It’s a wonder anyone would want to live in corrupt Clement County, Kentucky. It attracts all the wrong elements: drug dealers from Detroit, crooked politicians, feuding Indian tribes called the Quapanog and Khuite, spies at the Eastern Kentucky Army Depot, and even supernatural beings like Appalasquatches and possibly aliens.
Fortunately, Clement County is fictional – the 121st Kentucky county created by Quinn MacHollister, who also doesn’t exist. That’s a pen name for the real five authors, past and present Eastern Kentucky University professors Charlie Sweet, Hal Blythe, Richard Givan, Mason Smith and Marie Mitchell. They’ve collaborated on two novels set in the imaginary southeastern Kentucky county, “Shadows Over Banshee Ridge” and “Wicked Design.”
Now, there’s more mischief, mayhem and murder in the third installment of the Clement County saga. This newly released novel is titled “What Rough Beast.”
“Some of the characters that we didn’t kill off in the first two books appear in this one,” said Sweet, co-director of EKU’s Teaching and Learning Center. “Like Ron Motley, who started as an undercover drug enforcement agent and became sheriff of Clement County, plus his trusty sidekick, The White Wolf. At least Motley gets a steady girlfriend this time, a formidable lawyer named Kristin Cannady.”
“We still have a drug problem in the county,” said Blythe, the other co-director. “But there are also chop shops, motorcycle gangs and some shady experiments being performed on animals to worry about. Then there’s a colony of people living ‘off the grid’ to avoid government micromanagement that we must contend with.”
“Each novel starts off with a plausible plot, then takes a turn toward the strange,” said Smith, a senior lecturer in the Department of English and Theatre. “This book hints that werewolves are on the loose, preying on unsuspecting victims. I can’t call them ‘innocent bystanders’ since few people in Clement County are law-abiding citizens.”
“There are still some decent people living there, but sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad,” agreed Mitchell, who teaches in the Department of Communication. “However, we include lots of lighter moments and quirky characters to care about so the story’s not all about crime running rampant through the county.”
Givan, who has just completed his own novel, offered insights and input as the manuscript was taking shape. He and his daughter, Chelsea, also created the layout and cover for the book. “The team has gotten more experienced in mapping out where the action is headed,” Givan said, “so we’ve had fewer problems to fix in the editing process.”
The writers were among those signing autographs at the recent Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort. “We had lots of people gravitate to our table because of the statue of Bigfoot and an alien spaceship,” Smith said. “We’ll need to find a werewolf figurine for next year’s event.”
“People were also stumped about where Clement County was on the map,” Mitchell said. “We had to level with them that we created it ourselves and placed it somewhere in southeastern Kentucky.”
All three of the Clement County novels are available on Amazon and Kindle.