Travel without a book in hand for me is like heading out in a car without a full tank! My latest book read was by author C. Hope Clark. I received her new book Salkehatchie Secret to review. Salkehatchie Secret is part of the Carolina Slade Mystery series. I have read and enjoyed many of C. Hope Clark’s books.
I enjoy the characters, the setting of the books, and most of all, the unexpected twists and turns of Clark’s stories.
In this book, Carolina Slade, who works for the Department of Agriculture as an investigator has just become engaged to Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo. Then his young partner dies and the mystery begins. In this story all the things I need are there, plot, drama, romance and friendship. Best of all though, C. Hope Clark agreed to let me interview her about some of my questions.
1)You title your book Salkehatchie Secret. Where does the work Salkehatchie come from and come in?
C. Hope Clark answered, “I wanted to place the story in Colleton County, which is the county that claims Edisto Beach. This is a Carolina Slade book, doing agricultural investigations, but I wanted Edisto Police Chief Callie Morgan to get involved. But Colleton is an odd name to say, and in studying the county, I hunted for areas where the crime would be convenient in relation to Edisto. The Salkehatchie River runs down Colleton County, ultimately ending in Saint Helena Sound at Edisto Beach. So I chose that side of the county. Setting is everything to me in my stories, and I like introducing readers to new areas, especially in the Carolina Slade mysteries in which she handles rural investigations all over South Carolina. In terms of history, which I left out, General Sherman came across this river to head to Columbia, SC, enroute winning the Battle of Rivers’ Bridge. We love our history down here.”
I admit I too love history. This makes me want to come to the area and find out about the Civil War background. Traveling Adventures may have to have a few adventures in the Low Country!
To write this you have so much knowledge of the agricultural loan system and how farmers can use the funds. How did you go about researching this? It is impressive? (I should not have had a ? on this I meant to put an explanation mark!)
Clark wrote, “Impressive? Depends on who you talk to, I think. Some think this information is boring, while I spent almost twenty years working within US Department of Agriculture, watching how farmers truly function. Farmers are some of the hardest working people on the planet, and unbeknownst to most, have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. And since it takes so much money to farm, people do not realize that USDA handles a lot of money in the name of agriculture. Loans, grants, subsidies….all become ripe for corruption. There are way more programs than I mention in my books. Agriculture can get way more complicated than you imagine. It’s not just putting seeds in the ground and wishing for rain. By the way, my degree is in Agriculture from Clemson University. In my last decade of working for Ag, I did internal investigations, which gives me some insight.”
Being a farmer’s wife I appreciate this insight she is right. There is so much for to farming that just putting seeds into the ground. There are so many factors that can determine whether a crop will work out. Weather, machinery breakdown, manpower and more.
3) The weapon knowledge and law enforcement terminology is also interesting, how did you research and study this for your book?
Clark said, “I am married to a retired federal agent. We met on a bribery investigation. At the peak of my agricultural career, I managed one of the largest counties in the state in terms of feeding loans and grants to farmers. One particular farmer offered me a bribe. I called in the feds (you just don’t bribe a federal official), and we attempted over several weeks to set up stings to catch the guy. The guy never came across with the money, but I became close to the federal agent and we married 18 months later. But I always run situations by him, to make them technically correct. Sure, I’ve learned a lot through him, but I make sure details are proper. Every mystery writer needs a law enforcement connection. I’m just lucky to have one willing to go on the back porch with a bourbon and listen to me read my chapters aloud so I get them right. You may wonder if I can shoot. Yes, I can. My personal weapon is a Sig Sauer M11, bought for me by my husband. I do not, however, yet have a carry permit since I’m usually in the presence of a husband who carries. One day I really need to get my own.”
I love the story of how you met. Thanks for sharing this with us!
4) Any insight for the public on how you get your ideas for your storylines?
C. Hope Clark explained, “I think of a crime first. When it comes to agriculture, I use my own back cases, my husband’s experience with cases, and I study the USDA Office of Inspector General website for cases solved. I visit the places where my stories are set. I keep an ear open for storyline potential when I watch movies and read the news. For instance, there are so many more stories waiting to be told about organic agriculture, GMO controversies, livestock rustling (yes, it still happens), animals raised for fighting (dogs and cocks), and more. For my Edisto Island mysteries, I keep an ear open to stories of coastal areas, or crime anywhere if I can apply it to the beach for a small town chief to solve. But it’s just a matter of watching the world.”
5) Anything you would like to share with your readers of this particular book?
“This story is loosely based on a real case my husband participated in,” Clark said. “Race played a big role in that case, and I felt the story couldn’t be told without being open about race factoring in. It was written last year, before current times and events, and I worked hard to depict both sides with the respect needed. I grew up in both the segregated and integrated South, both on a Mississippi cotton farm and on melting pot military bases. So many experiences and stories to tell. I hope that in this book, the environment is told realistically yet respectfully. “
I thought the timing of the book truly reflects the times as well. This is a great read. All of C. Hope Clark’s books including Salkehatchie Secret are available at her website. I loved this one and I think you will to. I took it to Iowa with me read it along the miles!
Thank you C. Hope Clark for the book to review and for taking the time for a Question and Answer!