Next Thursday marks a first for the Lee County Courier as the paper kicks off a serialized novel by a local writer. Merle Temple’s Deputy: Once Upon A Time in Mississippi will run every week in these pages.
Temple, a former deputy sheriff, a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent and captain in the first drug wars, a manager in the corporate world and a campaign chairman resides in the Saltillo area with his wife Judy. A native of Nettleton, the 71-year-old Temple picked up the pen, so to speak, about seven years ago.
Since then, he’s written and published “Deputy,” “Blood on the Ground: Living and Dying in Nod,” “A Ghostly Shade of Pale,” “A Rented World,” and “The Redeemed: A Leap of Faith.” The protagonist in the novels is Michael Parker, who Temple knows well.
“Michael Parker is based on me,” he said. The books, in the words of his website www.merletemple.com are “A Southern Gothic nightmare (that) plays out in the Michael Parker series – graveyards, gangsters, murder, mayhem, corruption, seduction, love lost and found, faith and redemption.”
One of his earliest fans was Jim Clark, publisher of the Lee County Courier: “Merle usually gets me to read his books before he sends them to print,” Clark said. “What an honor.
“Merle and I became quick friends after our initial meeting in 2012 – we both liked true crime, master fiction writers like John D. MacDonald, old ‘60s and ‘70s (drug culture) music and history. So we’ve just always looked forward to our visits.”
Temple has been active in the promotion of his books, ranging from local and distant book signings to radio and television interviews. Most interviews lately have been through Skype, the Internet communications medium, due to Temple’s dealing with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune malady that affects the thyroid gland.
His books, Temple said, are “all over the world.”
“One thing that pleases me most is schools picking them up,” he said. “There is no profanity in them and they are used in English classes.”
“Ghostly” is being shopped for a possible screenplay; Temple signed with XG Production Co. to do that shopping. Temple said the company, with Jim Clemente, screenwriter and co-producer on some of the Criminal Minds shows as president, specializes in his books’ genre. Clemente is himself a retired FBI supervisory special agent/profiler and former New York City prosecutor. XG, which stands for ex G-man, also has movie rights to the other four books.
Of course, Temple knows the reality of Hollywood fickleness so said, “If it doesn’t sell, I may reload and go with a faith-based producer.”
Temple’s faith does indeed come through in his books and in his personal life. He is not shy about professing that faith.
“With ‘Deputy,’ Merle has captured his mojo,” said Clark. “The characters come off the pages fully alive, flesh and bone – personalities we’d either like to know or hope we never meet. Using the backdrop of Tupelo and Lee County we travel back in time to when moonshine flowed, law enforcement was questionable and Elvis was king.” The books range from settings in the 1970s to the 2000s.
“Merle is a great writer,” Clark said. “I’m hoping he’ll gather some new fans by publishing ‘Deputy’ in the Courier.”
To get the full serialization, just subscribe to the Courier. Mail check for $24 for Lee County residents; $20 for Lee County senior citizens (60 +), $29 in Mississippi or $34 out of state - Courier, 303 West Main St., Tupelo, MS 38804. Sorry no debit or credit cards.
Temple’s books are available through Amazon or his website.