If you ask William Rawlings where he lives, you will likely be told “in the Center of the Universe.” The thought comes from Lewis Thomas, the talented physician, scientist and essayist who compared a writer’s world to a universe swirling around the tip of his pen. Indeed, for an author and a physician, there are few richer sources of inspiration than that of a small, rural Southern town.
Rawlings was born, raised and still lives on the family farm in Sandersville, Georgia, where he is the son, grandson, nephew and brother to physicians who have served the area for more than a century. He was educated at Emory University in Oxford and Atlanta, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society. He earned his Doctorate in Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans. Completing his postgraduate medical training in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he returned to Sandersville to practice medicine with his father. He has received numerous awards and accolades over the years, including the award of an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Mercer University in 2011.
Writing is an interest that developed relatively late. “Unlike a number of other authors, I didn’t grow up with a burning desire to be a writer.” Rawlings says. “But sometimes you have a story that just needs to be told, and so I hammered out my first book. To my great surprise, it was quite successful, and now writing occupies much of my free time.” Working first in the genre of “Southern suspense,” his first five novels were commercially successful, earning positive reviews and interest from Hollywood. More recently he has turned to writing non-fiction, for the most part Southern history, and is an occasional contributor to newspapers and magazines.
A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff (Mercer University Press, 2013), Rawlings’s first non-fiction book, is in part the tale of an infamous 1925 murder, and in part a history of the crash of the cotton economy in Georgia in the 1920s, an even that forever changed the demographics, economics and politics of the state. The book was commercially successful, going through a second hard cover printing before being released in a softcover edition. it was named Finalist in History for the Georgia Author of the Year Awards in 2014.
Rawlings's next non-fiction book, The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire (Mercer University Press, 2016), is a definitive history of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s. The Klan was, for a brief moment in time, one of the most powerful social and political organizations in the United States, boasting as many as five million members. "It's a fascinating study in sociology," Rawlings says, "and the Klan's self-destructive decline was as rapid as its rise to power."
The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution, Rawlings’s eighth book, was released by Mercer Press in late summer 2017. It is an anthology of shorter pieces on Southern history, ranging from the governmental corruption that led to the Great Yazoo Fraud and the Pine Barrens Speculation of the 1790s, to the abortive uprising of freed slaves in the 1870s with the intention to set up a black republic in Georgia, to the fictitious discovery of oil in the state after World War I.
With his ninth book, Rawlings returns to his writing roots with a mystery set in Savannah titled The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, published by Mercer Press in September 2019. Six Inches Deeper, a truer-crime account of a horrific murder that took place in south Georgia in 1972 was published in 2020. The spring of 2021 saw the publication of Lighthouses of the Georgia Coast, an illustrated history of the state's five existing lighthouses, important structures in Georgia's maritime and economic history. This book was awarded the Finalist in History honor for the 2022 Georgia Author of the Year Awards.
Rawlings's 2022 book, The Columbus Stocking Strangler, is a nonfiction true-crime account of the infamous Columbus Strangler, a serial killer who terrorized the city of Columbus, Georgia in the late 1970s. Rawlings says "It's a saga that spans nearly half a century, and certainly one of the most complex and complicated writing projects I've ever undertaken. With that said, it's also one of the most fascinating, with unexpected twists and turns that rival those of a crime novel."
2023 brought a new novel of Southern suspense, Crypto, featuring John Wesley O'Toole, the disbarred-attorney-turned-art-dealer protagonist of The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes. The third book in in the series in which O'Toole is the major character, The Garden of Earthly Delights, will be released by Mercer University Press in 2024. O'Toole, ever the hapless character, makes up his mind to ask his long-term girlfriend, Jenna, to marry him. As is usual with his luck, things go downhill, very badly so.
Outside of his literary career, Rawlings has multiple business interests, as well as an addiction to travel, especially in Central and South America. “I think I inherited that from my grandfather, a country doctor who had a real fascination with Latin America and traveled there many times from the 1930s through the 1950s,” he said.
Rawlings is married to the former Elizabeth Dunwody of Macon. They have two daughters, both of whom have chosen to pursue a career in law. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he divides his time between attending to his business interests, travel and writing.
As an author, Rawlings welcomes and encourages feedback (both positive and negative) from his readers. "I appreciate other opinions and always try to answer letters and emails promptly." He enjoys giving talks and presentations to civic and book clubs, historical societies and other groups. Feel free to contact him by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), by phone at 478-232-8599, or by mail at Post Office Box 737, Sandersville, Georgia 31082.