“Death on Hold: A Prisoner’s Des­perate Prayer and the Unlikely Family Who Became God’s Answer” is the latest book from Pro­fessor of History Burt Folsom and his wife Anita, Director of Hillsdale’s Free Market Forum. Released on August 11, the book tells the true story of Mitchell Rut­ledge, a young man who became a Christian in Alabama’s Holman Prison after being con­victed of first-degree murder. The Folsoms met Rut­ledge in 1984, and in the past 32 years, have seen Rut­ledge grow to become a leader in his prison com­munity. In January 2016, he will begin his 35th year in prison. 

What was it like working as a pair on your books?

Burt Folsom: After a month of writing “FDR Goes to War,” we thought about changing the title to “Bert and Anita Go to War.” 

What is the hardest aspect of writing a book together?

Anita Folsom: You have to cut the other person’s material when it’s not good, which is very dif­ficult to take. You put your heart into a chapter and spend months writing it, and to hear that it isn’t good is hard but nec­essary in order to make it better.

What sorts of reac­tions have you gotten?

BF: We’ve gotten much more emo­tional responses from readers. We’ve heard from several stu­dents that they began reading it at 11 p.m. and fin­ished at 3 a.m. because they just couldn’t put it down.

AF: You don’t really get that kind of response about a book on eco­nomic policy.

What inspired you to write a story about Mr. Rutledge?

AF: Our primary motive in writing the book was to get Mitch released.

Do you have a favorite part in the book?

AF: Mine was recalling our first time vis­iting him.

BF: You know, after going to a prison a few times, you get used to the doors slamming every­where and being sur­rounded by pris­oners, but the first time, it’s pretty scary.

AF: The funny thing is that Mitch was more nervous to meet us than we were of him.

BF: Well, he had never had a visitor before, besides his lawyers.

How long did you work on the manuscript?

AF: The process began around 2009, after “New Deal or Raw Deal?” — Burt’s book — became popular.

BF: It became so popular that my pub­lisher asked if I could write more books, and that’s how the door opened.

AF: It took roughly five years to finish.

BF: And that was partly because we had asked Mitch to begin writing down episodes of his life for the book.

AF: He could only mail out four pages at a time, so he sent them over a period of years.

BF: His letters were the basis for the book. He would send them to me, I would edit them and send them back. He’d make some more changes and expand some sec­tions, so it was a long process.

Is there any hope that Mr. Rut­ledge will be released?

AF: The problem is that gov­ernors can’t issue pardons as often as they were once able to. For Mitch to be released, the Alabama State Leg­is­lature must pass a special bill for him to be released, which is possible.

BF: What we want our readers to take away from “Death on Hold,” is to never give up and that there is always hope, and most impor­tantly, that no life is beyond redemption.