Invitation Tupelo Magazine and Super Talk Radio Interview Merle Temple, Author of A Ghostly Shade of Pale

MerleTemple2013Invitation Tupelo and Super Talk Radio interviewed Merle Temple this week about his debut novel, A Ghostly Shade of Pale which is currently being pitched as a movie in Hollywood. A crime story and mystery as literature set in the South, it explores the America of the 1970s— the cultural mores, cynicism, and excesses of a bygone era, framed against the backdrop of the first drug wars, social unrest, war protest, and a fractured national identity. 

"Your main character, Captain Michael Parker, bears a strong resemblance to you.  How much of your experience as a narcotics agent is in this novel?" "Ghostly is a tribute to all my friends who didn't make it out of the drug wars. I've read that Southern Gothic writers deal with their own imperfections and experiences through their books, and I think that's true with me. He's a flawed character who's trying to rise above and is dealing with situations I faced fresh out of Ole Miss…," Temple said. 

Temple sent the manuscript to Jim Clemente at Criminal Minds who called it,"A crime story as literature. Merle Temple is a great storyteller, writing to all of your senses.  He weaves a story so detailed and complex, yet beautifully sinister, that the reader is immersed in the feeling of absolute reality." Of the offer to pitch it for a movie, Temple said, "It took me about two seconds to think it over and agree."

In the novel, the history files on a bygone era are ripped open and rewritten. Violent and dark conflicts unfold as the players are trapped in a game of murder, betrayal, the macabre, and the supernatural. Parker sees the tranquility of the old South shattered by civil unrest, the Vietnam War, and a wave of drug abuse that brings the war on drugs to his front door. A chain of events leads him to become an unlikely player in a game of international intrigue and a clandestine struggle for the soul of America. He finds and loses  real love in Washington and returns home to enter a world he isn't ready for in the Mississippi Narcotics Bureau. Dr. Chester Quarles of Ole Miss, an expert on terrorism, said, "Captain Temple has captured the uniqueness of those times as only an eyewitness could. The parallels of truth and fiction are intriguing." 

Parker encounters Fredrick Hammel, a charismatic but ghostly pale sadist and satanist who suffers from albinism and psychosis. With eyes so red that they appear to bleed, Fredrick becomes Michael's obsession and his tormentor as he quotes the Satanic Bible and leaves a trail of bodies across the South. The small airfields of Mississippi become a launching ground for smugglers hired by rogue elements of intelligence agencies to smuggle guns to Central America and drugs into the United States to fund black operations to shape what they call the "Real America." They use Fredrick to manipulate protests against the war and as an assassin who has no remorse. They realize too late that his loyalties are not to them or to the communists he also manipulates but to the voices in his head. 

A complex alliance between these shadowy figures, organized crime bosses and corrupt politicians form a point of congruency where Fredrick indulges his madness, slimy politicians nurture their deviancy, and snipers ambush Michael and his agents on frozen fields of regret. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues as Michael searches for an elusive peace, the Dixie Mafia tries to kill him, mob lawyers try to bribe him, and the Bureau is infiltrated and compromised.  He awakens at the age of twenty-six to find that the whole of his life—the paradigm that he once clung to with all his might—his notion of good and evil—was all a lie. He becomes the fly in the ointment to conspiracies he cannot begin to grasp until he is forced to fight for the lives of those he loves in a surprising and bloody finale that reveals the terrible price of revenge and his own identity through the face of an enemy whose service was not to man but to his dark messiah.

Asked about his own reading tastes, Temple said, "I like something that challenges you to use the brief time we have here in an unselfish way. I actually don't read a lot of crime novels. When you've lived it like I have, it becomes too personal, so I try to focus on things that keep me out of the shadows."

"Ghostly is magic. It left me breathless," says Arlene Uslander, author of The Mystery of Fate, Common Coincidence or Divine Intervention. "Suspenseful, fascinating characters and plot, and most of all—the sheer beauty of the words, destined to become a classic." 

Ghostly will be out soon and can be reserved now on and