The killing of a beautiful girl, a “race murder” from the past, is the paramount event of A Hollow Cup – why it occurred, and who was responsible, shape the novel’s plot. Two men, one black, the other white, return to the iconic Southern town of their youth to take part in the investigation and trial of the man charged with the decades old crime. Luke Stanley, a distinguished professor of criminal law, comes back to New Hope intent on convicting the accused and sending him to the gas chamber. Pete Johnson, a successful lawyer with little respect for “the law,” returns to help with the defense only after he learns that the woman he loves has moved back to town.
The reader sees the characters as children growing up in the segregated South. They live in a small college town that seems, at first, exempt from the turmoil experienced in other places. Luke is a pioneer, the first black student to attend New Hope’s all-white schools. He and Pete become “friends” – an unorthodox relationship that weaves the strands of the novel together. Their childhoods end abruptly with a series of deaths culminating in a brutal slaying, setting the stage for the events that occur so many years later.
What others are saying
“When two men, one black and one white, open a cold case involving a race murder in a North Carolina university town, they confront the history of the Civil Rights movement and the fraught topic of desegregation as they experienced it when they were high school students in the early 1960s. At the same time the murder is set, I was attending college in a state that is still one of the least diverse in the country. I remember well the issues involving busing in Boston, but I had no direct experience with it. The biggest challenge for my university was not to desegregate, but how to recruit more black students. A Hollow Cup immersed me in the controversies as they were experienced by blacks and whites in a university so different from what I knew. Reading it has deepened my understanding of the 1960s at the same time that it brought me into the present where the physical landscapes of university towns have enlarged and developed in ways that are not always attractive. A word of warning: the plot of A Hollow Cup is intricate and I found it helpful to keep a list of the different characters. Alan Thompson pulls everything together in an ending that connects the past to the present and shows the relevance of every scene in the novel. This is a compelling read that forces us to see the points of view of both blacks and whites at a time when race relations are all too often front page news.”–Amazon Book Reviewer
“A Hollow Cup is an intense, interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking book — and an amazing effort for a first time novelist. A cold-case 1960’s era race murder of a beautiful young black woman, and a local racist Klansman is the killer obvious to all. But no conviction from the all white jury. Years later, the case is re-opened and the politically motivated prosecutor is intent on convicting the accused and achieving a long overdue justice. The trial reunites several old friends from their high school years in the small, southern, college town where the murder occurred. . . Mr. Thompson skillfully weaves into his plot line serious issues of race relations, desegregation of the southern public schools and the “urban renewal” wave that ultimately decimated hundreds of older, established neighborhoods to the profit and benefit of a privileged few.”–Amazon Book Reviewer
“A complex novel that switches perspective to give the reader a chance to glimpse the world through a variety of eyes and opinions, A Hollow Cup travels back and forth in time between the youth of the main characters in the 1960’s and their actions in the present day of 1991, illustrating the racial tension of each time. Alan Thompson’s readers will enjoy the geographical treasure hunt as the author describes his characters’ forays throughout the fictional town of New Hope, which bears a great many similarities to Chapel Hill.”–Elizabeth Debold, Read North Carolina Novels
“Alan Thompson grew up in Chapel Hill, NC during the tumultuous 1960’s and has written a book that vibrantly brings those days back to life. A Hollow Cup juxtaposes the racial turmoil of the time with a murder mystery and high school life, and will resonate with anyone who knew Chapel Hill at the time.” Charlie Mann, Chapel Hill Memories
A Hollow Cup on NPR: To hear Alan Thompson’s October 21, 2011 interview on the NPR program, “The State of Things,” go to http://wunc.org/post/hollow-cup
“A Hollow Cup is a riveting legal thriller with the backdrop of race and friendship, highly recommended.”–Midwest Book Review
“Alan Thompson has a great talent for painting pictures with his words. A Hollow Cup is a poignant novel that couples an interesting murder mystery with a realistic description of what it was like to “come of age” in the South during the early days of integration. . . We become part of an interesting set of conflicts between black and white, town and gown, and rich and poor. A young black woman is murdered and the prime suspect is a good ole white boy from the poor side of town. The crime goes unsolved and unpunished for three decades. It takes the legal talents of Pete Johnson to piece together clues that he discovers while reconnecting with a past love and reliving the events that are the center of this book. A great beach read and a nice first novel.”–Amazon Book Reviewer
“The action takes place in the small Southern town of New Hope . . . A Hollow Cup is a tale of racial tension, politics and murder. The younger protagonists attend high school or college. The adult population has more than a few rogues and villains among their number . . . They investigate the case and unearth many dark secrets, and after many red herrings, we finally learn the true identity of the killer.”–Review the Book
“Mr. Thompson does a great job with his debut novel, providing depth and detail to the characters that make A Hollow Cup the story that it is. You’ll feel like you walked in the shoes of Pete Johnson and Luke Stanley, and you’ll appreciate their journey all the more when the murderer of Lilah Freedman is revealed.”–Reader Views
“Mr. Thompson has pulled off a difficult trick. He has blended memories of his own coming of age experience in Chapel Hill, NC with the historical details of desegregation and tossed in a fictional murder mystery for good measure! The mid-section of the book which relates details of dancing class, larking around town, football games and the pursuit of girls is by far the most compelling but the other elements are well connected and the plot works very well. A Hollow Cup is a pleasant read even if you have never been to Chapel Hill. If you have lived in Chapel Hill, you will love the puzzles on every page! A wonderful first effort.”–Amazon Book Reviewer
“I am a UNC graduate so the Chapel Hill setting drew me to Alan Thompson’s recent novel. A good page turner that weaves actual events, people and names with strong contributions from the author’s creative mind. If you like a read with lots of twists and turns, you should enjoy this one!”–Amazon Book Reviewer
“Black separatist movements, the politics and educational impact of various social and racial programs, opportunities to divide or unite, and threats to the status quo all collide . . . Readers who appreciate blends of legal process and social issues, especially novels about racism’s lasting impact on individuals and communities, will relish this book’s hard-hitting attention to two lives changed by an investigation into past events.”—Diane Donovan, Donovan’s Shelf