NC Literary Hall of Fame



The Tannery by Michael A. Almond

Koehler Books
$19.95, paperback / $29.95, hardcover / $7.99, e-book
ISBN: 978-1-64663-487-3
October, 2021
Fiction: Southern / Black Historical Fiction
Available from your local bookstore or

"Riveting . . . . In his debut novel, Michael Almond has given us a page-turner. Far more than a legal thriller, though it is that, The Tannery is historical fiction at its finest—a story set near the turn of the 20th Century in North Carolina. The state, still reeling from defeat in the Civil War, is torn by the violent politics of race, all of which Almond weaves through the mystery of a murder. Some of this tale will sound disturbingly familiar to readers in the 21st Century, all the more reason to consider its lessons. History can come alive in a work of great fiction. This is one of those times."
—Frye Gaillard, civil rights historian, author of A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s

"It might not seem fair to compare The Tannery to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, since Lee’s novel is recognized as one of the most important novels in the history of Southern literature, but The Tannery stands up to the comparison. Michael has created a riveting novel that combines the excitement of a legal thriller with the complexities of a well-researched work of historical fiction. Michael’s depiction of North Carolina’s bigoted past is unflinching and disturbing, but his portrait of his native state is not entirely negative. His story has its bigots, but it also has its heroes."
—Mark I. West, Ph.D., Bonnie E. Cone Professor in Civic Engagement, Professor of English, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

"The Tannery is tough to put down because the storytelling is so compelling. While I know it is historical fiction, the book’s description of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Carolinas reminds me so much of the oral histories I’ve heard from my own relatives of what the region was like back then. Everything from race relations, cultural nuances, and politicians to the food consumed was authentic. This book is timely, in that we can reflect on how far we have come today and see the tangible progress we have made. But it also glaringly reminds us that the issues of racism, voter suppression, and economic inequality are still with us, and indeed, to paraphrase a famous author…the past is not yet passed, it is still with us today."
—Harvey B. Gantt, former mayor of Charlotte, first African-American student accepted by Clemson University, inspiration for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture

July 5, 1900, Wilkes County, North Carolina: The beautiful young daughter of tannery owner Jakob Schumann is found dead on the north bank of the Yadkin River, brutally beaten, a skinning knife in her chest.

Who killed Rachel Schumann? And why? Ambitious Wilkes prosecutor Vincent Taliaferro has arrested Virgil Wade, a mixed-race boy, and is convinced the case is open and shut. But local lawyer Ben Waterman is not so sure. Ben’s investigation uncovers evidence that undermines the prosecutor’s case and points in an entirely different direction. But can he prove it? Can he convince an all-White, all-male jury of Virgil’s innocence?

The Tannery transports readers to the turbulent world of the post-Reconstruction South. Reflecting issues prominent in today’s headlines, themes of Black voter suppression and intimidation, the violence and depravity of vigilante “justice,” and the rise of Jim Crow drive the narrative to its dramatic and surprising conclusion.

Michael A. Almond, a retired attorney, was raised in the small town of Pilot Mountain in the Piedmont foothills of North Carolina. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Morehead Scholar; Morehead Law Fellow), and was a Fulbright Scholar in political science at the University of Mannheim, Germany. During his years as an international business lawyer, he was awarded the prestigious Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for “outstanding commitment in fostering relations between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany.” An avid reader and student of Southern history and literature, he currently lives on a farm with his wife, Helen Ruth, in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The Tannery is his debut novel:


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