When I read a book or watch a movie, I find I enjoy the experience more if the atmosphere has been set up well. The definition of atmosphere I’d like to reference, and there are six of them in my trusty 2002 edition of The American Heritage College Dictionary, is number five: “The dominant tone or mood of a work of art.” For movies, I’m drawn to Francis Ford Coppola and Ridley Scott. In particular, The Godfather I and II and Apocalypse Now, and Blade Runner and Hannibal. Books are a little different. Atmosphere is one place where authors like John Grisham and James Lee Burke shine. Masters of show and tell, I love the way they set the climate of the southeast. Michael Connelly’s depiction of Los Angeles is another exceptional creation. Same with C.J. Box’s Wyoming.
But what is it about these craftsmen and their work that makes them so extraordinary? For me, it’s the tone of the whole story. I like the noir side of things; a little dark, a little cynical, and characters with deep, self-destructive failings. The atmosphere in them sets a murky, sinister ambiance. Winning supersedes morality. And everyone has faults, especially the protagonist.
In my debut mystery, Southern Heat, I wanted to capture an atmosphere of a flawed paradise. Charleston, S.C. is paradise, or at least it was for me when I lived on Sullivan’s Island. I had a wonderful view of the Intra-Coastal Waterway out my front door, a short fifty yard stroll to the Atlantic Ocean, and a semi-private beach. Million dollar homes surrounded me, though I rented and wasn’t anywhere near the one percent tax bracket. Crabs side-walked across the sand, pelicans flew overhead, and dolphins circled close by.
But Charleston, like anywhere, has a bleak side. In the middle of all that old charm and character, there are not-so-nice parts of town. Gangs roam the outskirts. And there has been environmental abuse.
So I plopped my protagonist, Brack Pelton, right in the middle of a mirage of lowcountry perfection. After losing his wife to illness and going off to fight in Afghanistan and forget the perfect life he had with her, he returns to Charleston to rebuild his life. Except that his uncle, his only real family, is gunned down in front of him. Despite a significant inheritance, all Brack cares about is revenge, which gets dished out liberally but at the expense of the innocent.
If you like Southern mysteries with a shadowy slant, check out Southern Heat. I can be found through my website, www.davidburnsworthbooks.com, Facebook, www.facebook.com/BurnsworthDavid, and Twitter, @DavidBurnsworth. Drop me a note and let me know what you think.
Southern Heat by David Burnsworth
Genre: crime fiction
About Southern Heat:
Gunshots echo down an antebellum Charleston alley. Brack Pelton, an ex-racecar driver and Afghanistan War veteran, witnesses the murder of his uncle, Reggie Sails. Darcy Wells, the pretty Palmetto Pulse reporter, investigates Reggie’s murder and targets Brack.Source: Info in the About Southern Heat was from the press kit from the publicity team.
The sole heir of his uncle’s estate, Brack receives a rundown bar called the Pirate’s Cove, a rotting beach house, and one hundred acres of preserved and valuable wetland along the Ashley River. A member of Charleston’s wealthiest and oldest families offers Brack four million dollars for the land. All Brack wants is his uncle’s killer.
From the sandy beaches of Isle of Palms, through the nineteenth-century mansions lining the historic Battery, to the marshlands surrounding the county, Southern Heat is drenched in the humidity of the lowcountry.
Meet The Author
David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Southern Heat is his first mystery. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife along with their dog call South Carolina home.