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FMU Alum publishes true crime thriller

FLORENCE -- Francis Marion University alumni Dale Hudson returned to campus briefly in late January to donate published copies of his first "true crime story" thriller to the James A. Rogers Library for circulation. 

The December 1994 FMU graduate, according to reviews on and, is making headway in the publishing industry as a successful first-time author.  Hudson, a FMU graduate with a Master of Science degree in psychology, in conjunction with Coastal Carolina University psychology professor Billy Hills, had their book published in December, 1999, by McGregor Publishing.

Hills earned a Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of Georgia, and a M.S.W. in 1993 from the University of South Carolina. He is director of the gerontology certificate program at Coastal Carolina University and teaches courses in introductory psychology, psychology of aging, and gerontology. He is involved in a community-based project through the Waccamaw Area Agency on Aging, and his work includes analysis of existing and potential service delivery programs for the elderly in the Grand Strand/Waccamaw region.

"Everything I know about research I learned at FMU," Hudson says.  The book is a factual telling of the murder of Conway resident, Crystal Faye Todd.  His research was to conduct personal interviews, then to track through depositions, court records, coroner reports, and other legal documents to develop the story. 

“True crime stories require accurate research,” Hudson says.  He researched the book part-time for five years, he says.  The product of that research seem to be a sturdy re-telling of the murder, trial, and conviction of another Conway resident.

Hudson and Hills receive e-mails from around the world from folks who say the book is a good one. The pair can be contacted through their book’s website at

With the first crime thriller written and now in print, the two sleuths have signed a book contract to produce five additional true crime books.  The next, Hudson says, is being written and researched, and is due out in “the fall 2000 time frame.”


Hudson, a self-avowed avid fan of true crime stories, decided he could just as easily write that type of story as anyone.

"I said, after reading a few thrillers, ‘I could do that!’”  Hudson said he had the available resources and the best of story plots in the 1991 murder in Horry County.  Hudson is a former owner of nursing homes in the Conway area.  Switching from that business to the business of writing, he says, was easy for him.   

“Most everything in life is communication,” he says, “so switching from communicating with employees and others in the business world to communicating with readers has not been difficult.”

“I’ve been in business all my life, so I just shifted my resources and abilities from one field to another.”  Much of life, and any success in life, Hudson says, is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.  Hudson sacrificed weekends, holidays, and worked 60-plus hours each week while researching and writing the book. He has recently sold the nursing homes and is now writing full-time.

Hudson credits his ability to take on and complete the book project to FMU and the applied clinical psychology degree he earned.  The program is “research and writing and rewriting,” intensive, he says. 

“I attribute any success I may have to the professors at FMU and to the education they helped me obtain,” he says.  He used FMU’s Rogers Library often for research. “By far the resources I needed for writing are right here.”

Hudson plans to be in Florence again in April for a book signing at B. Dalton Book Store in Magnolia Mall.  In donating his books to the campus library, Hudson said he’d like to give back to the university for what the psychology professors gave him.

“They never said ‘I don't have time for you.’ I just wanted to come back and say ‘thank you.’  You know what they say, ‘Somebody helped me dance, or taught me how,’ I just wanted to thank them again… This is a Pee Dee story told by a Pee Dee native. I wanted to do the story justice, to be sensitive to the families and to the community.”  The murder trial was, and still is in some folks’ mind, controversial.

The authors' perspective, on the website, says "An Hour To Kill combines the gritty and realistic elements of a good true crime story with the page-turning readability of a novel. By telling the story in narrative form, we, the authors are able to take you into the heart of a small Southern town to witness a gruesome crime... Got ‘An Hour To Kill?’ Spend it with a thriller!!"

The book's publisher, McGregor Publishing, lists this synopsis on the website:  "In 1991, a small South Carolina town was shocked by the brutal murder of 17-year-old Crystal Todd, a popular high school student. On a cool night, while on her way home from a party, Crystal tragically ran into the wrong person: a long-time friend of the family, a clean-cut church-going young man whose dark side came violently to the surface that night... An Hour To Kill is the tragic true story of the strange and terrible events that forever changed a community.  Authors Dale Hudson and Billy Hills tell the true behind-the-scenes story of the crime, the lives destroyed by the murder, and the two mothers who fought for the children they loved."

 Reviews on the website say the book is "... outstanding…;” “…one of the best books I can ever remember reading…;" “…Coauthors Dale Hudson and Billy Hills have a well-written and compelling story from beginning to end that will keep you turning the pages as it tugs at the strings of your heart…”  "Excellent Read, leaves you craving more...;" "I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to true crime readers anywhere for its readability and the way that Hudson and Hills recreate the atmosphere surrounding the whole case…;” "A Well-Written Account of a Terrible Crime…"


Last Published: June 8, 2004 10:45 AM
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