Were happy to host Terry Shames on Monday, November 10th at 7PM, along with Stinking Rich author, Rob Brunet. Her latest, Dead Broke In Jarret Creek, pulls her hero Samuel Craddock, back into his job as Chief Of Police when his town goes bankruptcy. It also looks like a murder is tied to the bankruptcy. We caught up with Terry to talk about the new novel.
MysteryPeople: Had you planned to bring Samuel back as chief?
Terry Shames: Not at all. When I started thinking through all the ramifications of a town going bankrupt, I realized it was perfect for Samuel to step in. He doesn’t need the money, and he has the experience of being a chief of police, so what better solution?
MP: What do you think makes him take the job?
TS: In my mind, he never hesitated to say yes. The easy answer to your question is that he knows that taking the job provides a quick solution to a daunting problem. He feels a sense of responsibility for “his” town. But digging deeper, there’s more to it. After Samuel’s wife died, he was at loose ends. As Jenny Sandstone said in A Killing at Cotton Hill, the book that introduced Samuel, he’s too vigorous a person to be satisfied with tending his cows all day. It’s important that he have a mission that engages him physically and mentally. He knows he’s good a keeping the peace and at figuring at solutions to criminal problems that arise in the town.
MP: Much of the plot of Dead Broke In Jarrett Creek revolves around the town’s bankruptcy, Is this occurrence more common than we know in small towns?
TS: During the economic downturn that happened in the early 2000s, several towns, large and small, went bankrupt across the country. I don’t really know how many. But when I read about them, what struck me is that many of the economic problems of the towns seemed to stem from mismanagement. I thought it would be an interesting problem to write about, since it meant not having enough money for basic services, like police.
MP: This book seems to have more humor. Were you looking for more levity after telling a somber story like The Last Death Of Jack Harbin?
TS: It wasn’t intentional, but you’re right, it’s a lighter book. I actually think there was a fair amount of humor in Jack Harbin, but it is definitely darker. In Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek I enjoyed the humor and the little twists and turns of the plot. I just turned in the fourth book in the series to my editor, entitled A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, and it is very dark. So it looks like maybe I’m into a rhythm of alternating between writing a light book and a dark one.
MP: I really like Bill Odum, the part time lawman who helps out Samuel. What does he provide our hero other than back up?
TS: He’s a fresh, young face of law enforcement. He provides an opportunity for Samuel to teach someone what he knows about the town and the difficulties of murder investigation. At the same time, Odum knows some new tricks that Samuel doesn’t know. I also like Zeke Dibble. He’s more jaded than Samuel, but he’s willing to put in his time.
MP: The Samuel Craddock books have such an authentic Texas feel. What do you want to get across about your home state?
TS: It’s the characters I’m interested in.The setting I use is Texas because I know it deeply—I know the terrain, the sights and smells and the people—the way they behave and talk and live. Honestly, I think the people I write about could live anywhere. They are “just” people. Here is one of my favorite review quotes—this from the Dallas Morning News:
“Many writers dive straight into coarse comedy when they create stories set in rural Texas. Their 21st-century cowboys race about in gun-laden pickups. They drink and brawl in bad-news bars and feast at chicken-fried restaurants where waitresses plop down world-weary wisdom with each side order of cream gravy.
Terry Shames avoids these exaggerations in her new Samuel Craddock mystery series. It is said frequently in small-town Texas that everybody knows everybody. Yet the vaunted simple life in rural communities sometimes is rife with family feuds and complicated loyalties…In the Samuel Craddock mysteries, (Terry Shames’s) portrayals of Texas people, places, things, customs and speech are believable, carefully balanced and, best of all, entertaining.”
Copies of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek are now available on our shelves. Terry Shames will be at BookPeople with Rob Brunet on Monday, November 10 at 7PM. Pre-order your signed copy today!