Two retired William Woods University professors have united their talents to produce the third edition of “The Red Lights of Hell,” a book of 10 short stories based on the life experiences of Dr. Florence Phyfer Krause, professor emeritus of English.
Joining Krause in this endeavor was Dr. Clarence Wolfshohl, another professor emeritus of English and owner of Timberline Press, a small but well-respected printing press based in Fulton, Mo. Krause retired in 2000, after teaching 29 years at William Woods. Wolfshohl retired five years later, after 24 years at WWU.
Krause and Wolfshohl began their publication collaboration in 1999, when Timberline Press published the first edition of “The Red Lights of Hell,” which included four stories. The books sold out quickly, so a second edition was released in 2000, adding two additional stories. The third edition has added four more, all inspired by Krause’s Mississippi experience during the Depression and World War II.
“The book is a series of stories about growing up in the South during the Great Depression,” Krause said. “I’ve always been a writer, and I thought this would be a good time period to write about…it was quite different from the years after that.”
She added, “People of my generation really like it because they can relate to it, but students that I have taught have liked it through the years, too. I enjoyed writing it, and I read it over myself every so often. I enjoy reading it, too,” she said.
The professors knew each other for years before working together on a book. As chair of the English department, Krause was actually the one who interviewed Wolfshohl when he applied to teach at William Woods in 1981. Wolfshohl had started Timberline Press in 1975, but he published mostly poetry before Krause’s books.
“What I’ve always liked about her stories were the very definite sense of place and time they evoke and the entertaining characters,” he said. “They reminded me of the fiction of other Southern writers like Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. Critics refer to such characters and situations as Southern grotesque, not that the South has a monopoly on the grotesque. I grew up in Texas with such people, and I always found them humorous. And above all, Dr. Krause’s stories are funny.”
Knowing that the book is amusing, people might wonder about its title. Krause explained that the name of the book comes from one of the stories found inside. In that particular story, an evangelist is preaching to a crowd; “The Red Lights of Hell” is the title of his sermon.
It may be the book’s namesake, but “The Red Lights of Hell”is not Krause’s favorite story. Her personal preference is “The Crackerjack Jesus,” which was “written about a black woman who worked for us.”
Krause said that first and foremost, she wants to entertain her readers. But there are other things she would like them to gain from her stories, as well.
“I want them to get an appreciation for life as it was in the 30s and early 40s when we were in the Depression, a sense of history and knowledge about the way the black people were treated in the South,” she said.
Wolfshohl says this third edition wasn’t just a two-way collaboration. He credits his wife for her help.
“When Florence [Krause] had the new stories ready to begin the production process last year, I was too busy with a couple of other books. My wife, Patricia, volunteered to do the layout and composition to get the book print ready,” said Wolfshohl.
Full of memorable characters and humor, the book sells for $7.50 (plus $2.50 for postage) and may be ordered from Timberline Press, 6281 Red Bud, Fulton, MO 65251.
The cover of “The Red Lights of Hell,” written by Dr. Florence Phyfer Krause and published by Dr. Clarence Wolfshohl, William Woods University professors emeriti of English.