By Hope Clark
Lowcountry Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, opens with the protagonist being offered a bribe from a client she least suspects—a hog farmer. She calls the Inspector General’s office, and within 48 hours, they have a federal agent on the ground checking the situation. The investigation goes awry, trust is lost on so many levels, and lives are threatened.
At conferences and readings, I love talking about the opening chapter to that book . . . because it comes so close to reality. I was once a federal employee who was offered a bribe. And my husband was the agent who showed up on the case. We rigged hidden recorders and pin-hole cameras, rehearsed a script to pull off the “sting,” and dealt with threats against me. We didn’t catch the culprit, but we married 18 months later.
At that point in the presentation, the room goes abuzz. Many people then ask me how much of the book is fact and which part fiction. It’s fun, because that means the story reads that realistically. And while I have to tell them the rest of the story is fiction, I can’t help but put myself in those fictional scenes.
Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself where reality stopped and fantasy started. And when I do take that pause, I smile. Because I can get lost in my head with my characters and have a grand time, especially knowing that I get to actually sleep with the good guy. In this case, fantasizing in bed about a character is a very good thing, because I’m married to him.
I’ve actually pondered what would happen if, God forbid, I developed dementia in my older years, and fact gradually muddied into my fiction, blending Slade and Wayne into my own history until I could not remember the difference. After all, writers get very close to their stories and the players that make those tales come to life. I did minor investigations in my prior career with the federal government, and my husband was indeed an agent with many war stories under his belt. As I juggle the possibility of make-believe and my past entangling in my gray-headed mind downstream, I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad predicament.
To make matters worse, my husband is my sounding board for subsequent stories. He keeps my technical details accurate, my gun references true, and laughs at the predicaments Slade gets into, chuckling that he’d never let that happen on his watch. At my speaking engagements, he’s often asked if he was my model for Wayne, and he answers, “Nah, Wayne’s a wuss.” Everybody laughs, and I crack a smile. I know he’s serious.
What better life can I ask for than to secretly write about my husband, pretending I’m the girl in the story, carousing through escapades, playing dare-devil, and solving crime.
We may not look like Daniel Craig and his charming Bond-girl with our middle-aged appearances, but we love to think like we are . . . because one time we did some of that, and now we live happily ever after.
C. Hope Clark lives on the banks of Lake Murray, South Carolina, writing her mysteries, and often reading aloud to her federal agent with his lit cigar, neat bourbon, and deep opinions about how Wayne still isn’t close to the “real deal.” Tidewater Murder, the second in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series, arrives on book shelves in April 2013. www.chopeclark.com