Scarlet at Crystal River follows a man trying to lead a normal life but sees things others can’t image and he’s drawn into an enigmatic mystery only he has the ability to solve. What were some sources that informed this novels development?
When I visited this stretch along the Gulf Coast, I was fascinated with the beauty of the area—emerald and crystal blue waters, forests and swamps, and incredible wildlife like the manatees. As I traveled the region, I was also distressed by the conditions I witnessed of the migrant workers, many of them immigrants, who worked the fields of produce nearby, in central Florida. So I decided to use the contrast of the two images as a foundation for my story.
Darrell has an interesting ability that seems grounded while still being other-worldly. How did you balance his ability so it seemed as believable as possible?
Darrell comes to realize that his ability as a sensitive is no more incredible, or even unbelievable, than another’s innate talent as an artist or one’s endowed athletic ability. Though he’s not totally comfortable with his ability to communicate with those on the other side—this path has led to danger and even tragedy before—he realizes he possesses this sense because these ghosts need his help. His personality, as a teacher and a coach, will not let him turn his back on those in need, especially children.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Although the novels in the Haunted Shore Mysteries are captivating whodunits with a touch of the paranormal and plenty of romance, I’m also aiming for my writing to illuminate some important issues. In SCARLET, I address the touchy—and widely misunderstood—situation of illegal migrant workers and their role in our culture. Hopefully, readers will get a little insight into this complex situation through the characters and circumstances in my fiction. Things are not always as they seem.
When and where will this book be available?
The publisher has set a launch date for SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER for September 13. The novel will soon be available in both print and e-versions for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-million and Apple books as well as great bookstores everywhere.
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Darrell and his bride, Erin, are setting out on their honeymoon in Florida and enjoying the lavish home Erin’s boss has offered. Darrell, the history teacher, is curious about the house’s past. But Darrell, the man with a gift he doesn’t necessarily want, is much more concerned about ghosts. He has started his honeymoon off with a warning–there will be two visitors. Darrell is now watching and waiting–worrying is second nature for him, and he would do anything to not have his precious time with Erin spoiled. It doesn’t take long before Darrell experiences the first sign of many that this trip will be anything but quiet and serene.
Scarlet at Crystal River, by Randy Overbeck, follows the journey of Darrell Henshaw as he begins his new life with his true love, Erin. Darrell’s incredible sensitivity to spirits puts their relationship to the test. Always willing to help out and carrying a tremendous amount of guilt from his past, Darrell finds it nearly impossible not to follow up on Natalia’s warning about “two visitors.” When Darrell spots two children and then turns to see they have vanished, he knows it has begun.
I have been following Darrell Henshaw’s adventures for a while now. This is the third book I have read by Randy Overbeck, and I count Darrell and Erin as two of my favorite literary characters. Overbeck has mastered the art of character development, and has again handed readers a main character they will embrace from page one. Darrell is real. He is genuine. And he is, in many ways, the perfect underdog. He sees things he doesn’t want to see and knows things others can’t imagine. As powerful as that gift could make him, Darrell remains humble and uses his gift for good.
Suspense is another of Overbeck’s strong suits. From the first sighting of the two mysterious children, Darrell’s subsequent visions build one upon the other with his anxiety and obsessive compulsive tendencies ramping up. Readers will feel their own anxiety grow alongside Darrell’s. Overbeck is a master at building tension–this is easily a one-sitting read. Readers will become immediately invested in seeing Darrell succeed in solving the mystery surrounding the ghosts in his present while he battles those from his past.
Scarlet at Crystal River is the third book about Darrell and Erin, it is easily a stand-alone read. Overbeck provides plenty of background at the outset, and readers will not feel lost. There is a hint of romance to all of Overbeck’s books, but it is done in an incredibly tasteful manner. Scarlet at Crystal River is a suspenseful paranormal novel with compelling characters and an enigmatic mystery that drives the story to a riveting conclusion.
Pages: 343 | ISBN-10: 1509237879
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Crimson at Cape May finds Darrel between a battle for his reputation and a battle against paranormal forces. What were some sources of inspiration that influenced this novels development?
Having lost his job—and maybe his love—in Wilshire, Darrell heads to Cape May (New Jersey) to help coach a summer football camp. With being forced to resign, he needs the money and hopes it will give him the time and opportunity to restore his reputation. When he arrives in Cape May, he finds a town almost frozen in time, surrounded by incredible Victorian mansions everywhere. But he also discovers the old seacoast town is flush with spirits who pester and haunt him to help out one of their own. Darrell has to balance both his “gift” for seeing into the spirit world with his efforts to get his old job back. In the end, he commits to help another young student whose sister has gone missing, which ties to all his problems.
There have been several times in my life where reputation, job and livelihood was threatened and I drew on these experiences and the reserves I used to meet these very real challenges to help sketch Darrell’s predicament and his way of navigating out of it. Because of my experience, my hope is the reader will find Darrell’s journey credible and something they themselves can relate to.
I enjoyed Cassie’s character and found her relatable. What were some ideas you wanted to capture in Cassie and Darrel’s relationship?
My choice of Cassie as a POV character was deliberate and carefully thought out. First of all, she and Darrell are opposites, or appear to be. Darrell is a traditional, successful (kind of) teacher and coach, from a good family and good upbringing. Cassie is none of those things. She has been abused and denigrated and runs away from her family, such as it is. Instead, she has had to learn skills to survive on her own, in her teens. But Darrell’s first instinct is to reach out and protect children and young people in trouble. As a teacher, it’s part of his DNA—a characteristic I witnessed for real in my many of my teaching colleagues. When he encounters Cassie, Darrell recognizes the vulnerability of the young woman, even through her hard-shell, street-smart armor she has wrapped herself in. Then as “sensitives,” they begin to check each other out and eventually learn to trust each other. Erin proves to be critical in their evolving relationship as she stands in almost as an older sister for Cassie. Darrell never stops feeling responsible for the younger Cassie—especially as her life is threatened—but in the end, he realizes they have to work together to solve the murder of the Haunted Bride. This fictional relationship reflects the very real dilemma that parents and teachers face everyday with teenagers. Adults who care for kids have to find a way to take care of them and try to keep them from the greatest risks, while at the same time allowing the adolescents to begin to make some decisions themselves, even though some of those decisions are unwise and even dangerous. It’s a tightrope that is not easy to navigate. Darrell, like parents and teachers, has trouble knowing when to let go.
I enjoyed the compelling mystery behind this story. Was the arc planned or did it develop organically while writing?
My approach to my stories fall some where between the “plotter” and the “pantser” mindset. Before beginning a novel, I will have completed a general outline of the story arc, of essential characters, of the crime itself and, of course, of the thematic issue. In addition, since each entry of this series is set in a new resort location (BLOOD on the Eastern Shore, CRIMSON in Cape May), I do a considerable amount of local research to ensure my setting is accurate and thorough, which in turn requires a considerable deal of planning including how the setting snd plot will interact. Layering over all that is where the ghost elements will intrude, another planning aspect.
I realize that sounds pretty far in the plotter camp, but there is much more. Then as I begin the actual manuscript, I find myself “pantsing,” more writing by the seat of my pants. As characters develop, I find myself adjusting the trajectory of the narrative and writing accordingly. There are elements of the plot and storyline that I deliberately do not plan in advance. For example, I don’t make a final decision on who the actual antagonist will be until I am well into the narrative. That way I make sure that several suspects are viable and keep my inner reader guessing until the reveal—as I hope I do for the actual readers of the novel. I do make some slight adjustments to this plotter/pantser balance for different novels but find overall this approach works well for me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m currently completing the third book in the Haunted Shores Mysteries Series no title determined as yet), a Christmas ghost mystery set in Crystal River, Florida. I thought the idea of setting a holiday mystery in the warm climes of Florida’s Gulf coast to be an interesting challenge and decided to take Darrell and his new wife, Erin, on their honeymoon there. And number three will have a very different ghost twist—the ghosts are those of two young Hispanic children who have mysteriously disappeared. An added plus is this gave me an opportunity to explore another serious issue the nation is grappling with, the life of migrant workers and the fate of illegal immigrants. I hope I’ve come up with a mix that will make number three another interesting entry in the series. This third installment is scheduled for release for October 2021—in time for Christmas, of course.
Darrell has a lot going on. He’s made a name for himself as the football coach of the local high school team. It’s quite possible he has finally met the love of his life, but he’s still dealing with being accused of providing steroids to his players. Just as he begins to hope things will take a turn for the better, the supernatural starts to take over and he starts seeing ghosts. Darrell, not wanting to admit a ghost is foremost on his mind, attempts to live his day-to-day life, but it’s not working.
Darrell, the main character of Randy Overbeck’s Crimson at Cape May, is doing all he can to overcome the accusations laid against him. His current situation has put any future he might have with Erin on the edge of ruin, and the ghosts that plague him are relentless. He is struggling to overcome the stigma that now hovers over him while he battles the dark looks and cold stares from the townsfolk with whom he once traded pleasantries. In addition, Darrell is concerned about a connection between one of his troubled players and the new ghosts he has seen in Cape May.
One of the most fascinating aspects about Overbeck’s books centered around main character, Darrell Henshaw. As he moves from place to place, spirits are drawn to him and each one seems to know about the other. Overbeck uses this amazing trait to flawlessly move from one book to the next and seamlessly connect subplots.
I appreciate the introduction of Cassie. She brings a down-to-earth feel to the ghost story that spans the length of the book. Darrell is, for all intents and purposes, the one on whom the story-line relies. Cassie, however, somehow grounds the book and gives readers a truly relatable character. She questions her decisions, struggles with a low-wage job, and is conflicted about her own place in this world. She breathes a new kind of life into an already fascinating story.
The tragic subplot surrounding the young football player, Josh, and his sister, Josie, brings everything into perspective. As Darrell and Cassie team up to find out more about the ghosts plaguing them both, they are actively solving a missing persons case about which no one else in town seems to care. Along with Cassie’s story-line, Josie’s story makes the book engaging and palpable. No one wants to imagine what can happen to a young person who has run away or been abducted. The fact that the town is so hush-hush about her disappearance makes this reader’s heart skip a beat.
With both elements of mystery and suspense, readers across genres will find this second book about Darrell Henshaw intriguing. Overbeck includes just enough romance to appeal to readers who require complicated relationships in their reading as well. I thoroughly enjoy the style Overbeck uses and highly recommend Crimson at Cape May to anyone who has not tried his work before.
Blood on the Chesapeake is a suspenseful murder mystery that involves the civil rights movement in some unique ways. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
Like many Americans, I have been concerned by the country’s still pervasive tendrils of racism, even decades after the civil rights struggles of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I’ve personally witnessed this discrimination in the classroom, in the school and in the community, and the harm such bigotry has wrought on young people. I decided, with this work, to illuminate this issue. The selection of the setting of the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay gave me the opportunity to capture this social tension in an unusual manner. As I have journeyed there, I was overwhelmed by the quiet, scenic beauty of the region, but also intrigued by the dichotomy of the cultures there. This region bears the hallmarks of a proud New England tradition, but also with roots still very much in the South. (The area was home to famous slave plantations and was split in loyalties during the Civil War.) In this most peaceful and beautiful of settings on the Chesapeake Bay, what if some horrific racial injustice occurred in this small town—and they tried to cover it up?
Darrell Henshaw is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Like most teachers and coaches, Darrell is driven by his deep concern for kids, concern for their learning and concern for their lives. He commits most of his life—certainly professional and sometimes, even personal—to give his kids a chance at a better life. When he stumbles upon an horrific crime against a student, even one perpetrated decades earlier, he’s moved to do something, do anything to find justice for the youth. But Darrell carries his own demons. In his teens, he had an encounter with a ghost, an encounter that left one a friend dead and his brother crippled. He still carries the scars of this encounter, a severe case of OCD. In order to help this young man he didn’t even know, Darrell has to confront his apprehension of the spirit world and deal with his condition. In the end, he finds his desire to secure justice for his student is greater than the sum of all his fears.
This novel seamlessly blends paranormal, urban fantasy and history. Was this intentional or did this happen organically while writing?
I did a great deal of research to complete this novel—research about the area, about sailing on the Chesapeake, about small town lynchings, about commonly accepted beliefs regarding the spirit world. My goal was to make the story as credible as possible within the limits of the genre. So, even though the narrative occurs in 1998, only twenty plus years earlier, I worked to make every detail authentic to the time and place. Even though it’s paranormal, the ghost sequences are closer to documented spectral occurrences that I had researched. Although the inspiration for parts of the story happened organically, the blending of these threads was carefully planned to render a tale that was fast-paced, engaging and satisfying.
This book is a part of your Haunted Shores Mysteries. What will the next novel in this series be about and when will it be available?
I’m currently completing the second installment in the Haunted Shore Mysteries series—tentatively titled Crimson at Cape May. Like Blood, Crimson is another ghost story/cold case murder mystery with even more romantic elements, this time set in the beautiful, historic resort town of Cape May, New Jersey. By the way, Cape May happens to be the most haunted seaport on the eastern coast and that doesn’t bode well for Darrell’s aversion to the ghost world or his OCD. In this second installment, not only is Darrell haunted by more ghosts, but he’s forced to confront another horror of modern life, human trafficking. Crimson at Cape May is scheduled to be released by the Wild Rose Press in September, 2020.
Wilshire, Maryland, a quaint shore town on the Chesapeake, promises Darrell Henshaw a new start in life and a second chance at love. That is, until he learns the town hides an ugly secret. A thirty-year-old murder in the high school. And a frightening ghost stalking his new office. Burned by an earlier encounter with the spirit world, Darrell doesn’t want to get involved, but when the desperate ghost hounds him, he concedes. Assisted by his new love, he follows a trail that leads to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, when two locals who try to help are murdered, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.
Darrell Henshaw is the keeper of many secrets–most of which are not entirely his own. When he decides to make a change and accept a job in a new school, he fully expects to leave all of his ghosts behind–literally. Entering this new school and beginning the season as the coach of Wilshire, Maryland’s high school football team, should be an exciting time for Darrell, but his past and present are now blurring together. He finds himself in the throes of researching the decades old story of a suicide that took place at the school. In addition, Darrell finds himself dredging up memories that might better be left alone.
Randy Overbeck’s Blood on the Chesapeake follows main character, Darrell Henshaw, on an epic journey of historic proportions as he tackles racial injustice and attempts to correctly label a suicide as a murder. With pertinent mentions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, Overbeck has crafted a murder mystery for the ages that encourages readers to investigate their own feelings regarding social injustices.
Overbeck could not have taken a more perfect route than the diary he opted to have Darrell find and peruse. Kelly’s diary is not only the most telling sign that Hank was murdered, it is also an amazing glimpse into life in the 60s and a sure sign that desegregation was, in many areas of the US, as violently protested as it ever was decades prior. The readings of the diary by Darrell and Erin, his love interest, make the book. I could almost smell the mildewed pages, and I felt the characters’ frustration as they battled through the diary’s pages to piece together the mystery that is Kelly and Hank’s fates.
Overbeck’s pace is spot on and makes for a thoroughly engaging and quick read. With no excessive filler material, the author moves seamlessly from one tragic event and clue to the next. Overbeck makes readers yearn for closure.
One of the most amazing aspects of Overbeck’s work is the way in which he conveys the characters’ feelings toward racism. Blood on the Chesapeake is not a book to be enjoyed; it is a book to appreciate for the reminders it provides readers. With mentions of lynchings and the KKK leading up to the setting of this book, and Overbeck gives readers a clear look at the way racism and bigotry continued to leak far beyond the bounds of the deep South even after desegregation began to make its way across the US.
Though the book is clearly focused on events from the 60s via Kelly’s diary, the plot is timely considering the state of today’s world. Readers will find themselves quickly caught up in Darrell’s descriptions of his ghostly encounters and eagerly awaiting each and every clue.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B07N3BZBPR
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