By Maria Giordano,
Killer Nashville Staff
Writing wasn’t on author Terry Shames’ mind when she was a child. When she was about 6-years-old and asked what she wanted to be when she grew up her first thought was to be a detective.
“I had been reading the Raggedy Ann and Andy adventure stories before I graduated to Nancy Drew,” said Shames, who has since received numerous awards for her writing. “The characters in these books were always finding clues, so I used to walk around looking for clues. A gum wrapper? A button? In my childhood imagination, I was sure that one day I would be called up to bring out those clues to solve a real, live mystery.”
Winner of the Macavity Award for Best First Novel for her 2014 mystery-thriller A Killing At Cotton Hill, Shames has perhaps become a detective in an indirect way.
“Although I didn’t win, it gave me a lot of buzz and something for my agent to pass on to publishers considering my manuscripts.”
She is currently working on the fifth book in a series featuring the beloved Samuel Craddock, a country gentleman and the former police chief of the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. The recurring character is loosely based on her grandfather, who did indeed live in Texas.
Shames described her grandfather as strong and sometimes brusque, but a person with whom she connected.
“When Samuel showed up in my book A Killing at Cotton Hill, I thought I was channeling my grandfather, and let him have his way,” Shames said.
“The bigger truth is that Samuel is not any one person. I think he reflects the best of the men I’ve been closest to—my grandfather, my father, my husband and my close friend Charlie, who died a year before I started writing the first book. I’m so happy that people love Samuel. As one of my neighbors said right after the first book came out, ‘Everyone needs someone like Samuel in their lives.’”
Growing up, Shames’ family would visit her grandparents in central Texas. They had a huge extended family that would meet there for holidays. All the cousins slept tumbled together on pallets made of quilts, she said. And, there was plenty of adventure together, from fort fights and wrestling matches to storytelling sessions.
“Even beyond this though, there is something about the smell of the air, the heat and humidity and the look of this area of Texas that has a deep hold on me,” said Shames, who now lives in California. “I hope it comes through in my books.”
Based on her following, those Texas roots are showing. She has quite a few fans in Texas, many of them her relatives, she laughs.
“The readings I do in Texas are very well attended. But I get a lot of fan mail from people who live in small towns all over the country, saying ‘You could be writing about my town,’” she added. “So, it isn’t Texas that draws readers so much as the small-town setting, and of course Samuel himself.”
Her fourth book, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, comes out April 7. Inspiration for this book comes directly from her past and based on a true story her mother told her that stuck in her mind for years. Reviews for this book can be found on GoodReads.com and Amazon, and a review for A Killing at Cotton Hill can be found in Killer Nashville’s “Past Books of the Day”.