About the Authors
Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin have more than six decades between them at The Philadelphia Inquirer, and both grew up in the Philadelphia area. This book, which was supposed to take about two years to complete, instead took more than seven years and they wouldn’t have minded another year or two.
|Murray Dubin, author of South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner, was a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 34 years before leaving the newspaper in 2005. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Libby Rosof.||Daniel R. Biddle,The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Pennsylvania editor, has worked in nearly every phase of newspaper reporting and editing. His investigative stories on the courts won a Pulitzer Prize and other national awards. He and his wife, Cynthia Roberts, live in Philadelphia.|
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How it Happened
You never know beforehand which are the days that will be momentous. One of those days for Murray was in 1993 while he was doing research at the Library Company of Philadelphia on a book about the history of South Philadelphia. Phil Lapsansky, a Library archivist, suggested he read an academic article about an African American school teacher, civil rights leader and baseball player who lived in South Philadelphia in the mid-1800s. His name was Octavius Catto.
That day changed everything. Murray was surprised and intrigued at the life Catto had led, and disappointed that he had never heard of him before. He recounted Cattos’ life briefly in seven paragraphs in the book South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner, but thought he deserved more.
Eight years later, Catto was still on his mind when he told his Philadelphia Inquirer colleague, Dan Biddle, about his fascination with the obscure civil rights leader. To his shock, Dan knew who Catto was.
Dan had been in a fiction writing workshop and was searching for a subject to write about. His momentous day was when he listened to a radio interview with a local historian who had written a book about 19th century black life in Philadelphia. The historian, Roger Lane, talked about Catto and Dan was intrigued.
He did some research and decided to write not about Catto, but about the man accused of killing him. Little was known about Frank Kelly, but Dan fashioned a childhood and life for Kelly in a compelling short story.
Biddle and Dubin laughed about how curious it was that Catto has come into both of their lives. And they decided to do something about it – perhaps write a book.