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Kentville author's first book inspired by historic murder on the North Mountain

Laura Churchill Duke is expecting her first novel, Two Crows Sorrow: Love And Death On The North Mountain, to be released in October. CONTRIBUTED
Laura Churchill Duke is expecting her first novel, Two Crows Sorrow: Love And Death On The North Mountain, to be released in October. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed
KENTVILLE, N.S. —

Laura Churchill Duke is expecting her first novel, Two Crows Sorrow: Love And Death On The North Mountain, to take flight by Thanksgiving.

This story is a work of creative nonfiction, a tale based on actual events taking place more than 100 years ago in a small community in Kings County. Churchill Duke first fell in love with the tragic story of Theresa Balsor McAuley Robinson while she was working on a script for the Kentville Ghost Walk.

“McAuley Robinson was living on a farm in Burlington when her first husband died, leaving her alone to raise eight children,” she said. “At that time, the law did not yet fully guarantee a woman’s right to own property, so she was in danger of losing her home.”

Churchill Duke describes McAuley Robinson as a strong, independent woman, who did what needed to be done to protect her home and family. She was a woman of strong faith, who was an integral part of her community and also served as a community correspondent, writing news for her local newspaper.

The decision to marry William Robinson may have helped ensure that she could stay in her home, but the choice was not favoured by her children and conflict soon arose between Robinson and her oldest son. In time, their differences escalated into an assault. 

The story turns tragic on May 25, 1904, when the farm house is burned to the ground and McAuley Robinson’s slain body is found inside. This is where Churchill Duke’s imagination picks up the historical pieces and begins to spin a tale of what could have happened.  

 “I thought at the time this would be such a fantastic story, there is so much to learn about this woman,” she said. “I knew it would be the basis of a wonderful novel, if I wrote fiction. But I’m a journalist.”

Cover design by Tamar Marshall. CONTRIBUTED
Cover design by Tamar Marshall. CONTRIBUTED

She added a few years later she was inspired to begin work on the novel after attending a conference and one of the presenters posed the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It took a lot of encouragement and a little over a year until she finished the first draft.

“Everyone was so supportive of the idea,” she said. “My family and friends encouraged me so much, checking in with me. Everyone just told me to write, write, write. And they helped me to find the time and work-life balance to do it.”

Churchill Duke said she spent about a year working on the first draft and countless hours in the archives,  searching through newspaper s and other historical documents to flesh out the story of murder that took place in Burlington in the early 1900s.

“This is not a true story, but the events are true,” she said. “I have based the story on the trial transcripts and allowed my imagination and assumptions to fill in details of what could have taken place. The errors and omissions are mine.”

The book is among the first being published by Moose House Publications, a new publisher based in Annapolis County.

“I’m so excited to work with them,” she said. “They have been so supportive and wonderful. The care and attention they have taken with me to produce the book is amazing.”

Churchill Duke says Two Crows Sorrow: Love And Death On The North Mountain will be launched Oct. 26 in Kentville. It will be available in local book stores, on Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, and online as an ebook.

For more information on the book and the author, visit her website 
www.laurachurchillduke.ca, like her on Facebook,  Laura Churchill Duke Author or follow her on Instagram:  LauraChurchillDuke.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story listed the launch ast Oct. 19. The date has since changed. 

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