Reviews for Dead Weight

The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC
Review by: Bill Thompson
September 5, 2010

The South Carolina Center for the Book has announced that Batt Humphreys of Charleston is the 2010 recipient of its Palmetto Book Award for excellence in writing.

This is the latest literary award garnered by the debut novelist, whose "Dead Weight" is based on the true story of the State vs. Daniel Duncan. The book details the 1910 trial, conviction and execution of Daniel "Nealy" Duncan, a young black man accused of murder on the eve of his wedding. more...

The Midwest Book Review
August 8, 2010

No matter how serene a town can be, in the blink of an eye, it can turn hideous quick. “Dead Weight” tells the story of how turn-of-the-twentieth-century Charleston, South Carolina gets such a radical change. When murder strikes, racial prejudices flare, as the town is brought into a conflict between its black, white, and Jewish communities. Based on true events, Batt Humphreys crafts a riveting tale that is sure to intrigue and entertain, making “Dead Weight” a top pick.

Dew on the Kudzu
August 3, 2010

I want to say from the start - I loved this book! The writing just grabs you and sucks you in immediately. The wording is smooth, catchy, witty, yet still with purpose in it's tone.

The story starts with elegant phrasing that could turn dull if continued for a long period of time but by the second page the dialogue starts and you realize what you are reading is a very witty reporter who thinks out loud, making the pretty phrasing of the first page. more...

Review by: Anne W. Bellew
June 23, 2010

It’s interesting… the difference in the writing style of a novel by a long-time news-journalist and that of someone who’s always been a fiction writer. Or at least I think there is.
Both can tell a compelling story, but somehow, there’s an element of fact inherent from the beginning in the way a journalist presents his/her plot. Whether or not this would be recognizable without pre-knowing that the author is/was a news-journalist, of course, I can’t tell you. To me it was the manner, the air, if you will, in the introduction and recording of the data in Batt Humphreys’ award-winning ”Dead Weight” (2009, Joggling Board Press) that I found different and quite compelling. more...

Reviews on E-book
June 13, 2010
Mary Ake Smoak on June 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm

"I am surprized that there has not been more attention given to this book. The injustice that happened to Daniel Duncan is haunting, especially when we now know that many people behind bars even today were innocent and not released until the science of DNA freed them. This injustice is easier to digest when placed in a time that seems far away and not applicable to us at this time. I picked this book up on a whim-and I am very glad I did.” more...

The Star Cleveland County, NC
Review by: Jessica Pickens
June 4, 2010

In the past year, Humphreys is enjoying success with his novel “Dead Weight” and was recently invited to talk about the book on the CBS’s “Early Show.”
“One of the anchors is a close friend, read the book and liked it,” Humphreys said. “She thought the story had merit and was worth putting on the air. Getting authors on shows doesn’t happen as much as it used to. There is a perception that people aren’t reading anymore.” more...

CBS Early Show
Interview with Julie Chen
May 26, 2010

Dead Weight, the true crime story by first-time novelist Batt Humphreys, made its network television debut on The Early Show on CBS the same week the author was honored at three national book awards ceremonies during Book Expo America (BEA) in New York.” click to view video


Independent Mail
Review by: Marybeth Evans
May 16, 2010

There once was a man named Daniel Cornelius Duncan. His employer, the baker Rudolph Geilfuss, called him Daniel. His father, friends, and Ida Lampkin, his bride-to-be, called him Nealy.
Police officer W.H. Stanley called him a prisoner. Prosecutor John Peurifoy called him a murderer. The city of Charleston called him condemned. Newspaper reporter Hal Hinson, of the New York Tribune, called him a black messiah.

“Dead Weight” is a debut novel written by Batt Humphreys. A native of Georgia who grew up in New York and Canada, he was a TV reporter in Charleston before working as a senior producer for CBS News for 15 years. You’ve unknowingly heard news commentators speak his words. You saw the results of his behind-the-scenes work if you followed the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq on CBS. more...

Chapter 16
Review by: Paul V. Griffith
April 7, 2010

In the summer of 1910 the Charleston police arrested Daniel Cornelius "Nealy" Duncan, a black man, for the murder of a Jewish merchant. In spite of his court-appointed attorney's Atticus Finch-like efforts, Duncan was found guilty by a kangaroo court and was hanged. By all accounts an upright citizen, Duncan was to be married five days after his alleged crime. He went to his grave calmly declaring his innocence. In Dead Weight, former CBS News producer Batt Humphreys fills the gaps in Duncan's story. By turns a romance, mystery, courtroom drama and history lesson, Dead Weight is a novel that makes the most of its exhaustive research and Humphreys' seemingly natural ability to spin a nail-biting yarn. more...

Salisbury Post
Review by: Deirdre Parker Smith
February 14, 2010

In "Dead Weight," Humphreys tells of Daniel "Nealy" Duncan, a hard-working, forward-looking young black man who's preparing for his wedding to sweet Ida.

In a perfect case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Nealy is accused of murdering a Jewish merchant.

Using transcripts from the actual trial, the author inserts fictional Hal Hinson from the New York Tribune to tell Nealy's story. more...


AP Featured News
Review by: Jeffrey Collins
January 17, 2010

In Charleston, an author is trying to get officials to say a black man convicted of killing a white clothing store owner in 1911 was railroaded by police desperate to solve the crime.

The Evening Post newspaper proclaimed it "the most dastardly and sensational crime that has happened in Charleston in several years." Investigators questioned a half-dozen blacks and offered a $750 reward but couldn't find a suspect until two weeks later, when the shopkeeper's widow was attacked in the same store. Two white men grabbed Daniel "Nealy" Duncan, who was walking near the store as the woman staggered out. more...


The Pilot, Southern Pines, NC
Review by: Kay Grismer
October 21, 2009

On Sunday, August 28, the “Great Storm of 1911” hit Charleston, the worst hurricane prior Hugo in 1989. Seventeen people were killed. Property losses exceeded one million dollars. High tides and winds of 106 miles per hour drove salt water into the low country rice fields, destroying so many dykes that the rice industry never recovered.
For some in the black community, that “Night of Terror” was divine retribution for the execution the month before of Daniel Cornelius “Nealy” Duncan by the state of South Carolina, a man they believed was innocent of murder. For them the hurricane would forever be known as “The Duncan Storm.” more...


Charleston City Paper, Charleston, SC
Review by: Jon Santiago
September 16, 2009

More than anything else, a city is an idea. An idea powerful enough to declare itself in iron, timber, and stone, and arrogant enough to push those declarations up against the sky so that the city may cast its own light and shadow among the souls it shelters. A city absorbs the lives of its inhabitants. It outlives them. And it never forgets what it has been.

In Batt Humphreys' novel, Dead Weight, the city of Charleston emerges from this fictionalized account of a racial tragedy as a vital character in its own right: proud, resilient, and beautiful — much like the resourceful women New York Tribune reporter Hal Hinson encounters almost from the moment he sets foot in the city. more...


Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC
Review by: Pam Kelley
August 10, 200

Sometimes, facts are the best source of fiction. Batt Humphreys' “Dead Weight,” a new novel set in 1910 Charleston, stems from a tragic true story... Humphreys, a former CBS News senior producer who now lives Charleston, used newspaper and trial accounts to research this story... But he also adds characters. To bring an outsider's perspective, Humphreys creates New York Tribune reporter Hal Hinson, who arrives in town to cover the trial. He also gives Hal a love interest – Randy Dumas, the smart, beautiful woman who also happens to own the city's brothels more...

Beaufort Gazette, Beaufort, SC
Review by: David Lauderdale
August 4, 2009

"Humphreys.. sees to it that no moss clings to the Charleston murder story. He reveals it to be a Shakespearean love story for the accused.. And through a fictitious New York City reporter who falls in with a beautiful woman and a little hustler from the Jenkins Orphanage, the tale strays well beyond court transcripts. It's not every book that includes a torrid cemetery scene, but somehow it fits the flirtatious grande dame we still know and love as Charleston. The scenarios are as true to the Lowcountry as alligators sunning on rice dikes and the clearly defined racial boundaries that survived the Civil War." more...

Additional Praise for Dead Weight

“A stunning story, masterfully told. This is historical sleuthing with a journalist's eye: real people and a real tragedy.”

— Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author


“Batt Humphreys brings both a reporter's gift for research and a novelist's

imagination to his vivid recreation of 1910 Charleston and one of that city's most

shameful episodes of racial injustice.”

— Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Saints at the River

“Compelling and satisfying, Dead Weight is a moving historical novel, a heart-pounding legal thriller and a poignant love story. Batt Humphreys debuts with a memorable and beautifully written book which illustrates the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.”

— Mary Jane Clark, New York Times bestselling author of It Only Take a Moment