. His kind intelligence shows through in every word."—Kaye Gibbons, author of Ellen Foster

"A middle-aged New York columnist re-explores a personal tragedy that occurred during the Civil Rights era . . . Perfectly captures a time of epic change. An exceptional work of Southern fiction."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"In Marlette's second novel, investigative journalist Carter Ransom returns to his deceptively quiet hometown of Troy, Mississippi, after a mental breakdown only to face ghosts from the Sixties. At that time, local Klansmen had burned a church, killing both worshipers and civil rights activists. One hit man was sent to prison by Carter's father, Judge Mitchell Ransom, but now, decades later, he has been paroled and after a change of heart turns states' evidence to convict others at the top. The trial for the accused, Sam Bohanon, a local businessman and former imperial wizard, opens old wounds and puts Troy in the media spotlight. Carter fears that his father covered up the real killers' identity to protect an old family friend, and he even suspects his father was being blackmailed over his affair with one of the Klansmen's wives. Childhood friends, memories of a more 'magic time,' and an attractive federal prosecutor help Carter sort through his uncertainties. Marlette, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, has written a powerful and eloquent novel filled with all the emotions and fury of the early Sixties. Highly recommended for all public libraries."—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa City Public Library, Grand Junction, Colorado, Library Journal

"Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Marlette fulfills the literary promise of his debut novel, The Bridge, with a panoramic saga that revisits an ignominious chapter in Mississippi history. A terrorist bombing in New York City during the 1990s plummets outspoken newspaper columnist Carter Ransom into a paralyzing depression, forcing him to return home to the small southern town where, as an impressionable college student, he fell in love with Sarah Solomon, a civil rights volunteer who was among several workers killed in a Klan-instigated church bombing during the freedom summer of 1964. All local men, the murderers were brought to trial before Carter's father, a conservative judge who may have covered up information, thus allowing the mastermind to go free. With the surfacing of new evidence, Carter must confront painful memories as he determines who his father was protecting and why. A tenacious legal thriller, touching remembrance-of-youth novel, and spicy love story rolled into one, Marlette's majestic and detailed second offering communicates the assured finesse of a seasoned author."—Carol Haggas, Booklist

"When a terrorist group bombs a Manhattan museum, New York Examiner columnist Carter Ransom suffers an emotional breakdown and returns to his Mississippi hometown, Troy, to convalesce. Carter's father, Judge Ransom, has just retired after 40 years on the bench there; his most famous case was presiding over Troy's national disgrace: the Shiloh Church bombing, in which four civil rights activists died in 1965. At the time, Carter was a local rookie journalist who met and fell in love with Sarah Solomon, one of the volunteers who died. One man was convicted, but the instigator, Samuel Bohanon, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, went free. Now, as Carter begins to understand that he has never fully come to terms with Sarah's death, an ambitious young state attorney is reopening the Shiloh Church bombing case—and she's going after Bohanon, along with anyone who stands in her way, including Carter's father, who, rumors say, threw the first trial to spare Sam . . . Pulitzer Prize–winning Kudzu cartoonist Marlette . . . writes of the South with such affection that the novel becomes one of those stories a reader doesn't mind revisiting."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


Carter ransom awoke curled up in the backseat of his sister's Mercury Grand Marquis. The metronomic ticking of tires against scored pavement penetrated the pharmaceutical fog, and he pushed up on his forearms to look out the window....

Read the full excerpt


  • Doug Marlette

  • Doug Marlette has won every major prize for editorial cartooning, including the Pulitzer. His first novel, The Bridge, was honored with the 2002 Book Award for Fiction by the Southeast Booksellers Association. He died in 2007.

  • Doug Marlette Will and Deni McIntyre




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