What is a creative non-fiction murder mystery, you ask? It’s a true story with pieces of (very) stretched truth. And that’s exactly what I’d call “Murder on Starr Mountain” –stretched truth.
I wrote the story after hearing Stephen talk about a murder that occurred on our property, around the time he purchased it, approximately three decades ago. That’s the truth part. The stretched truth (that’s the creative part) starts when we flash forward about twenty-five years. That’s when Stephen’s German shepherd, Duke, always barked at this one particular tree. We never could figure out what he was barking at. Of course, as a writer, I asked myself why, then wrote a story.
|Duke’s Memorial, at the tree where he used to bark.
Here’s an excerpt:
I was just passing by the shack of old Billy Starr – homesteader they named the mountain after – when something moving in the rearview mirror caught my eye. It was Billy, hobbling after me, waving me down.
Sitting next to me, Duke panted.
“Hold on, boy.” I pulled over and rolled down the window.
“Howdy,” Billy said, wiping dust from his eyes with his hanky.
“Howdy, Billy. Everything okay?”
The scent of a hard day’s work drifted into my truck on a hot breeze. When he spoke, the cigarette smell on his breath blasted in, too. “Yeah, everything’s okay. Right now, anyhows. So, how do you like that place you bought up there?”
“Just fine, for all the time I get to spend there. Seems like I’m on the road more than I’m home. Folks aren’t too interested in buying encyclopedias no more.” I shifted in my seat, not sure what hurt more, my butt or my back. All I knew was I wanted to get home and get out of that truck. Yep. It was time to end the small talk. “You take care, now. Good seeing you.”
Old Billy grabbed my arm with tanned, leathery hands. “Wait a minute!”
His grip startled me. “What is it? Something wrong?”
“Well, it’s just that there’s a secret’s been weighing on my mind. Big secret. Figured it was time to let you in on it.”
All I wanted was to feel a hot shower running down my aching back and an ice cold beer cooling my parched throat. I wasn’t in the mood to sit and banter with Old Billy. But the obligation to be neighborly — and a slight curiosity about the big secret — kept my foot on the brake pedal a while longer. “What secret, Billy?”
“Anyone ever tell you about what happened on your property before you moved there?”
“No, what?” All kinds of images filled my head. Fire? Poachers?
“Well, you see . . .” He blew his nose, then wiped the back of his neck. “There was a murder up there.”
If you’d like to know more about that murder, and just what it was that kept Duke barking up that tree, you can purchase Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume IV (High Hill Press, 10/11) one of three ways:
Contact me: jymorrill(at)gmail.com —use @ for “at”— to purchase an autographed copy for $15.00 (Plus shipping)
This anthology is full of dozens of mysteries set in the Ozarks, written by award-winning authors. It’s perfect reading for sitting in front of a warm fire on a cold, wintry day.
Contact me at jymorrill(at)gmail.com–use @ for “at”
— to purchase an autographed copy Echoes of the Ozarks, Volume VII
(High Hill Press, 11/11) for $15.00, plus shipping.
My story, “Crossing Crystal Bridges” is about one wife’s attempt to “sophisticate” her husband by introducing him to the finer side of life at the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Was she successful?
Here’s an excerpt:
“Fred, get off that tractor and come inside this minute. You promised you’d take me to Bentonville for the Crystal Bridges opening this afternoon.”
He rolled his eyes and pretended not to hear his wife over the rumble of Old Bessie’s engine.
Winnie ran toward him, waving a fresh-pressed shirt. “Did you hear me? You need to come in and shower. We’re supposed to pick up Henry and Ella Sue in an hour.”
He shifted into neutral and, feeling a panic attack coming on, took a deep breath of brisk air. “Oh, for god sakes, Winnie May Caldwell.” He always called her that when he got excited—kind of like counting to ten. Huffing, he continued. “I got to get this field tilled before the first frost.”