Author's Corner with Todd C. Peppers, co-author of CROSSING THE RIVER STYX
Crossing the River Styx

Welcome back to the UVA Press Author's Corner! Here, we feature conversations with the authors of our latest releases to provide a glimpse into the writer's mind, their book's main lessons, and what’s next for them. We hope you enjoy these inside stories.

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Today, we are happy to bring you our conversation with Todd C. Peppers, co-author of CROSSING THE RIVER STYX:The Memoir of a Death Row Chaplain.

What inspired you to write this book? 

First, I wanted to co-author this book in order to pull back the curtain and show the reader the hidden world of death row; I firmly believe that most people who support capital punishment have no idea of the moral, economic and human cost of state-sanctioned death. Second of all, I wanted to tell the story of Russ Ford - a wonderful human being who dedicated himself to the men of the row.

What did you learn and what are you hoping readers will learn from your book? 

I want the readers to learn how the death penalty hurts so many people - from the condemned men and their families to the spiritual advisors who are often the only loving face present on death row and in the death house. And I hope the readers understand what Sister Helen Prejean has often observed about capital punishment - it is easy to kill a monster but hard to kill a human being.

What surprised you the most in the process of writing your book? 

My biggest surprise came from working with Russ Ford. Every time I thought that I'd "heard it all" in terms of the brutality of the death penalty, Russ would come up with another example.

What’s your favorite anecdote from your book?

Severely mentally disabled death row inmate Morris Mason telling Russ Ford, shortly before he entered the execution chamber, to tell the rest of the men on the row that he was going to beat them at basketball after he was "done here." Morris didn't even comprehend the consequences of being executed.

What’s next? 

I'm in the early stages of doing research for a biography of Chief Justice Warren Burger.

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