First-time author Tish Cook will be signing copies of her novel When You Speak My Name at the at Jefferson Barracks on April 30 and May 1. The novel details the semiautobiographical investigations of an Affton resident into the life of her great grandmother and the murder of her great-great-grandfather.
Cook herself is from Springfield, IL, and now lives in the area of Dawson, IL. Her ancestor Obediah Leavitt was a civilian in Oregon County, MO, during the Civil War, but was murdered in a gunfight by three men. One of them, Thomas Thorpe, was executed in 1865 despite the general amnesty that came after the war. Cook discovered the story while researching her own genealogy. She used both it and her own search as the inspiration for her novel.
“Everything is as factual as I could get it, and still be fiction,” Cook said.
Cook said Affton’s location made it an ideal spot to set the modern day portions of her novel.
“I wanted the reader to experience the Mark Twain national forest and a scenic drive. I wanted my character to have easy access to Route 21. The more I looked, Affton was the perfect fit,” Cook said. Route 21 begins in Affton as Tesson Ferry Road and runs south into central Missouri and through Pilot Knob, where part of the story takes place.
However Cook also said that Affton’s small-town vibe contributed to her choice.
“Small towns just don’t get any recognition. We need to do that. Why not put their name out there?” Cook said.
The novel also references and the .
Cook’s main modern-day character is Julie, a geometry teacher at who occupies the same genealogical position as Cook. Julie heads south in her motor home to look into the life of her great-grandmother Victoria, the other protagonist in this parallel timeline mystery story. The two women, centuries apart, explore life and law in wartime and Cherokee mysticism—the title of the book comes from an old wives tale that speaking a dead person’s name causes their spirit to draw near. Julie and Victoria each find themselves in danger, and eventually, Cook said, the two women’s paths cross.
Cook published the book herself last June and will continue her signing tour at the end of the month.