Charles Oldham always felt compelled to write a good story, especially about true crime or North Carolina, where his roots stretch back more than two centuries. Raised by a community college professor and a math teacher, Charles developed a special interest in history and politics early as well as a keen eye for mysteries and details waiting to be explored. This interest led him to a career as an attorney. After graduating from Davidson College and then law school at the University of Georgia, he practiced law in Sanford, North Carolina and served a term as President of the Lee County Bar Association. Charles now resides in Charlotte, where, for ten years, he operated a solo legal practice focused on criminal defense and civil litigation.

In his spare time, Charles can be found outdoors—he’s hiked mountains all over the US, from Alaska to Samoa—or spending time with family. Ship of Blood is his second book. His first, The Senator’s Son, was published in 2018. It received several awards, including a Gold Medal from the eLit Book Awards in the true crime category and the North Carolina Society of Historians Book Award, and was a finalist of the International Book Awards’ true crime category and the Book Pipeline Nonfiction Contest.

ABOUT THE BOOK

North Carolina native and lawyer Charles Oldham brings the incredible and unpredictable tale of the Harry A. Berwind fully to life for the first time. 

In October 1905, North Carolina and much of the nation was captivated by the mass murder found aboard the Harry A. Berwind as it sailed the coast of Cape Fear. All four of the ship’s officers had been shot and tossed overboard, one crewman lay dead on the deck, another was chained hand and foot, and the three survivors all had different stories.

The most inflammatory factor that captured the nation: all the murdered officers were white, and the survivors Black.

With North Carolina still reeling from a brutal white supremacist insurrection years before and with Jim Crow laws were firmly in place, all three survivors were found guilty and sentenced to hang. Yet the legal drama went on, defying all other predictions, reaching the Supreme Court and even two presidents. In the end, so many participants—from jurors to lawyers to politicians—acted against the norm to create a bright spot in a long sordid history of race-related stories that was all but forgotten.

TALKING POINTS

  • This and other North Carolina history that has been forgotten and buried
  • A message of hope that justice can prevail, even in the worst circumstances
  • A bright spot in the tragic aftermath of the Wilmington Insurrection
  • First time the Harry A. Berwind incident has been meticulously researched and reviewed
  • The Decks Ran Red—a 1958 big-budget Hollywood retelling that fictionalized everything
  • Parallels between the darkest days of white supremacy in the early 1900s and the BLM movement of today
  • How the present continues to learn from the past

TIMELY TIE-INS

  • March 1 is Zero Discrimination Day
  • March 14 is International Ask a Question Day
  • March 16 is Freedom of Information Day

ADVANCE PRAISE

“An engaging thriller with a surprise ending, . . . Ship of Blood explores racism and justice in a Southern port with a bloody past.” —David Zucchino, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Wilmington’s Lie

“Charles Oldham unspools the complex mystery of guilt or innocence with a deft hand, artfully embedding the events of the crime within the rich history of a region fraught with conflict in an era of deadly social upheaval. A terrific read.” —Philip Gerard, author of Cape Fear Rising and winner of the North Carolina Award for Literature