In Sanctuary, my premier Southern mystery, readers are introduced to the quaint, time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. The story begins as Theo and Liddy Phillips want to relocate and retire back to their country roots, after investing four decades of their lives in the shadows of Atlanta. According to the story, it is Liddy who discovers an advertisement for a quaint Craftsman home that convinced her Shiloh would be a perfect fit for them.
But, it’s what readers sense early as they arrive in Shiloh that draws them into the story? First of all, Shiloh’s reputation paints a tranquil picture about this time-lost town, but like its namesake from biblical lore, reputation and present reality are subject to the whims and shortcomings of men.
Like the Shiloh of old, Sanctuary reveals that the once proud Shiloh had lost its luster and position as the county seat decades earlier. Alexandria, like Jerusalem in biblical lore, surpassed Shiloh as the center of power and influence, leaving the proud people in Shiloh with their beautiful, antebellum courthouse on the town square a victim of progress. According to the story, Alexandria blossomed during the post-WWII boom and expansion in Georgia, while Shiloh stagnated and struggled, like many real-life small towns in South Georgia. Shiloh’s conciliation came in the preserving of its beloved courthouse as it received a facelift and became reconfigured into the town’s city hall. However, the facelift and remodeling of their sesquicentennial courthouse left the edifice’s skeleton of 19th Century hewn timbers and ornate woodwork in tact. Decades later, their beloved historic courthouse would be razed to the ground and steal away the life of a town hero, who rescued others from the growing inferno.
Biblical Shiloh became the first seat of governance once Joshuaand the nation of Israel completed their conquest of the Promised Land. The ark of the covenant and tabernacle that had traveled for forty years found a seemingly permanent resting place in Shiloh. Israel’s priests and judges (leaders) established Shiloh as the central seat in the Promised Land until Israel felt unsettled about the way Israel was governed, and desired to be like the other nations. Not long after Israel turned to the rule of king’s, rather than priests acting on God’s behalf, Shiloh fell victim to King David’s selection of Jerusalem as his site for his palace and the building of the new temple. Shiloh had been burned and ransacked just before David assumed the role of King, but he turned his back on Shiloh and Jerusalem became his choice.
(All that remains of biblical Shiloh in modern Israel.)
The name Shiloh to this day still paints a different picture than the historical reality which its namesakes have experienced. One of the bloodiest and decisive battles fought during the Civil War became known as the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee.
Even the Hebrew origin of the name Shiloh means “place of peace,” but as history revealed, “peace” requires the cooperation of men to live up to the expectation of maintaining peace in their community. The story Sanctuary and its sequel certainly the dichotomy of Shiloh’s reputation and reality of its present state as Theo and Liddy soon discover upon their arrival to Shiloh.