Scarlet At Crystal River
Scarlet At Crystal River
by Randy Overbeck
All Darrell Henshaw wanted was to enjoy his honeymoon with his beautiful wife, Erin, in the charming town of Crystal River on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. Only a pair of ghosts decide to intrude on their celebration. And not just any ghosts, the spirits of two young Latino children. Unwilling at first to derail the honeymoon for yet another ghost hunt, Darrell finally concedes when a painting of the kids comes alive, weeping and pleading for his help.
When he and Erin track down the artist, they discover the children’s family were migrant workers the next county over. But when they travel there, their questions about the kids gets their car shot up and Erin hospitalized. Torn between fear and rage, Darrell must decide how far he will go to get justice for two young children he never even knew.
As they neared their destination, the roads got worse, going from paved surfaces to potholed, ancient asphalt badly in need of repair to gravel roads. Several times Darrell had to slow the rental down to a crawl to prevent them from being tossed around like ragdolls inside the car. Crooked Creek turned out to be little more than a fork in the road, and they needed Luis’ help to even find the pitted driveway that led to the Settlement. There was no sign or marker for the “complex,” if it could be called that. When they pulled up, they all got out, and Darrell stared at the Settlement.
He hadn’t expected much but was appalled by what he saw.
The Settlement was little more than a series of small barracks, badly maintained with a broken-down fence running around what might have served as a yard. Some buildings had weathered wood siding, long since turned gray, and other shacks were covered with mere tarpaper. On the front of each dwelling, clothes hung on hooks attached to the boards, stained shirts and jeans drooping in the slight breeze. At the end of the first set of barracks, a clothesline was stung across the space, yellowed underwear and socks dangling over the muddy earth. Each dwelling had one door and a small window, the whole place no larger than five hundred square feet. Darrell tried to imagine a family of four or five living in one and shook his head.
He caught a small splash of color in the drab gray and brown scene, the window of the second apartment. Dark green with a little red. Studying it, he could barely make out a hand drawn and colored Christmas tree. His gaze went up the row of shacks and realized it was the only Christmas decoration, the only evidence of the holiday.
Little Feliz Navidad here.
The wind shifted and blew past them the acrid odor of rotting garbage from somewhere on the other side of the Settlement. Darrell used his arm to cover his nose and then, afraid of offending, he brought it back down. If these people had to deal with that smell all the time, he’d have to tough it out.
Behind the buildings, a group of three kids kicked a soccer ball in and out of the rut that ran along the row of structures. In front of the first shack, an older Hispanic woman sat in a broken-down, upholstered living room chair, one that looked like it had been rescued from a dump.
About the Author
Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for more than three decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His thriller, Leave No Child Behind (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon No. 1 Best Seller, Blood on the Chesapeake and Crimson at Cape May have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including “Thriller of the Year--ReadersFavorite.com, “Gold Award”—Literary Titan, “Mystery of the Year”—ReadersView.com and “Crowned Heart of Excellence”—InD’Tale Magazine. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.
Q&A With The Author
What advice do you have for a new writer?
I’ve been at this writing thing several years, but I still consider myself an emerging writer. When I mentor young writers, I advise them first to read widely in the genre they are aspiring to write. Even now, I will pick up ideas, tips and corrections from other successful mystery writers, my preferred genre. Second, I recommend they attend good writing conferences—now that they are starting back up after the pandemic. Not only can they learn a good deal about technique, habits, and marketing, they will have a chance to mingle with their “brothers” (excuse the sexism) in writing and this alone can do much to ease the anxiety and self-doubt of new writers. And I’ve learned a good deal from successful authors, like William Kent Krueger, Hank Phillipi Ryan and Stephanie Evanovich, all of whom I found more than willing to share. Finally, if they haven’t yet, I suggest they join a strong writers critique group, so that other writers can help strengthen their work.
What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
I don’t know if I’ve found any part “easy.” For me, every part, each stage—research, developing the story, writing the narrative, critical editing and revising—comes with its own demands and requires a different commitment. But it’s a commitment I’m glad to give. I truly enjoy doing the extensive research my tales require. My brain is always working on the storyline, sorting pieces and organizing suspects and motives. I still get a thrill as I start writing the actual narrative and the tale unfolds before me, almost like magic. And I even can say I enjoy working through successive rounds of editing and revision, watching the manuscript become stronger with each pass.
What is your favorite part of this story?
I think most writers might say this, but my favorite is probably the climax—though it is often the hardest to write, to get it just right. Of course, I’m not going to give that away here. Let me just say, in the climax, my hero, teacher, coach, and ghost sensitive is able to find justice for the two murdered children—that was a very satisfying section to complete.
Which Character was the most fun to write about? Why?
Which Character was the hardest to write about? Why?
The answer to these two questions is the same. In SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER, the murder of two children is entangled with the issue of migrant workers and immigration. I thought it was important, then, to have a central character who was in fact a migrant and who could speak from an immigrant perspective. I created Luis Alveraz, a twenty-something recent immigrant who helps my protagonist navigate the world of immigrant laborers. But since this character was far out off my experience, I needed to be careful to be sure my portrayal was accurate, neither patronizing nor derogatory. It was a major challenge. Needless to say, I had a good deal of assistance in everything from translation to dialect to culture. In the end, I was satisfied and early reviews have spoken quite well of this character portrayal. I’m now waiting to see how my readers respond—to the story and Luis’ place in it.
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