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Man publishes historical novel
Story set in county
Author pic
J.M. Burt talks about his novel, “God-Fearing Criminals” Jan. 19. The story follows the life of a young man who gets involved in the moonshine liquor business. - photo by Frank Reddy Dawson Community News

J.M. Burt believes that if you’re going to write a book, there ought to be a good story to tell.


One might call it his motto.


The Dawsonville native printed it in big, bold letters across the first page of his breakout novel, which hit stores this month.


Burt, 81, said inspiration for “God-Fearing Criminals” came from “experiences I’ve known over the years and some of the situations I was aware of.”


He stresses that the 344-page book is a work of fiction, but pulls from local history.


With tales of love, war and some moonshine thrown into the mix, the novel takes place in Dawson County. It follows the story of Ben McClure, a character whose life intersects with others in the community.


“We follow him through his life,” said Burt Jan. 19. “We learn about how he gets involved in the moonshine liquor business, how it almost costs him everything.”


Burt said the book follows its characters through history, in good times and bad. “It speaks of the conditions of the times. How hard times could be,” he said.


Living through some of those times helped him write knowledgeably about them, he said. After retiring from 35 years working for the Lockheed aerospace company, he got an itch to put pen to paper.


“I kept thinking about it, and I’d never tried to do something like that, and didn’t know if I could, but I started putting things together, sort of making an outline of my thoughts.”


And 10 years later, he finished the book.


Dawson County resident Mimi Seibel has nearly finished reading it. “I’m enjoying it very much,” she said. “The characters are very compelling. You feel like you know them.”


Burt said by the time he finished writing the novel, he too felt like he knew the characters.


“It has a life all its own when you put it on paper,” he said. “I noted at the end of the book that the characters became friends of mine.”


Burt currently lives on a farm in Cherokee County with wife Marie.


He said those looking to find a copy of his novel can get it online at or There are also copies available at locally-owned bookstores in Cumming.