Brock, Pope 1950(?)-
BROCK, Pope 1950(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1950; married; wife's name, Susan (a televison news producer); children: Hannah, Molly (twins).
ADDRESSES: Home—Chappequa, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
CAREER: Freelance journalist. Formerly worked as an actor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Players Club Award.
Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in anAmerican Family, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Pope Brock was a journalist with many years of writing behind him before he wrote his first full-length book, the story of a family secret revealed to him by his dying great-aunt Ruth. An Entertainment Weekly contributor noted that although Brock's Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in an American Family "is presented as nonfiction, it reads like a much darker, adult version of Little House on the Prairie." Washington Post writer David C. Frederick called the novelized family history "a book that both engrosses and disturbs."
Brock's account follows the lives of his great-grandfather, Ham Dillon, who was married to Maggie, and Ham's brother in law Link Hale, who was married to Maggie's sister, Allie. Ham, a farmer and up-and-coming politician, is comfortable in his marriage, but he finds passion with Allie during her stay at his home in Indiana. They conduct a secret love affair, and Ham goes so far as to find his brother in law a job nearby, so that Link and Allie can move from Kentucky. Allie eventually has a son by Ham, and the child bears a strong resemblance to his natural father. Ham and Allie want only to be together; meanwhile, Link's doubts about his son's paternity lead him to take revenge by murdering Ham. Link pleads temporary insanity, and the sensational murder trial becomes the focus of the small Midwest town.
In writing his book, Brock traveled to Indiana to research his family's past. He drew on newspaper clippings a cousin of his had obtained, and he interviewed living family members. Brock was aided in composing his scenes and dialogue by the fact that he had worked as a professional actor in New York City and was still involved with the stage. He noted in an essay posted on the Random House Web site that "there was something about writing of my ancestors too, that gave me the feeling that I had the right to make sort of blood guesses at psychology and motivation with (probably spurious) confidence. It was as if I knew these people in my forearms and my bones. Imagination meets archeology." "There were two main things driving me through the writing," Brock added. "One was simply to explode the family secret. There was something cathartic about that. The other was finding my way through the hybrid of fiction and nonfiction that the book gradually became. I had never tried to do anything like that before, and it was fascinating."
In concluding his review of Indiana Gothic Frederick noted that although the themes contained in Brock's book "inspire no joy in the reader," the volume "nonetheless is well worth reading for the skillfully drawn narrative, the vivid portrayal of characters who remind us of our own foibles, and the picture of life in turn-of-the-[twentieth-]century rural America. In confronting the shame of his family's past, Pope Brock has risen above it to shine a light on the darkness within all of us." New York Times critic Andrea Higbie also thought highly of the work, writing that Brock's "unveiling of the inevitable affair and the just-as-inevitable murder is as elegantly wrought as the finest of fiction."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in an American Family, p. 1099.
Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 1999, review of Indiana Gothic, p. 58.
Guardian (Manchester, England), June 10, 1999, Michael Ellison, review of Indiana Gothic, p. T8.
Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Brooks D. Simpson, review of Indiana Gothic, p. 114.
New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1999, Andrea Higbie, review of Indiana Gothic, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1999, review of IndianaGothic, p. 53.
Washington Post, June 24, 1999, David C. Frederick, review of Indiana Gothic, p. C2.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (December 8, 2004), Pope Brock, "Writing Indiana Gothic."*