Sad News from Steel Town

As a young boy, you like what you see. What you saw on television was the hot ticket. At eight-years-old in ’72 it was the Miami Dolphins: Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, Bob Griese, Paul Warfield. A few years later, the Pittsburgh Steelers would reign superior: Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Rocky Bleier, the Steel Curtain on defense, and of course, Franco Harris. Graceful, yet strong. Deceptively fast. Cool under pressure, willing to let the hole develop before him. Clutch in a crunch. A winner and a class act.

Six years ago, an unexpected gift – a signed football – inspired me to attempt to paint him. His death this week was a reminder not only of the post below, but also of the memory of the great ones we idolize in our youth, especially those who in no way tarnish the legend their skill and determination created. Franco Harris remained and will thus always be, on high ground.

Making the Case for a Loosely-Planned Novel

At a talk I gave at our hometown St. Albans Writes series recently, I was reminded of a writing fact that turned out to be a gold mine in terms of benefits to my second novel, The Lost Lantern, changing it into a two-generational saga rather than what it was originally: a plea for racial harmony.

The Scenario: John Gates, running from his recent past, returns to rejoin his three friends just south of Myrtle Beach, as the trio had begun their post-graduate careers there after all four had worked Murrells Inlet through the summers of their college years. William McMillian, Gates’ black friend and colleague from those days, dreamed of opening his own restaurant and had a plan ready to set into action. Little does he know his boss and two brothers have plotted against him to steal his life savings and thwart his plan.

In my original plan, William was to have grown up in an unexplained, fatherless home. Raised by his mother, William had begun working at an early age and had an incredible work ethic. But then I began to expand on the father, Rafe McMillian. I hadn’t even considered a disappearance or murder taking place in the mid-1960s, twenty years before the novel’s time period.

But Rafe’s story grew as the unplanned ideas came. He could repair anything. He made part of his living driving through neighborhoods looking for discarded items he could fix and sell. That’s how he gets on the radar of Jimbo Rivers, father of the above three brothers. Rafe, who does well fishing and harvesting oysters, buys an old jon boat off Jimbo Rivers, in part by doing a limb-clearing job for him. On a later trash day, Rafe comes upon a yard sale a widow is having. She’s selling her husband’s tools, which Jimbo Rivers knew about, had his eyes on, and was waiting to pounce upon. On that day he was tied up at his wife’s restaurant repairing damages from a small fire. Rafe purchasing the tools becomes a large fire for Jimbo. Adding gin made it rage out of control.

Rafe and his wife, Martha, have two young boys at home, the youngest, William, is infatuated with his father’s lucky silver dollar, Lady Liberty, which Rafe always carries. On the day Rafe brings the tools home, William holds the coin as the three pray because of their family’s good fortune. As the boys run off to play, William slips the coin in his pocket and forgets it. Rafe later leaves to do his night fishing, which he does by lantern light.

Rafe never returns. William believes his father’s fate, whatever it was, came because he held the coin. Twenty-odd years later, William plans his restaurant to honor his father… The Lost Lantern.

Logically and chronologically, Rafe and Jimbo’s story becomes a 12-page prologue. The tool story reoccurs throughout the novel. Once, in a flashback, because Jimbo makes contact with Martha to try to buy the tools, and he terrorizes her over them, nearly beating her to death on the day she lies to him and tells him they’d been sold.

The family’s preacher knew the story as well as he helped her hide them in the church. The preacher theorized that Rafe may have been killed over the tools, though he did nothing, fearing for his own safety in 1960s South Carolina.

There are numerous subplots in 506-page novel. Some I had in mind, others that came to me like this one. If I had my chapters rigidly planned, I don’t think I would have come up with this one chamber of the heart of this novel… The Lost Lantern.   

The End of a Tough Ride

Over the weekend, I attended gatherings that brought home the importance of the Great Cycle Challenge, which this fall has so far raised over $10.7 million for kids’ cancer research.

The friends and classmates of our youth go out into the world, meet new people, make new friends and acquaintances, hear new stories, and are touched by new realities. You realize even more that cancer touches us all, and the statistics that are shared, the stats that break your heart when you hear them, such as 38 children a week die of cancer, is real. It’s a big ol’ world, but there is no immunity from cancer if your number is called.

Simple questions and subsequent conversations from some of those who supported me hit home. The cause is real, the need is great. When I’m getting my miles, I often think of those on my list I ride for: my sister Kelly Spradling Simmons, my colleagues and close friends Jody Jividen and Mike Cherry. More recent, my guitar mentor and friend Loren Claypool, my classmate and friend Kelli Hill Kukura, and finally, fellow author and friend, fellow Sheriff’s Camp counselor (along with Kelly and Loren) Judy Koontz Belcher. Afflicted children, no. But all taken too early.

I have to thank those who supported me, some new but most repeating their gracious giving and all greatly appreciated: two anonymous donors; Jane Weiford Sneed; Tammy Lacy; Sue and Walt Hall; Beth Hinckley-Robles; Barry and Beth Thaxton; Cindy Shope-Strock; Alan Kees; Carla Slack VanWyck; Karen Fulmer Cebular; Kim and Jason Rogers; Kerri and David Call; Emma and Matt Hindman; Tom Neal; Tom Sauvageot; Robin and David Young; Art Postlethwait; Barbara and Rodney Holley; Bud Newbrough; Barbara Farry; Hollis Claypool; Ann King; Becky and Jim Goodwin; April and Jay Kemplin; Heather McCoy; Janie Kerrigan; Brad Parish; Steve Vorholt; John Carroll; Carrie McCormick; Kristen Bowles; Pam Billups; Aaron Johnson; Lisa Parsons Lawson; Cheryl McLane; Dana Hitz; Danielle Sterzenback; Danny Allen; and the folks, Ruth and Alan Spradling.
This year my old friend and basketball buddy Scott Vincent reached out to me to start a multi-state team as he lives in Tarpon Springs, Fla. His sister and neighbor, Sharlene Muscati also joined, and the three of us together raised $5,406.29, which was second in the USA in the category of schools, and 138th overall in teams. Thanks to our contributing community, on “match day” our team, Dragons Slaying Cancer, had $1,007.94 matched. We also surpassed our riding goal, logging 1,032.3 miles.
I certainly felt mortal at the start of my ride. My 500-mile goal was the lowest in four years of riding the GCC because I’m now a proud employee of the Coal River Group, so I knew there were days I wouldn’t ride. Thanks to Larry Ellis for again pushing me into some outings. Add in a Labor Day weekend Covid derailment, followed by a crash thanks to muddy roads, I was limping out of the gate with cracked ribs and a shoulder issue that is ongoing.  I am thankful to say I made my goal after a few borrowed October days, and the giving was beyond gracious $3,104.64, taking me to the  No. 1 fundraiser in West Virginia for now – the books stay open another month. I’m so humbled and appreciative that so many support this cause! Thank you sincerely and God Bless You!

Vigor to Spare, Beach Tales to Share

I look back on a wasted writing winter, the fall before it, and most of spring, with a bit of regret. Guitars and songwriting filled the creative void, but I’ll admit I temporarily lost the fire, the drive, perhaps even the confidence, that spurs one to spend a thousand-plus hours on plot, character development, conflict, twisted cruelty, love, murder, mayhem.       

But, some recent and unexpected face-to-face encounters, along with the words posted below, brought both encouragement and motivation. My fire is stoked. My early summer mornings are being spent on my fourth novel, and I’m happy to report a true psychological thriller will be the eventual yield. My reading dessert is the hilarious stylings of Lance Carney and Mantis Preying, the third satirical novel in his series of four. To you, Lance, a Dunbar, West Virginia native, an S.O.S., sorry so slow.

Thanks for reading, A.S.

The Lost Lantern

Kelly L. Adkins

Engrossing storyline and excellent read to kick off the summer!

June 8, 2022

This book was such an excellent surprise!! I literally binge-read the last half of the book on my first day off for summer, as I was so into the storyline, I just could not put it down! I found the story’s flawed characters to be complex and engaging, the neatly woven storyline both compelling and full of surprises, and the coastal setting together alluring and full of mystique. Spradling’s superb character development and vivid description of the greater Myrtle Beach area bring to life this powerful story of friendship, love, murder, greed, betrayal, racism, and the ultimate triumph of the “human spirit.”

Diagram of Death: A Detective Harper Stowe Mystery

 Lance Carney, Author

Mystery, Suspense, Crime Thriller and Romance

March 5, 2022

Harper Stowe is smart, athletic, stunning—and a gritty police detective. Dyeing her hair blonde, she goes undercover to offer herself as bait for a sexual predator and killer who is picking his blonde victims from the running trails of an upscale resort community. What ensues is a deadly game of cat and mouse. Unbeknownst to Harper, the suspect has left a string of unsolved murders across the country, making him possibly the most prolific serial killer in the United States.

Set on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, author Andrew Spradling has created a taut crime thriller, weaving the businesses and beautiful scenery of the locale into the story. Throughout the book, in short chapters, we enter the mind of the serial killer, which is especially chilling. And the reason for the title, Diagram of Death, is cleverly revealed as the story progresses.

Diagram of Death has it all—mystery, suspense, romance and a slam-bang ending that will leave you breathless. Highly recommended!

Diagram of Death: A Detective Harper Stowe Mystery

Matthew H.

Fascinating Plot!!!

March 23, 2022

This book will get you hooked! I’ve always enjoyed crime/detective mysteries and Andrew Spradling takes it to a higher level with the suspense! The characters are so descriptive, I felt like I was part of the novel! Andrew has a gift in creating an unpredictable plot that kept me turning the pages! Great read!

Diagram of Death: A Detective Harper Stowe Mystery

Angel Casto

Fantastic thriller that’s unpredictable!

April 12, 2022

This book had me on the edge of my beach chair! I’m a sucker for any book set in a beach town, add in suspense and murders and it can’t be beat. . This book me hooked from the beginning and the ending did not disappoint! We need more Detective Harper Stowe stories!

Diagram of Death: A Detective Harper Stowe Mystery

Shelly Catlett

Couldn’t put this down

April 25, 2022

Loved this book!!! It kept you guessing all the way through and had a surprising twist! I also felt like I was watching a movie while I read it! The details of Hilton Head Island put you right there like you were in the middle of it. Great read and can’t wait for another one!

These books, as well as The Long Shadow of Hope, my first novel, are available to order electronically or in paperback at:

Thank you for the support!

“The Boys” is an “Outstanding Idea”

I am a writer of fiction. I know that reading books within my genre is important. I often resist, but the efforts always spark insights, ideas, and observations. Sometimes though, it’s a struggle. I’ve always, since childhood, loved a good biography or autobiography. I enjoy finding the connective tissue between people, their craft, and those in whom they rub shoulders. If they’re a celebrity, musician, or athlete, more’s the better.  

At Christmas my family gifted me The Boys, an autobiography by Ron and Clint Howard. Any Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer – any generation – in the USA knows Opie of The Andy Griffith Show AND little Leon, the peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich-toting cowboy. I’m a super-fan – 85 percent of the time I can tell you the episode within five seconds. Which comes in handy now. I don’t actually have to watch the show to enjoy the high spots in my mind. I guess that’s just like remember albums in their original order, or all the lyrics to thousands of songs, deeply in your subconscious.  

We all know Ronny went on to co-star in the movie American Graffiti before landing Happy Days, and most know that Clint, after the short-lived Gentle Ben series became a fairly-sought-after character actor, appearing in Ron Howard films as well as many others. Their beginnings in the ’60s and ’70s was a long, long time ago but was an extraordinary foundation.

I was aware of more of Ron’s acting, but admittedly forgot some. He played memorable episodic roles in The Waltons, (having not won the John-Boy role he auditioned for) as a dying family friend, and in M.A.S.H., as an under-aged wounded soldier Hawkeye touchingly rats out. I vaguely recalled Henry Fonda’s The Smith Family (’71, year-and-a-half-long) series but didn’t remember Ron was the elder son. These roles were just the tip of the iceberg for both brothers.  

It’s only human nature to wonder what Ron Howard’s childhood was like. Parents Jean and Rance’s grounded approach was obviously successful, though Ron would spend but short portions of spring in actual school for the eight-year run of the series (excluding the first year, in which he took the spring to make The Music Man.) His schooling at Desilu (Desi and Lucy) Studios was taught by the same lady for the entire run of the show.

Most questions you’d have about those times are answered. Rance, as Ronny’s original agent, took five percent, and Ronny’s earnings ($1,850 per episode in season six) were banked in trust for adulthood (15 percent by California law). It helped the family’s finances, since Rance had to notch-down his own acting pursuits, that he was paid as Ronny’s dialogue coach – since he couldn’t read in the beginning – and, usually on set, Rance appeared in a number of episodes himself, most notably as the Governor’s chauffer, who is ticketed by Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), setting off – after Otis spikes the spring water – drunken worry by Barney concerning the Governor’s impending return visit.

Ron’s realization of his high earnings began as pencil-to-paper curiosity. In ’66 his Los Angeles Dodgers pitching heroes Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were holding out for more than the $85,000 and $80,000 they were earning. Ron, with rerun residuals, was making more than the men he idolized. He was 12.   

Ron also tells a touching story he learned of from Andy when Ron was 32 and they were filming the Return to Mayberry TV film. At the onset of the series, just a few reads in, Rance requested Andy’s audience. Opie was modeled by the writers similar to some other current shows, and being presented as a brat. Rance suggested to Andy that, wouldn’t they get more mileage and still be able to write for laughs if Opie actually respected Andy? Andy took Rance’s advice, talked to the writers, and the show became a juggernaut.

The director’s bug bit Ron almost immediately, and was first put into words for him by Howard Morris, who played Ernest T. Bass on the show, and whom Ron later cast in Splash. Andy and show producer Aaron Ruben gave Ron his first 8 mm movie camera on his eighth birthday. He immediately began making short films in which he would cast Clint and Rance (who were also cast in Splash) and some of his friends. Ron’s writing of his childhood work centers around his goal of becoming a moviemaker and what he learned by working with the likes of Fonda, John Wayne in his last movie, The Shootist, George Lucas on the set of Graffiti, and negotiating with Roger Corman for the funds to shoot Grand Theft Auto, his first major movie, which was made for $650,000 and grossed $6 million.

There were so many more interesting connections for both Clint and Ron, too many to mention here. The “Fonzie phenomenon” and Ron’s friendship with Henry Winkler for one. Ron’s real-life squeaky-clean lifestyle versus Clint’s drinking and drug problems is another. Ron’s love of basketball, playing “B” team in high school, coaching Clint’s teams for years, and being bullied as much as revered. The brothers trade off every one-and-a-half to three pages, conversationally overlapping on their topics, which I thought was a great format. If I had one complaint, it was of wanting more – more insights to the movies that Ron made. There are a few mentions, mostly tied into their parent’s participation, Jean in Apollo 13. But then, that’s what The Boys was essentially about – family, both at home and at the studios. All in all, a light, informing, enjoyable, amusing read I recommend, if you’re a fan.

© 2022

Out of the Icy Blue

Real winter recently and rudely reintroduced itself in our parts, this after many mild seasons.

When the world shuts down, white and beautiful, worry of fender-benders and power outages can loom. It’s easy to get down and question your place and purpose.

Then out of the icy blue comes a couple of images, ringing warmth, appreciation, and to me, nostalgia.

The Burdette home seemed to me to be the center of our little town, where Kanawha Terrace, the main interior thoroughfare, met with the path of people from “up college hill” or from “out the river,” i.e., “out Pennsylvania,” from where I hailed.

Their covered front porch – across the entire structure – could often be seen crowded with laughing, chatting friends of the Burdette boys.

At a time when our destination may have been the basketball courts at Highlawn, maybe tennis at the high school or Ordinance Park, June’s, i.e., The Ventura, the Drive-In Theatre, a baseball game on “the hill” or at Watt Powell Park, or a little later, to play guitar with Loren or Snake, hit C.J.’s, or Drummy’s, or to just cruise the streets with the radio playing. New freedoms, new horizons.

And eventually for many, new cities and states.

John “Doc” Burdette bleeds blue and gold, like most of the WVU fans in our state, and they take that Mountaineer pride with them if they leave.

For my novel “The Lost Lantern,” which has a little homespun “Fort Coal” (wink) flavor weaved in with Myrtle Beach vibes, to land on a shelf with Coach Don Nehlen’s “West Virginia Sideline” book in Doc’s study in Southport, North Carolina – where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean – along with some of his other Mountaineer memorabilia, is truly an honor.

And also with that pic of the Burdette boys: Johnie was before my time, but I played a lot of Red Dragons hoops with baby brother Joe, covered many football games coached by state title winner Robert “Little,” and talked a lot of sports with Doc.

I laughed with all.

It is memories like those that keep me, as we “Shelton College Review” boys say, slingin’ ink.

If you want to give one of my novels a spin, check’em out at: Andrew Spradling: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

As always, thanks for reading.

© 2022

A Detective Harper Stowe Shout Out

It had been my past practice to post groups of reviews of my novels as they came in – usually in increments of five or ten – as a way to continue to promote and market. As a writer yet to gain a national following, I admit that each review still brings a feeling of warmth and childlike giddiness. It’s still exciting to know someone is out there giving one of my books a read, and it’s satisfying to know that they felt the time they spent was well-worth it.

My “feel” for review quantity based on sales? An author is lucky to get one per ten readers, an extremely low ratio. But there are factors that contribute to making it tough for reviewers, mainly Amazon roadblocks for readers who purchase locally – the non-verified purchase.

I will share one review, which fell into that category, from the father of a friend I’ve known for over 50 years. We literally carpooled to an independent, stand-alone kindergarten together, before our schools provided that kick-start grade. He also took the time to write this review during the strain of the holidays. For that I will always be appreciative:

It has been my privilege to watch this young author grow and mature as an extraordinary story teller.  I have followed his writings from his time honing skills as a newspaper journalist to the consummate author that he has now become.  Each of the author’s books have exceeded the art and strengths of the previous.  His most recent publication “Diagram of Death” is exceptional artistry. The depth of his research allows the reader to be immersed in the inner workings of the bad guy’s brain, as well as the sights, sounds and other actions taking place elsewhere. His ability to place the reader on both sides of the action allows them to follow the thoughts and plans of the “bad guy” as well as the ones seeking justice and security for those being subjected to the terrors surfacing in their previously safe and secure neighborhood thereby keeping the reader deeply involved at all times. I look forward to the author’s next publication.

  • Bruce Moss, Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor Associate

To read further about my novels or order a copy, please click on “My Books” above, or visit my Amazon author page at: Andrew Spradling: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle  

As always, thank you for reading. A.S.

© 2022

Coolin’ Down

Four weeks have passed since the end of the Great Cycle Challenge, and the sense of purpose I had when I was out there logging miles for the kids was literally the proverbial cup running over. I saddled up 27 days out of 30 in September. There were plenty of mornings I did NOT want to ride, but remembering one of the many stories I’d heard or read of a child fighting for his or her life was more than enough to get me motivated. My legs would join the party after eight or ten miles.

I’d put little forethought into choosing 800 miles as my goal, mainly that I’d ridden 777.7 last September and I wanted to do more. It didn’t matter that, playing with the calculator, I’d have to ride 32 miles 25 times to make it, and I’d not yet ridden a 30-miler in 2021. Again, thank you Matt Mandeville – three years ago – for shaming me into more aggressive goals.

I hoped to do more as a fundraiser as well. Last year my goal was $3,000 and I raised $5,319.76. I’d chosen $3,000 because in 2019 my goal was $1,000 and I raised just over $3,000. I was happily stunned by the generosity. But this year, with all of the uncertainty of Covid, and with my pre-release of Diagram of Death in July (I was sick of me), I wasn’t about to escalate my goal or post heavily, even though the cause is to cure the most heart-wrenching of all diseases. I fell a little short – currently $2,061.24 – but I’m so thankful for all of my sponsors and I’m proud that in paying my bike acquisition forward – from Lon Shannon to Rich Harper to me – (see: Immeasurable Kindness | Andrew Spradling ( ) I have raised over $10,000 in three years for Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

There was a flurry of activity following my last ride and my 813-mile total and they must be recognized and thanked first. Just this week – Rex and Diana Thaxton! Bless you! Post-ride – Cindy (Shope) Strock, Karen (Fulmer) Cebuhar, Derek Watson – with whom the riding all began; my cousin Kelly (Johnson) Tinsley, and a new anonymous donor (one of three). Thank you all – all Red Dragons shy of Parkersburg’s Diana – sincerely.   

More of my good-hearted friends, former classmates, and neighbors, most of which are repeat supporters: Carin Miles; Heather and Lee McCoy; Dana and Lisa (Parsons) Miller, Robin and Guy Turturice of Shuckers; Art Postlethwait; David and Kerri Call; Jason and Kim Rogers (should have thanked you properly at The Tap); Barbara and Rodney Holley and their walking-sidekick Bud Newbrough; from 50 years ago, Sun Valley neighbor Allyson (Bragg) Sharp; oldest of pals Eric and Becky Minsker; Author and St. Albans promoter Joe Bird; Rochester gem Sandy Manou Rohr; AAU brother Steve “G-Dub” Vorholt; and the one and only Jimmy Gilmore, who was “in” 3 months before the ride began; AND Jenny (Andrews) and Larry Ellis. Larry also pushed me for at least 1/4th of the goal, and was quick to say, “No, you need the miles” when I was willing to take the short route.

Thanks also to my family: another cousin, Lisa (Parsons) Lawson; our Mike Trader-in-law Jeanne Johnson; Sister-in-law Danielle Allen Sterzenbach; her Momma, Cheryl Barnes McLane; my mom and dad, Ruthie and Alan Spradling; and my bride of soon-to-be-25-years, Mylissa and our three kids, Evan, Audrey and Claire, all of whom encouraged me in one way or another. Mys would continually tell me she was proud when I could have been doing something more pertinent to writing or promoting books.

Which leads me to a few quick September stats: Rides: 27; Rides over 32 miles: 17; Rides over 35: 5; Hours on the seat; nearly 60; Elevation climbed: approximately 52,000 feet; Physical or mechanical casualties: amazingly only a water bottle holder and a cyclometer magnet. Internationally: $13,505,874 million has been raised so far. The books are open til midnight:

My intention with the 3-year total was to scale back in the future, if I even participated at all. The other day, Mys heard me say “Hmm” when I was reading some national stats. She asked, “What was that about?” I said, “Fifty-one riders rode over 1,200 miles.”

She could see my wheels a’turning.


If you could take a penny and turn it into two, double the total each day, in thirty days you would have $5,368,709.12. Hard to imagine but it’s true. Don’t believe me? See the graphs on the web. Of course, you’d have to have a Richard Dreyfuss “Let It Ride” month to make it happen, otherwise we would all be multi-millionaires, right?

Readers seem to be more difficult to draw than dollars. There must be millions of serious readers worldwide, but they’re as elusive as financial security. An author’s ultimate desire is to simply be read, to tell a tale that engages the reader, makes them hungry for what comes next. My hope has always been that one satisfied reader would then tell another, or maybe two. Diagram of Death  A Detective Harper Stowe Mystery, my third novel, was released July 6th. It’s a page-turner and books are moving.

Scott Pringle, outside Metz Cathedral in France. Photocredit: Jennie Meredith Pringle

My friend Scott Pringle works in the Air Operations Center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, managing military flights in and out of Europe and Africa. Scott reached out to me, telling me he’d ordered the book. Wanting to keep an eye on Amazon, I asked him to let me know when it arrived. It took 14 days, but when it got there, the first hard copy of my novel in Europe that I knew of, I was excited. I asked him to please take a picture of himself with a backdrop that would say ‘old country,’ you know, where it all began. Scott told me he was heading to France for the weekend. Perfect!

Jeff Buckalew, Hilton Head City Engineer, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Photocredit: Eileen Buckalew

Then one good idea led to another. Jeff Buckalew in Hilton Head, where the novel takes place. Jennifer Hawkins Smith in Nashville, Tennessee; Karen (Slaughter) Weaver in Kentucky; Ross Harrison in Hilton Head. It was Jennifer’s idea – let’s Let It Ride! #readharperstoweonthego Please send me a picture from a vacation destination or your part of the world, or post it on Facebook. Detective Harper Stowe is a go! My email is

Jennifer Hawkins-Smith, Nashville, Tennessee.
Karen (Slaughter) Weaver, on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Kentucky.
Retired teacher and Professor Ross “Pepper” Harrison, Hilton Head Island, SC.

Thanks for reading – and for the support! This should be a link to Author Andrew Spradling on

©  2021

A Voice with Disturbing Fabric

Diagram of Death A Detective Harper Stowe Mystery is a quick read. But, at 200 pages less than The Lost Lantern, my epic, 500-page second novel, it was not a quick write. If you cared to deduce on Amazon, nearly a complete 48 months – four trips around the sun – went by in this process.

I must admit, part of the delay was because of the subject matter. My villain is a sexual serial killer. As a fairly well-adjusted husband and father of two, at the time, nearly-grown daughters (and one son), I often had to set the project aside, take a break from the images, question my motivation. You see, to attempt to make the novel unique, every fourth chapter or so, I wrote first-person insights from the mind of the killer. Here’s Chapter 1:   

My experience has taught me that the most important first strike of the abduction – since a scream in a residential area is so out of order — is to silence the victim. I don’t want to bloody my new partner, nor do I want her groggy or asleep. I want her wide awake. I want her eyes screaming. She owes me that.

And, I have big hands. The Admiral always mentioned it. My “big mitts,” he’d say. They’re so large, in fact, I can secure two strips of duct tape in my palm with just a quarter inch of overlap, turned under and taped to the heel of my hand and to my fingertips. The second piece affords me a little extra coverage in case I’m slightly off. It’s not always easy, depending on my approach. Covering the mouth of an unwilling female isn’t like slapping a butt. If I have to peel a little back off her nostrils, it’s okay. I want her breathing to the end. Once I have her quiet, she’s mine. The physical domination has never been a problem. When they see the gleam of the hunting knife I pull, their eyes begin to beg. That’s when the thrashing stops. That’s when she realizes the stakes. I can cut away the necessary clothing without so much as a nick to her skin. That part gets me going. I find it so erotic I can hardly breathe.

Choosing my next victim isn’t difficult either. Not around here. If they’re running the trails or walking the beach alone, chances are their neglectful old man is playing golf, maybe deep-sea

fishing, or possibly still back at the ranch busting it to pay for their beach house. Not always. Sometimes you follow one back to find a home full of fellow-travelers, with ten screaming kids in a twelve-foot pool, her walk but a brief reprieve. No matter. This place is a delicatessen. A smorgasbord of delectable treats. I can stand at my kitchen sink and through my windows watch them run, walk, or ride by from dawn till dusk. I can sit on the beach and they’ll approach me and ask what book I’m reading. If I’m walking Dexter, my lab, they’re putty in my hands. I have that wholesome, trusting look about me. One stopped me at my garage and asked if I could please put air in her bike tires. Twenty-five minutes later, she was gone. I can’t remember a feature of her face, but I can still taste the salt on her skin. But that was before, when we still rented our house to tourists through summers.

I’ll admit in the beginning I wasn’t perfect. Along the way I recognized the need for some tricks. I learned to muddy the water, leave false clues. Part of a shoe string from a work boot – this place is deluged with laborers daily — a hair sample I’d pick up from my barber’s floor, a receipt from some touristy spot I’d find somewhere, from a golf cart or a restaurant barstool. But the true genius of it all was the dumbest luck. I hadn’t even considered it. My first here was discovered on a Saturday morning. Saturday around here is getaway day. To police detectives, that meant ten thousand suspects just crossed over the Wilton Graves Memorial Bridge from the William Hilton Parkway, back to mainland, USA. And that, my friend, is a hopeless feeling.  

Effective, I believe, in a creepy sort of way. I hope you’ll give it a try, or please tell a reader about it.