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Monday, October 25, 2010

Susan Whitfield visits the haunted mansion

The solid oak door to the haunted mansion creaks as Oliver greets Susan Whitfield and escorts her into the parlor. “I’m Your Boogie Man” by White Zombie plays from hidden wall speakers. With a roguish wink, Oliver hands Susan a Bloody Mary. Before long, Susan’s voice rises over the music.

Blurb:  “In the backwoods of North Carolina, sinister secrets abound.”

Hell Swamp…has Agent Hunter running full speed into a swamp full of snakes of both kinds, those that slither and those that walk upright. Although tough and well-trained, she’s thwarted and attacked in this Carolina Low Country tale of greed and misguided deeds. Fasten your seat belts for this fast-paced read.”

Excerpt from Hell Swamp:

The worship service for The Church of God with Signs Following was unlike any service I’d ever attended. It was certainly not like the Southern Baptist Church of my childhood. It began with a rowdy piano and tambourines. Then folks jumped up and started clapping and hollering. Those who had gone through the side doors on the porch were now literally hanging over the balcony ledges on either side of the principal pews. I sat still and observed the spirit moving in them. At least, I figured that was what was going on.

Once the song ended, people settled back on the pews and Preacher Hawfield stood up with gusto he’d found somewhere during the tambourine episode and quoted scripture. I was impressed, at first, that he held no Bible, no notes. Had he memorized his message? Surprisingly his eyes rolled back in his head and he started saying things I couldn’t understand, getting louder with each breath and more animated as he continued. I’d heard about some churches in Tennesse, Georgia, andWest Virginia, where people spoke in tongues, but I’d never witnessed it, and didn’t know the practice existed in this part of North Carolina.

Preacher Hawfield got downright boisterous and so did the congregation. People in the balcony were again leaning over too far. I was expecting someone to fall over and land on the first floor. It was unnerving. I looked around for a friendly face. My eyes locked on Magnolia in the back row, and she smiled and nodded at me. Had she picked up on my uneasiness?

“My people, let the Spirit move in you. Let it anoint you. Give over to it!” The preacher was creating what I’d call a disturbance anywhere else, but everyone was buying it. The building appeared to tremble from the ever-increasing racket. My Southern Baptist roots were coming undone, but my SBI curiosity was revved.

I heard a commotion and turned my attention to the front of the church just in time to see Rose Paul Hill get up and start dancing toward the preacher as the music became more erotic than religious. People were bumping and grinding in the pews with hands raised, yelling out all sorts of words I didn’t recognize. I leaned around a giant of a man to keep my eyes on Rose Hill. Why was she going to the front? And why was this old lady thrashing and twisting her body like a belly dancer?

“Sister Rose Paul Hill has come. Let’s pray that she is anointed, my brothers and sisters.”

I jerked nervously as everyone started to look up and pray, each prayer loud and different. The prayers reached fever pitch while the preacher handed Rose a vial, which she held up and poured down her throat. The service crescendoed as Rose Paul Hill let out a yell louder than anyone in the church. I was on my feet, not able to take my eyes off her. All of a sudden her loose false teeth bounced out of her mouth and across the floor, breaking into several pieces. The room became instantly and frighteningly quiet.
Rose fell to the floor; nobody tried to catch her. I worked my way to the end of the pew and ran to the front. The preacher at first seemed delighted that the Spirit moved me — until I stopped and knelt beside Rose.

“What did you drink, Rose?”


“That’s poison!”
“I’m anointed, child. It won’t kill me.” Rose Paul’s unconvincing voice grew weak. I glanced over at her broken dentures, wondering if the dental bill would finish her off. I saw movement under the front pew and blinked several times. My eyes were clear and focused, and, more than likely, outside their sockets.

“Holy Shit!” I yelled out, snatching a raggedy old toupee off a man’s head as he let out a yelp. I threw it at the snake, hoping he’d think it was a weak animal he could overpower. It didn’t work. The humongous snake, thicker than my upper arm, came straight toward me. I could see his beady eyes under the hairpiece as he moved swiftly across the wood floor. Grabbing the Glock from under my jacket, I aimed and shot the rattlesnake twice.
“She’s got a gun!”
People screamed and stampeded for the doors. The preacher and some of the men jumped me, wrestled the gun away, and pinned me to the wood floor. Somebody lifted Rose away from the ruckus.

“What are you doing?"

"A snake…under that pew. I killed it for you.”
Preacher Hawfield shrieked into my face, “You imbecile! That snake and all the others are for this worship service!

All the others?

Susan Whitfield has lived in North Carolina since the day she was born. She is the author of the Logan Hunter Mystery series and a cookbook entitled Killer Recipes. Sin Creek, the fourth novel in the series, is due at year’s end. Her current project is a stand-alone, tentatively entitled The Goose Parade of Old Dickeywood. Whitfield is a Pirate, having earned three degrees from East Carolina University. She is married and has two sons.


Sharon Donovan said...

A warm welcome for Susan Whitfield.

P.L. Parker said...

Good morning - had to laugh at the blurb. I'd thrown something too at the snake - aaacckkkk!

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Sharon and Susan - oh and Oliver, didn't see you there in the shadows with your hood over your face!

Great excerpt, Susan, I wasn't sure whether to chuckle or hide! This sounds like a wonderful book for Halloween!

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Hi Sharon, Susan and Oliver!

What an excerpt! Snake was bad enough. What are the others?

Sounds like the perfect book for Halloween.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Great excerpt. I'd want a Glock in her case. LOL That type of church service is all over the South, including, I think, in Texas. The problem is the rattlers we have in Texas are not the less venamous type of the Alleghanies. Still, I'm fascinated from afar by this practice as seen on documentaries and in National Geographic.

Great Hallowe'en book--or for any other time.

Sounds like a great book.

Sharon Donovan said...

Tatsy, Lyn, Karen and Caroline, LOL my sentiments exactly about the snake and glock and south. GREAT HALLOWEEN story. OLIVER, a round of BLOODY MARYS

Susan Whitfield said...

LOL! I hate snakes but couldn't resist using them in Hell Swamp. I do try to use humor in all of my Logan Hunter series, especially after intense situations. Thanks, Sharon, for having me over and 6thank Oliver for the Bloody Mary. Great site. My absolute delight to be here for Halloween.

Debra St. John said...

Hiya Sharon, Oliver and Susan,

Great excerpt. I'm dying to know what all those snakes are for!

Sharon Donovan said...

Debra, here comes Oliver with a Bloody Mary and another for Susan. It's a delight to have you on my blog, and best of luck with HELL SWAMP. A real winner. GRIN