Merle Temple was interviewed 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.
Jim Clemente at Criminal Minds, 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 his offer to pitch Ghostly as a movie, Temple said, “It took me about two seconds to think it over and agree.”
In the novel, 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 Bureau of Narcotics. Dr. Chester Quarles, 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 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 his agency is infiltrated. 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 government but to his dark messiah.
Temple said, “I 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, due May 1, can be reserved now at merletemple.com or amazon.com.
Merle Temple, a native of Tupelo, MS. received a BPA and a Master’s of Criminal Justice at Ole Miss. The first Captain in the MS. Bureau of Narcotics in the 1970s, he was Class President of the New England Institute of Management and a graduate of the DEA Academy in Washington during the early days of President Nixon’s first drug wars. Held hostage while working undercover, he later met men hired by organized crime to kill him in a standoff near Memphis, and was involved in a gun battle with drug dealers in a heroin deal gone sour. He was Internal Affairs investigator of a plan to corrupt the MBN. Merle received the American Legion Award, served as MS Criminal Justice Chairman for Ronald Reagan for President, taught criminal justice/sociology at Augusta State University, hosted the White House Deputy Drug Czar, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Ole Miss. He raised funds for political campaigns and managed “the biggest political upset” in 50 years. He retired early and was nominated by Congressman Norwood for a Federal appointment, but accepted an appointment as Ga. Deputy Superintendent of Education. Merle is author of the novel, A Ghostly Shade of Pale, inspired by experiences in the MS. Bureau of Narcotics, and is writing the sequel, A Rented World, based on events in the Bell System and politics. His ministry, Prisoners of the Lord, planted Christian movie nights at three prison sites where thousands of men were exposed to Christ. Merle remarried after the death of his wife Susan, and now lives near Tupelo with his wife Judy Bates Temple. He writes and serves as an evangelist as he seeks to live his faith, defend the Truth, and advance the Kingdom. Visit his websites A Ghostly Shade of Pale and Merle Temple.