The Sin Warriors: Bringing A Dark, Dangerous Era To Life

(MediaQuire) Jacksonville, FL – It doesn’t take much to destroy careers, pull families apart and ruin lives. As author Julian Earl Farris states: “A mix of ignorance and hatred, combined with an insatiable lust for power, will suffice.  And in Florida, circa 1958, that unholy mix fermented in the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, a.k.a. the Johns Committee.”

Family bonds, created by blood and by choice, bring both acceptance and redemption in Julian Farris’s new novel, The Sin Warriors (Lethe Press), a drama that unfolds against a backdrop of bigotry and intolerance, and based on actual events that follow a McCarthy-era demagogue who uses the threat of Communism to persecute homosexuals and ruin the lives of Florida college students and employees.

“Using blackmail, intimidation and coercion, the Johns Committee—led by segregationist state senator Charley Eugene Johns—managed to ‘disappear’ more than 300 suspected homosexual students, faculty and administrators from Florida’s public colleges, universities and schools,” says Farris.

The author uses the treachery of that time to explore themes of self-knowledge, love, loyalty and resilience. In The Sin Warriors, echoes of the past come to life in the form of Billy Sloat, a small-town Florida politician who climbs to statewide office over the backs of the disenfranchised and disfavored. Exploiting the fears and mistrust of his constituents, Sloat launches a McCarthy-era witch hunt targeting gays and lesbians in academia under the premise that these “weak links” could be used by communists to infiltrate schools and corrupt students.  Caught in the maelstrom, student David Ashton, another product of small town Florida, and his friends try to preserve their integrity and their futures.

In rich detail, Farris recounts a coming-of-age story in which families—the ones we’re born to and the ones we make for ourselves—create the supports by which men and women stand or stumble. As in the real Johns Committee scandal, while some characters in the book fold under the oppression of Sloat and his henchmen, some carry scars into the future, and others emerge sadder and stronger.

Under pressure from historians, in 1993 the archives of the Johns Committee investigations and hearings were made public and redacted copies of the documents can be found in the Florida State Archives. Before writing his book, Farris spent months “combing those documents and interviewing survivors of Florida’s gay purge.” As evidenced by the many rave reviews, the result is a moving, entertaining read, but it also includes a story that needs to be told.

Julian Farris earned an M. A. in English and Humanities at Florida State University and later taught humanities, became an avid sailor, environmentalist and animal rights advocate. He resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his life partner and two rescue cats. Julian is currently working on a second novel, Families and Other Strangers.

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The Gay Lesbian Review, Worldwide: “[Novel]…captures the anti-homosexual hysteria of the 1950’s and early 60’s. The activities of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee whose mandate was to find “subversives,” including “homosexuals,” form the backdrop for this dramatic story about persecution. This subject matter is the stuff of melodrama, but Farris handles it with understated skill. [Characters] are more memorable than their circumstances…resilient and easy to like…worth reading…It shows how far the social and legal status of GLBT people has come in approximately 50 years…when sexual minorities were openly persecuted, sometimes to death, by every major institution.”

Scott Cranin, TLA Entertainment: “…wonderful new book…had the great pleasure of being able to read an early version of this historical novel set…it’s a terrific read…A window into a past that we need to see to understand where we are today.”

Elliott Mackle, author of the Captain Harding series: “A sizzling tale of closeted corruption, McCarthyite intimidation, ruined lives, state-sponsored pornography, a professor-student love affair, and down-and-dirty politics under the moss-draped oaks of the Sunshine State.”

Sandra McDonald, Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Diana Comet: ”Farris exposes with a passion the cruel inequalities of Florida’s past…A touching story rich in historical details, in the process.”

Thomas Serwatka, author, Queer Questions, Clear Answers: “What Stockett’s The Help did to bring alive individual stories of race in the South in early 1960s, Farris’s Sin Warriors does to illuminate the personal and political battles surrounding sexual orientation during the same era. A truly unforgettable read.”