BY JEFF CLARK
Author Merle Temple did a book signing his first novel, “A Ghostly Shade of Pale,” Thursday at Reed’s of Columbus from 11-1 and again from 4-6. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the signing.
The book is a work of fiction based on Temple’s tenure in the early days of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, where Temple became the first captain in the agency. Temple said the novel has many threads and transcends the crime/mystery genre. The story centers around the central character Michael Parker. Temple, who joined MBN in early 1972 and stayed for more than six years, said his time with MBN influenced his work of fiction.
“Those were turbulent times for America,” Temple said. “So many divergent challenges to the nation’s self-image all converging at once on the same stage. Drug use was virtually inseparable from anti-war protests, civil unrest and a rebellion by some against the values of their parents. It was a subculture that we infiltrated but were woefully unprepared for. Some good people lost their moral center in all of the contradictions, and some lost their lives. I try to pay homage to those good people in ‘Ghostly,’ and hope we’ve done so.”
Temple, an Ole Miss alumnus, said his return to Columbus will be memorable, as an incident in the Friendly City was pivotal in his career with the MBN.
“The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics had just been formed in the wake of President Nixon’s War on Drugs, and I was hired there as one of the first agents, and eventually became the first captain,” he said. “Returning to Columbus for the signing of ‘A Ghostly Shade of Pale’ is an emotional homecoming of sorts. In 1976 we arranged to make a purchase of heroin (in Columbus) from dealers who were flooding the area with high-grade heroin to create a market in the university environments nearby. Agents in my group had made previous buys from the dealers, but we wanted to do a large deal and hopefully draw out their backers, who were often reluctant to allow front men to handle a sizable amount of product. Providence was with us that day, as a horrific gun battle ensued at the scene when a sniper covering the deal from a railroad trestle opened fire on us. Two people were wounded, and deaths would have occurred if not for what could have been nothing less than Divine Intervention. There were political repercussions from that day, and many scars…not all physical.”
With “Ghostly” being the first in a planned trilogy of novels, Temple said he also hopes to see his first book one day become a movie.
“I contacted Jim Clemente at Criminal Minds in Hollywood last summer,” Temple said. “I knew someone who knew him, and asked Jim if he would read the manuscript and tell me if it was any good or if I should just burn all copies. He told me it would take a while because they were in production. Many months went by and finally, the email popped up in my inbox. He went on to say that it was big and complex but the right screenwriter could adapt it for the big screen. Jim is now pitching the movie to producers in Hollywood, and we are about to go out for interviews, book parties and a meet and greet. The film commission in Mississippi also sent copies to four independent producers. So, we will see what happens. Jim’s quote on the book cover has opened so many doors for us.”