Merle Temple has done it again with Blood on the Ground — penned a suspenseful and complex novel with characters who jump off the page. Readers are taken for a scary ride inside the seedy nightclubs and dark alleys — places they normally wouldn't venture, locales operated by drug dealers and the Dixie Mafia.
It's a journey full of betrayal, in a time when the line between criminals and law enforcement was blurred.
It's a journey full of plot twists and landmarks most any southerner will recognize.
It's a journey readers will enjoy from the first page to the last. Blood is Temple’s fifth book, serving as another prequel as the last novel Deputy (2017) did to the original trilogy A Ghostly Shade of Pale (2013), A Rented World (2014) and The Redeemed (2016).
Temple began with Ghostly, a throwback to southern gothic novels, with shades of murder, betrayal, the macabre, and the supernatural.
“As far as inspiration, some writers tell me that they are inspired by a vivid imagination. Others say that they meditate and wait for the ideas and scenes to burst out of their hiding places. Some are inspired by chemical stimulants, and that is not a good thing,” Merle said, in an earlier interview. “As for me, I just remember a rich life, three lives in one full of all of the threads of living — the good, the bad, and the tragic. Lessons lie dormant still in the dusty old recesses of your mind, threads of pain and purpose woven into blankets of yesterday. In those times of exploration, you not only find material for books, but now and then, you find yourself.”
One way Temple’s authorship is different is much of his writings come from real life experiences from when he served with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent and the captain in the first drug wars. Along his career, drug dealers plotted as to where to bury his body, hit men tried to kill him and he discovered treachery which went all the way to the White House.
“I hope with this most recent book I can pay homage to some of these characters, who are based on real people. I hope my writing captures those early days, back to the inception of the bureau,” Temple said. “With each book I understand more about myself, but it does surprise me how naive I was back then.”
The other thing that’s special about his novels is you won’t find bad language, sex or graphic violence, for the sake of violence. Instead you find a brilliant story, with his faith in Jesus Christ cloaked within without being preachy.
“That’s my biggest responsibility. I know some people, in the beginning, will never pick up a Bible, but they will read a rip-roaring novel, as long as it keeps their attention,” he said. “Sometimes readers will write me, or email a question, which comes up because they read a book, about Christ.
“That helps me, because it makes me go back and study the Bible, and make sure I give them the correct answer. Responsibility doesn’t get any bigger then that.”
The primary character in all five books is Michael Parker, who is loosely based on Temple. “In author forums, some say their inspiration for their writing comes from a vivid imagination, some say they meditate and find ideas…I just remember,” he said.
Much of Blood (which has the subtitle “Living and Dying in Nod” is driven by characters conversation but every once and a while, Temple will slip into John D. MacDonald mode and describe Michael’s surroundings and thoughts perfectly.
While Agent Parker was being baptized in the river of reality, the curtain was rising on another drama near Hattiesburg where men were falling into an ancient bottomless pit. The fires got hotter and hotter, and they could not quench their thirst ... The midnight dew was heavy, and night creatures drank their fill from blades of grass and tiny flowers in a secret world born in darkness. Bugs, frogs and nocturnal birds chirped and croaked in a symphony for no one.
“Nod” is an obvious reference to the Land of Nod — the place here Cain was exiled by God after Cain had murdered his brother Abel, according to Genesis 4:16:
Temple will be doing a signing of Blood on the Ground: Living and Dying in Nod this Saturday, Nov. 3, at Lifeway book store in Tupelo from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and the following Sunday, Nov. 11, at Barnes & Noble from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. He is also available to speak to classrooms or share his testimony at churches. Merle and his wife Judy Bates Temple live in Saltillo. Contact him at (662) 523-2331.