Vanderbilt Lawyer - Volume 37, Number 1

A Novel Idea

Kip Gayden's first novel, released in February, is a historical fiction hit.

by Grace Renshaw
Miscarriage of Justice

Judge Hamilton "Kip" Gayden, '64, stumbled upon the sensational, real-life murder at the center of his recently released novel, Miscarriage of Justice, when a genealogist friend discovered the story while conducting research in the Tennessee state archives. Knowing that Judge Gayden, who sits in the First Circuit Court in Nashville, was interested in writing historical fiction, the friend copied three news reports about a love-triangle murder that happened in Gallatin, Tennessee, to pass along.

Despite the fact that the murder and the ensuing trial provided grist for lurid headlines for months during 1913, Gayden had never heard anything about it, and neither had any of the local historians he consulted. Inspired by the idea that a love-triangle murder that had shocked Nashville for months in 1913 was now completely forgotten, Gayden decided to research the incident. "One particular headline in the Tennessean got my attention," he recalls. "It combined the words 'Women's Suffrage' and 'Sensational Killing.'"

Miscarriage of Justice is actually Gayden's second novel. His first novel, To Circle the Cross, was published in 1986. But he had written no fiction in more than 20 years, and was encouraged to try his hand at historical fiction only after a friend who found his idea compelling brought his idea to the attention of an editor at the Hachette Book Group (formerly Time-Warner Books), who promptly offered him a contract. Hatchette published Gayden's novel through its Center Street Books group. Released in February 2008, Miscarriage of Justice immediately racked up a lengthy list of five-star recommendations from enthusiastic readers.

Gayden emphasizes that Miscarriage of Justice is a work of fiction. "I was particularly interested in the way this murder case played out against the backdrop of the campaign for suffrage," he says. "Women had a lot less power a century ago, and if you lost your reputation, you lost everything." However, he also stresses that the murder of a crass barber and the trial of the beautiful young woman with whom he was having an affair, the wife of a prominent doctor and city alderman, is based on the actual events in 1913. The state sought the death penalty in the case, and Gayden delivers the same surprise verdict in the novel. "Many of the scenes are fictitious, but they're based on reasonable extension of events as reported in the newspapers. I remained faithful to the characters and events as they actually happened," Gayden says. "The events describing the suffrage movement in Tennessee are also factual."

Gayden unearthed more than 50 articles about the case published in local papers and worked with Allen Haynes, curator of the Trousdale Museum in Gallatin, to recreate the town as it existed in 1913. "At first I thought the story would be a good subject for a law-related article," he says. "I broadened my goal to write a novel because this was a uniquely sensational case that dealt with power, money, romance, adultery and murder involving prominent people during a tumultuous period in our nation's history."