When she was a student at Kentucky Wesleyan College, Amy Bellamy discovered the story of Rainey Bethea, the last person publicly executed in the United States.

And the fact that the hanging was in Owensboro on Aug. 14, 1936, made a deep impression on her.

Deep enough that Bellamy recently wrote a novel, "Waverly," about the hanging.

It's available on Amazon.com.

"I've always been interested in this case," Bellamy said. "It sounds like it should be a movie. I wrote a memoir in 2012. But I have always wanted to write a novel."

She went to the Daviess County Public Library and read the newspaper accounts in the Messenger-Inquirer and other newspapers.

"I read the trial transcript," Bellamy said. "I was trying to be true to what really happened. I was driving around downtown, trying to find out what buildings were where in 1936. It was driving me crazy. And I know some people whose relatives were involved and how sensitive they still are about it. So I changed the story."

She said, "I approached it as what if it didn't really happen that way. The book is historical fiction/mystery. It's a very different story. But it still has a lot of the elements of the actual case."

In the novel, Sarah Harper, a young law student is searching for a topic for a report for a legal ethics class in 2006 and discovers that the last public execution was in her hometown of Waverly.

So, she investigates the 70-year-old case.

"It's set in both 2006 and 1936," Bellamy said.

Book signing scheduled

The book, she said, is "doing pretty well. I have a book signing scheduled at the library from noon to 2 p.m. on April 27.

Since the book is fiction, Bellamy changed the city's name from Owensboro to Waverly.

"I wanted a name that sounded Southern," she said.

Later, she discovered that there is a Kentucky town named Waverly in Union County.

She also changed Bethea to "Daniel Porter."

Bellamy, an Ohio County native, taught language arts at Owensboro Middle School North for 12 years.

Last year, she was named Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Kentucky Council of Teachers in English.

And a few months later, Bellamy was named literacy coach for Owensboro Public Schools.

"My students are excited," she said. "There are a lot of little things that people wouldn't believe actually happened. I think people who grew up here have heard about the hanging, but most don't really know much about it."

Bellamy said, "When I first heard about it, my mind was blown."

She said after she researched the case, she put it away for two years.

"I wrote the novel in one month during the summer when I was off," Bellamy said. "And then, I spent the next year and a half editing it and getting it finished. My goal was 50,000 words. It turned out to be a little over 65,000."

She's a past participant in the Western Kentucky Writing Project and an active member of the Owensboro Writers Group.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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