Guest blogger C. Hope Clark probably doesn’t remember this, but the one time we met face to face, she encouraged me to escape the gulag archipelago of for-the-love online litmags. She saved me, and I’m thrilled that she’s included kendley.com as a stop on her blog tour celebrating the release of Murder on Edisto! The subject matter is right up our alley … but I’ll let her tell it.
When my publisher all but ordered me to write a second mystery series, I dug in . . . until I thought of deep South Edisto Beach. Edisto Island is much bigger than the beach, and the beach is practically on an island all to itself, but both are wrought with flavor. I’ve visited there many times, and I can’t go for long without the breezes and outdated community calling me back. I’m hungering for it as we speak. My birthday’s coming up soon. Guess where I plan to spend it?
In Murder on Edisto, former detective Callie Jean Morgan returns to her parents’ South Carolina home broken, widowed, no longer employed, with a craving for gin and a teenage boy to raise. Life means little to her, but she owes it to her dead husband to raise Jeb. Regretfully, she remembers too late why she left her parents’ overbearing ways so many years ago, and she heads to the family’s vacation home on Edisto Beach to get away, clear her head, and hopefully give her son the life he deserves. On her first day in her new home, however, she finds her childhood mentor, a senior gentleman in his 80s, murdered, and Callie has to decide what she’s made of.
Edisto Beach is perfect for this story. Located in South Carolina, the first white settlers date back to the 1600s, and its plantation, sea island cotton days outshine anything in Gone With the Wind. Today it’s still secluded, uninhibited by development, devoid of neon, franchises or motels, an hour south of Charleston. Peaceful. Simple. A place to heal.
And the perfect place to throw a murder mystery.
This is the first time I’ve outlined three books in a series. With such a rich locale, an intense and bitter-sweet history, the ideas flowed. Some of those old days even come with ghost stories, and I’m itching to find a place for them in these stories. Ghosts and murder, a mystery author’s dream.
One such story involves a mausoleum at Edisto Presbyterian Church, and the legend of Julia Legare. The young daughter of a plantation owner came down with diphtheria, and in the humid heat of summer, appeared to have passed away. She was placed in the family mausoleum, the tomb sealed. Over a decade later, the family lost her brother in the Civil War, and upon opening the tomb to lay to rest the plantation owner’s second child, the brittle bones of the daughter fell out, still clad in her burial dress. Seems she was only in a coma, and in those days of rapid deterioration, burials took place rather rapidly. She’d been buried alive. The clawing marks are evident in the crypt and frequented by folks in the fall when the Edisto Historical Society holds tours.
The amazing aspect of this tale, however, is that nobody can seal the mausoleum. After several attempts, each resulting in the door being moved or cracked open, the family conceded that the child wanted nobody else to risk experiencing her ordeal of being locked up alive. The mausoleum remains open to this day.
By the time I completed Murder on Edisto, I had defined my spirit communicator in sidekick Sophie Bianchi, but I never could fit the mausoleum in the picture. I’m in the midst of book two, on the constant lookout for a convenient scene. Then there’s always book three.
There are other stories: the newlywed bride who lost her husband at sea and walks the beach moaning, or another young woman murdered on her wedding day by a scorned lover, leaving her bloody handprint on the window for decades. That doesn’t even count the Gullah and voodoo related haunts that occupy the sea island coastline.
I went into this series kicking and screaming. Today I’m on fire with Edisto stories. Sometimes it takes a wiser person (i.e., my editor) to point an author in the right direction. Old Southern families, romantic beaches, rolling lazy waves, spirits and haints, gothic history and slow, muggy, hot summer days. Shiver. Where was my head? This is a perfect setting. Just tell me where I can put the mausoleum.
C. Hope Clark’s latest mystery release Murder on Edisto is already capturing the interest of readers who love a good beach read mixed with crime fiction. Hope’s also known for her award-winning Carolina Slade Mysteries, likewise set in rural South Carolina from the sea island coast to the peanut-picking midlands. When she’s not elbow deep in mysteries, Hope is editor of FundsforWriters.com, recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com She lives half the time on the banks of Lake Murray in central SC, the other time on Edisto Beach.