Emerging technology brings S.C. stories to life

rburris@thestate.comSeptember 1, 2013 

Technology has come to three well-known South Carolina stories in the form of multimedia e-books – enhanced reading experiences that will be available in stores this week.

The three non-fiction stories – “Charlie’s Place,” “The Legacy of the Orangeburg Massacre,” and “Mill Town Murder” – original works of South Carolina writer/director Frank Beacham, were first published in his 1993 book, “Whitewash.”

Emerging multimedia capability has allowed Beacham to comb back through loads of material he couldn’t put in the original book, including 40 to 50 short videos he produced, more than 1,000 photographs and updates to the text of those stories with new information he uncovered.

“I always knew when I was working on this that I wanted to do some sort of multimedia (presentation), but it was never available,” said Beacham, who has been working on the three stories for more than 10 years.

“When I learned that this (multimedia e-book application) was available and working, I said, this is perfect to tell these stories the way I’ve always wanted to.”

The idea of multimedia e-books, where the reader can put in motion video that is embedded in the text is still very new, Beacham explains.

“In fact, this is the first year that all the platforms (such as the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook) support it,” said Beacham, now living in New York.

As compelling as the new reading experience may be, the technology also presents e-readers with some new decisions to make.

The way the multimedia e-books work is that the reader comes to a photograph with an arrow on it in the copy of the book, and decides either to click on it – or not – at that moment.

If the reader chooses to tap on the photo, it “comes alive” and begins to speak, Beacham said. In some cases it is audio only, in others video, or still photographs with audio, or sometimes just the still photograph.

In all cases, the video, audio, or hyperlink included is supposed to add something extra to the story and the reading experience, demonstrating a point or perhaps conveying emotion that otherwise may have been missed. A sampling of what has been added:

Charlie’s Place explores the origins of South Carolina’s state dance, the Shag, and reveals some of the unheralded interracial happenings that underpin it and South Carolina’s official state music – beach music – at a highly-segregated time in the state’s history.

“Charlie’s Place” was a Myrtle Beach night club in which blacks and whites danced together on the same dance floor, against local norms. Violence got into the mix after the 1950 U.S. Senate contest between Strom Thurmond and Olin D. Johnston, Beacham said.

“Young black and white South Carolinians – in a time of segregation – put their lives on the line to defy the state’s white establishment and create a genuine musical legacy,” Beacham said. “An irony is that South Carolina’s government officials made the shag and beach music the official dance and music of the state without even understanding or noting its remarkable historical significance.”

Beacham’s e-book adds audio and video interviews and clips with people such as Bill Pinkney – a Dalzell native and member of The Drifters -- and others, and is updated by material from FBI records on the subject.

The Legacy of the Orangeburg Massacre is Beacham’s comprehensive inspection of the tragic 1968 killing of three black students at South Carolina State College by nine white S.C. Highway Patrolmen on the campus in Orangeburg.

The Beacham e-book adds interviews with then U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former S.C. Gov. Robert McNair, Cleveland Sellers and others.

“The Orangeburg Massacre is a complex Southern epic that contains the essential elements of the best of Shakespeare’s plays,” Beacham writes. “The continuing silence in the aftermath of the killing is perhaps one of the most revealing and important historical stories of modern South Carolina and (a) very deep dive into the basics of Southern culture.”

Mill Town Murder is very much the personal story of Beacham’s discovery that his grandfather was secretly involved in the 1934 killing of seven mill workers in Honea Path during a textile strike after violence emerged among friends and neighbors.

“When it was over, seven people were dead and 30 others wounded,” Beacham wrote in material promoting the multimedia e-book releases.

“The bloody riot at the town’s cotton mill on that warm Thursday morning (Sept. 6, 1934) shaped the lives of two generations to follow – not because of the shock of what was known, but by what was unknown,” said Beacham.

The e-book adds interviews with Fred Moore, Tom Johnson and others, and introduces a song about the shooting, “Honea Path,” by Matthew Grimm.

The three Beacham multimedia e-books can be accessed at Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, Amazon’s Kindle book store, Apple’s iTunes, the iPad, and most other digital formats for $9.99. The book also can be purchased directly from Beacham’s distributor, New York-based Vook, at http://store.vook.com/ and can be read online there on Macintosh and PC platforms.

“I’m very lucky because, when I started the project (adapting the stories to multimedia e-book presentation), it only worked on the Apple iPad. Now it works on everything,” Beacham said. “The technology is moving so fast.”

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