MysteryPeople Q&A with Terry Shames

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Terry Shames’ latest Samuel Craddock novel, The Necessary Murder Of Nonie Blake, deals with identity and family in a small town. When a woman is murdered upon her return from years in a mental hospital, Craddock takes on the case and delves deep into small-town secrets. We are happy to be hosting Terry, along with Josh Stallings and Scott Franks, on Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM. We are delighted she was able to take some time to talk about the book and the community she’s created.


MysteryPeople Scott: Part of the book deals with mental illness – what did you want to get a across to the reader about that issue?

Terry Shames: I wish I had something profound and astute to say about this, but the fact is that Nonie Blake just showed up, as most of my characters do. I’m conflicted about Nonie. When you understand her motivation, you feel compassion for her, but her decisions manifest in a distorted way. there’s a hint that some of Nonie’s mental disturbance is passed down to her from her predecessors. I don’t believe in the “inheritance” of mental illness, but I do believe that the way a family repeats its mistakes can lead to the same results. I never intend to be didactic in my books. I want to present a scenario and explore all its facets and I hope my readers will put some thought into how and why people behave they do and the consequences of that behavior not just for the immediate friends and family, but for the community.

MPS: The idea of identity also plays a big part. What did you want to explore about that concept?

TS: Anybody who has read my books knows that identity plays a big part in my writing. I’m interested in people’s secret selves, i. e., the things that people believe about themselves that others would not suspect. The ways in which people want others to admire them and how they think they fall short—and how they sometimes misread this. Especially I like to explore how people want to be seen and the lengths they will go to to protect that. And finally, I like to explore how identities are tied up in family, friends ands community. Someone like Nonie Blake can a make a terrible mistake and their identity is forever tied up with that mistake. is that fair? Is it different for members of a small town than it is for people in a city, where they can be anonymous?

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