Guest Post by C. Hope Clark
I had one book out, my first mystery, and a small-town DJ in Newberry, South Carolina called, wanting to interview me live on WKDK AM radio in a couple days. She also wrote for the local paper, she said. Double exposure for my work. Being only a forty-minute drive away, I agreed. Then the morning of the interview, I overslept, having gone to bed with a migraine.
She woke me up, giving me a devil of a tongue-lashing, forcing me to give an interview right then, via phone. Standing in my nightshirt, barefooted, totally chagrined at the misstep, I obliged. Don’t ask me what was said, because my mind was scattered; however, I knew enough to feel horribly embarrassed, and I asked to treat her for lunch at the best restaurant Newberry had to offer.
She greeted me for lunch with a pound cake, apparently a tradition, and she wouldn’t allow me to pay for my own lunch, because I was a guest in HER town. Newberry…the center of the universe, she said. “You ought to make us a setting in one of your books.”
I’d heard of Newberry, even driven through it a couple times, but knew little about it.
But that woman opened my eyes. As a fifth-generation Newberrian, she elaborated the details of Revolutionary War skirmishes and the passed-down stories of ghosts, affairs, and what could only be miracles that kept some of their ancestors alive during battles.
Agriculture developed the county, but railroads, bars, and (cough) painted ladies grew the town. A room still existed in a still-standing community center that harbored any gentleman farmer’s wife for the duration of the time he did business in town, so that the wife didn’t come in contact with the street walkers.
Many a husband and son fought in the War Between the States, the cemetery sprawling for acres. Graves were still maintained with insignias, their current ancestors maintaining the sites with stiff, admiring pride. Several families retained bragging rights that five ancestors signed the Order of Secession, causing South Carolina to lead the way for 10 other states to follow.
Of course, ghosts abounded, from any and all of the wars, not to mention the occasional lover’s loss, leaving them roaming in search for their paramour. One jumped from the bell tower of the local college, both the suicide and school dating to before the Civil War. The Bride of West End still awaits for her groom to collect her for their wedding. Molly’s Rock serves as a magnet for spirits who took their own lives.
Beneath the old Ritz theater, one could supposedly still hear screams where ages ago the homeless were murdered. At the Newberry Opera House, the ghost of Penelope made a fairly frequent appearance, moving seats and closing doors.
I quit counting the spirits as my DJ tour guide recounted detail after detail of dates, relations, and quirks, each woven in Newberry’s growth. “We know our history,” she said. “And it’s not all in the history books.”
At the end of the day, my fingers cramped from writing, my brain exhausted from the facts, I hugged my tour guide, collected my pound cake, and went home, mind spinning.
Newberry is the center of my newest mystery release, Newberry Sin. How could it not be? And I’ve learned that in researching a location for a future story, to contact the local AM radio station, and ask for the person who knows where all the ghosts are buried.
Here’s a peek at Hope’s newest mystery novel
Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.
When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot—federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.
Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.
One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands…unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed.
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About the author
C. Hope Clark’s newest release is Newberry Sin. The fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries series, Newberry Sin is set in an idyllic small Southern town where blackmail and sex are hush-hush until they become murder.
Hope speaks to conferences, libraries, and book clubs across the country, is a regular podcaster for Writer’s Digest, and adores connecting with others. She is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, an award-winning site and newsletter service for writers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina with her federal agent husband where they spin mysteries just for fun.