Dr. Randy Overbeck is a veteran educator who has served children as a teacher and school leader. For more than three decades, his educational experiences have included responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent and he’s lived the roles of many of the characters in his stories. An accomplished writer, he has been published in trade journals, professional texts and newspapers as well as in fiction, with his third published novel. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.
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“Nonfiction is about reality; fiction is about truth.”
Bestselling mystery author, S. J. Rozan, shared these words at a writing conference a few years ago, and this insight struck me. As an author, I argue that one important purpose of memorable fiction is to share the truths about life, love and sometimes even death.
I’m not naïve. I realize readers don’t choose a mystery or a thriller or even a romance because they are searching for insight or revelation. James Patterson is not a bestselling author because of his philosophical outlook on life.
Fiction lovers are not browsing bookshelves in bookstores—okay, checking out Amazon or BookBub listings during the pandemic—because they are searching for the meaning of life. They want to be entertained, to be scared to death, to be drawn in and forget their world, or maybe to fall in love inside the pages of their newest discovery.
But I also believe authors have an important responsibility. First, we need to assemble the essential ingredients to capture readers’ attention—a plausible story line (mostly), credible characters, a setting readers can enjoy, and most important, a compelling narrative. But I also believe if we, as authors, are fortunate enough to command our readers’ attention for hours of their precious time, they should come away with more than just solving the mystery, seeing the bad guy captured or even making their heart race. Fiction should convey a truth, sometimes even a truth that can’t be conveyed via nonfiction—at least not as well.
That’s why, when I wrote each of the ghost stories/mysteries in my Haunted Shores Mysteries series, I attended to the truth part of my novel as diligently as the ghost or mystery part.
For my new release, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, the second in the series, I placed my fictional murder at the center of an even greater, very real-world problem. As readers navigate through the mystery and try to solve the whodunit, they also come face to face with the disturbing reality of human trafficking, as the murder and the trafficking become intertwined in the narrative.
On this issue, a few details may illustrate why I felt compelled to center my tale in the ugly world of sex slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking.
- Officials estimate somewhere near 4.5 million people are caught in the web of human trafficking worldwide. While most of those sex trafficked in the U. S. come from other countries—principally Eastern Europe, Central America, and the Far East—a great many girls, teens and even younger, from the U.S. go missing and end up in the sex trade.
- Based on the best estimates, one out of five female runaways in the U.S. ends up being trafficked, upward from 3000 to 5000 a year or a new teen trapped every 100 minutes!
- As recent news reports have revealed, manipulation and abuse of trafficked girls is not limited to low level pimps. Notables such as Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and even Prince Phillip of England have been implicated in human trafficking scandals.
- Experts believe an astounding one million children are victims of sex trafficking worldwide.
- Taken together, there are more people trapped in human trafficking today than at any time in history.
Her is a link to a brief article with some astonishing—and depressing statistics:
My hope is that when readers finish CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, besides encountering a new, engaging mystery, exploring an interesting and unusual resort location, indulging their romantic impulses, and perhaps even straying a bit into the spirit world, they have a better grasp of the “truth” I’m trying to capture…and maybe a better understanding of the world around them and themselves.
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