All her life, Susan Hyde heard only whispers of the 1936 murder trial that rocked her small, sleepy town of Cooper, Texas. Most of the court records were lost over the years, she says, and no one really knows the truth. It provided the perfect backdrop for “A Listing Wind,” Hyde’s historical fiction novel based on real people, juxtaposing a murder mystery against a tragic love story. One narrative follows the case of a woman, Arley Mae Dodgen, accused of poisoning her children to death. Hyde’s uncle served as the defense attorney who led the jury to find her not guilty. After the trial, Dodgen lived quietly amid cold stares from townsfolk who were certain of her guilt. “I probably passed her on the street,” Hyde says of her years growing up in Cooper. The other story chronicles the relationship between her cousin, Clayton Dade, a doctor who moves to Cooper to start his own practice. He meets Frances “Frankie” Garner — the love of his life. Their union meets a heartbreaking end when Frankie dies unexpectedly. “I wanted to pose the question to readers, ‘Why do some people die and some people don’t?’ ” Hyde says. “That’s interesting to me.” Hyde had moved away from Cooper to build her own life in Irving and later Lake Highlands, where she has lived for 12 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and two master’s degrees in urban affairs. Now, she’s working on a children’s book, inspired by her 4-year-old granddaughter, about taking better care of the environment. She’s also writing part two of “A Listing Wind.” So, how did Hyde’s uncle free a woman who was widely dubbed an emotionless sociopath? He argued that the arsenic found in the children’s bodies after they were exhumed was probably from farming chemicals that had seeped into the ground and through the coffins. “You don’t know,” Hyde says. “The jury knew something or felt something that we’re not privy to.”
Learn more about neighborhood author Susan Hyde and “A Listing Wind” at susanhyde.com.