A novel written by a local teacher who died 41 years ago has finally been published.Howard Denson III, an author and retired college professor who lives in Florida, knew Hazel Reid as a child. The …
A novel written by a local teacher who died 41 years ago has finally been published.
Howard Denson III, an author and retired college professor who lives in Florida, knew Hazel Reid as a child. The Jasper native inherited the manuscript for "As the Apple Tree Stands" from Reid's niece, Susan Weinstein.
In the book's afterword, Denson describes Reid as one of the first storytellers he encountered as a child.
"Hazel loved to tell stories about her students. Naughty pupils (always boys) were described as 'scamps' and 'rascals' in her reportage. Eventually, I realized that she NEVER told a story involving meanness or one that denigrated her students or colleagues, and, in polite company, she never disparaged anyone around town," Denson wrote.
Reid, who taught first grade at Union Chapel Junior High School, told Denson about the book when he was between the ages of 14 and 17 and she was in her 40s.
Reid had sent the manuscript to an editor or agent but had been told, "There's not enough sex in it."
Reid died in 1978 at age 62. At that time, the manuscript went to Weinstein, who stored it safely in her attic. Denson got the manuscript after requesting it from his brother, David, who had befriended Weinstein.
"Do something meaningful with it," Weinsten said as she parted with it.
"As the Apple Tree Stands" is set in the Mississippi Delta. Reid, born in Dora, moved to Mississippi with her family in the 1920s.
While preparing the manuscript for publication, Denson turned to two of Reid's former students, Cherrie Akins Lockhart and Jerryl Hyche, who shared memories and helped him learn more about her background.
Reid published the manuscript after confirming with a copyright attorney that he had non-exclusive rights.
"Essentially what that means is this: If any close relatives of Hazel want to publish her novel, they have a right to do so. I will very likely send the original manuscript and the photocopy to the Jasper Public Library, where others may copy the manuscript, edit it as they see fit and seek out a publisher, if they desire," Denson wrote.
Denson suspects that Reid was influenced by Southern authors William Faulkner or Robert Penn Warren.
"Hazel had joked about her novel 'not having enough sex,' but despite her being an 'old maid' (pardon the usage), I found that it was often bristling with sexual energy, tension and jealousy, surprisingly so for a work from an elementary school teacher in a small Southern town," Denson said.
Anyone with additional information about Reid or photos of her can contact Denson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"As the Apple Tree Stands" is in paperback and as an e-book on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.