Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves:
Odds & Ends
Any author makes mistakes, and careful readers will find some in this book. (Someday I might post the errors I’m aware of.) One of my mistakes was fundamental—the title. The book is a seriously intended work of history, but I thought I ought to choose a title that would not sound too academic; I did not want to put off non-specialist readers and I did want to deflect charges that I was posing as a credentialed historian.
The title, I now believe, fails to do what a title must do, which is to accurately suggest the book inside. When he was asked to review it, David Joens, the director of the Illinois State Archives, admitted he expected a collection of anecdotes. How many other browsers chose not to pick it up for the same reason?
Rejected cover designs. The background image that appears in the covers left and center is an 1884 bird's-eye map of Mattoon, Illinois, that I found in the Library of Congress collection. The foregrounded corn plants are a survivor of the cover on the right, the initial design that I rejected on grounds that another photo of ripening corn is the last thing that will excite mid-Illinoisans to buy a book.
Among the titles I considered and rejected were:
North of Egypt, South of Gomorrah
Adrift in the Corn Latitudes
The Corn Latitudes: A Plain-Spoken History Of Illinois’s Midsection
In the Middle of Everywhere
Flatville Annals: An Interesting History of an Uninteresting Place
Oh well. At least I spelled my own name right on the cover.
To my regret, I did not include an acknowledgement page. Jeffrey Quilter, of late the director of Harvard's Peabody Museum, is owed a thank you for his review of my drafts about presettlement peoples; Jeff made it a better book and me a wiser author.
Karl Kageff, top editor at Southern Illinois University Press, was sage enough to see a book where other academic press editors did not, and SIUP's Wayne Larsen improved the manuscript in every way.
Mainly, I owe thanks to the taxpayers of Illinois, Oregon, and California for their support for public libraries, and to the members of the Illinois State Historical society past and present, for their support for the society's scholarly journal.