My fictional town of Oakdale is nestled in northeast Mississippi, not far from real-life Tupelo. If you’re familiar with the area, think of towns the size of Ripley, New Albany, and Pontotoc: small, close-knit communities with populations of 2,500-5,000 and a town square with businesses often run by the children and grandchildren of the founders. It’s the kind of place where everyone typically knows everyone else’s business.
The first Oakdale novel, Judgment Day, was released in 2007. It’s the story of one of the town’s favorite sons, high school football coach Bud Crisler, and a young, unstable police officer named Gary Quinn who briefly played for Crisler—and holds a deep grudge against him. While the series doesn’t have a repeating protagonist like you find in novels by authors Michael Connelly, C.J. Box, and Lee Child, the common thread is the seemingly serene little town being quite the backdrop for rampant crime, corruption, and dysfunction.
The protagonist of my fifth Oakdale novel, Director’s Cut, was dashing film professor and serial killer Tripp Kelly. He was pursued by long-time Smart County Sheriff Billy Joe Stone, a law enforcement legend who was nearing retirement and really met his match in the esteemed professor, who seemed to think it was perfectly okay to eliminate his real-life problems the way he would if directing major motion pictures.
Resting Place is my seventh Oakdale novel and a book I chose to set in 1984 as a prequel to the series. Billy Joe Stone, then a youthful sheriff’s deputy, is put in an awkward spot when the sheriff of two decades, Robert Glass, confides in him about a web of corruption originating in Smart County and names several powerful people whose hands are dirty—there’s already an influential local man missing and presumed dead. When Glass himself disappears without a trace, Billy Joe doesn’t know what to do or who to trust. But he has the strong sense that if he doesn’t try to bring everything and everyone down, he could be the next target.
In my hometown of Starkville, Mississippi, Dolph Bryan served as Oktibbeha County sheriff more than three decades. Now in his late seventies, Dolph was exceedingly generous with his time as we discussed Billy Joe Stone’s options for moving against the crime empire. Both Dolph and my old friend Scott Newton, whose law enforcement background includes stretches with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, emphasized how primitive surveillance equipment was back then. One of my favorite scenes in Resting Place is when Billy Joe stops at the home of a man he’s ready to confront; as he walks toward the house, a small cassette recorder taped to the inside of his pant leg is already running to record whatever exchange takes place.
I also researched music, movies, automobiles, and a variety of household products to make sure they were current and/or available in 1984. Car parts could be purchased at Western Auto. VHS movies were rented at a video store, and meals were grabbed at local places like Big Larry’s Hamburger Stand and the Oakdale Café. Needless to say, there was no internet then.
I hope your appetite for suspense has been whetted. Visit dogwoodpress.com to order signed copies of Resting Place and to find the tour schedule for this fall. Thanks for your time. I look forward to seeing you out on the road.
Originally from Jackson, Mississippi, Joe Lee has a background in radio, television, and journalism. He is the Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Dogwood Press, a small but traditional publishing company in Brandon, Mississippi, and has published fellow Mississippi authors John M. Floyd, Randy Pierce, Valerie Winn, Jim Ritchie, Mike Windham, Molly May, Barbie Bassett and Candace Cox Wheeler, as well as authors Susan Cushman and Janet Brown. Lee's critically-acclaimed Oakdale suspense series includes 40 Days (2018), Director’s Cut (2014), Last Chance Texaco (2012), The Long Road home (2011), The Magnolia Triangle (2009) and Judgment Day (2007). His first two books were stand-alone mystery novels: the legal thriller On The Record (2002), and the broadcast television whodunit Dead Air (2004). Resting Place, the prequel to the Oakdale series, will be available at dogwoodpress.com on August 1, 2022.