Terry Shames writes the Samuel Craddock series set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. Her first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill was a finalist for several awards, including the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. Learn more about Terry and her books at her website.
What would happen if you suddenly found out that your town could no longer send anyone to help if your house was burning down? Or if you came home to find that a burglar had ransacked your house? Or if your city could no longer pick up garbage? Or provide clean drinking water? That’s what happens if a town goes bankrupt. All you have to do is look in the news at places like the small city of Vallejo, California or the big city of Detroit to see that it only takes a bad economy and some bad choices to send a city’s finances into a tailspin.
My next novel is called Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek. And yes, Jarrett Creek goes bankrupt in the novel. Although in real life, having a town bankrupt isn’t a humorous situation, in a novel the idea of a town going bankrupt can be fodder for a bit of humor. One of the characters in the book says he hopes Jarrett Creek will recover soon because his wife pitched a fit when she found out the library would only be open a couple of days a week. And the only reason it would be open at all was because the librarian was willing to volunteer to open it for limited hours.
When a town goes bankrupt a lot of blame gets hurled around, and Jarrett Creek is no exception. Everyone blames the former mayor, Alton Coldwater, for making terrible choices. But one of the things I try to convey in the novel is that Coldwater is not a bad guy. Yes, he made bad choices, but not because he was greedy or untrustworthy. Like a lot of us, when things started to go bad, he scrambled to find a solution. Unfortunately, his solution was disastrous.
One of the other things I highlight is that when individuals struggle financially it has an impact on everyone. If many people lose their homes to bankruptcy, that affects the tax base, which means less to spend on basic services. I don’t put a political spin on the issue in the book. What I am interested in is showing how people don’t have to be ill-intentioned to get into financial trouble. That doesn’t mean there aren’t villains lurking in the background, both of the book and in real life. And as you’ll see if you read the book, they can bring towns down with them.
One result of the bankruptcy in Jarrett Creek is that Samuel Craddock temporarily becomes the chief of police because he can afford to do the job without a salary. Although most people are delighted with having their “Chief” back in charge, a surprising number of characters resent that he has the resources to help out. And they’re right. Samuel happens to be a good guy, but what would happen if a bankrupt town that had to rely for law enforcement on a wealthy citizen who was not such a good guy? Hmmm, an idea for another mystery?
Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek
When Jarrett Creek, Texas goes bankrupt, it looks like the former mayor played fast and loose with the town’s money. But the local banker is murdered and the investigation leads Samuel Craddock to uncover a corrupt scheme that involved some of the town’s most upstanding citizens.
Book release date: October 7, 2014 from Seventh Street Books.