by C. Matthew Smith
November 15 – December 10, 2021 Tour
When wildlife biologist Alex Lowe is found dead inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it looks on the surface like a suicide. But Tsula Walker, Special Agent with the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, isn’t so sure.
Tsula’s investigation will lead her deep into the park and face-to-face with a group of lethal men on a mission to reclaim a historic homestead. The encounter will irretrievably alter the lives of all involved and leave Tsula fighting for survival – not only from those who would do her harm, but from a looming winter storm that could prove just as deadly.
A finely crafted literary thriller, Twentymile delivers a propulsive story of long-held grievances, new hopes, and the contentious history of the land at its heart.
Praise for Twentymile:
“[A] striking debut . . . a highly enjoyable read suited best to those who like their thrillers to simmer for awhile before erupting in a blizzard of action and unpredictability . . .” Kashif Hussain, Best Thriller Books.
“C. Matthew Smith’s original, intelligent novel delivers unforgettable characters and an irresistible, page-turning pace while grappling with deeply fascinating issues of land and heritage and what and who is native…. Twentymile is an accomplished first novel from a talented and fully-formed writer.” James A. McLaughlin, Edgar Award-winning author of Bearskin
“Twentymile is packed with everything I love: A strong, female character; a wilderness setting; gripping storytelling; masterful writing. Smith captures powerfully and deeply the effects of the past and what we do to one another and ourselves for the sake of ownership and possession, for what we wrongfully and rightfully believe is ours. I loved every word. A beautiful and brutal and extraordinary debut.” Diane Les Becquets, bestselling author of Breaking Wild and The Last Woman in the Forest
Genre: Procedural, Thriller
Published by: Latah Books
Publication Date: November 19, 2021
Number of Pages: 325
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Latah Books
Read an excerpt:
C. Matthew Smith is an attorney and writer whose short stories have appeared in and are forthcoming from numerous outlets, including Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Close to the Bone, and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 (Down & Out Books). He’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Atlanta Writers Club.
Q&A with C. Matthew Smith
What was the inspiration for this book?
It was the conjunction of three different narrative sparks. First, I’ve loved the setting of the book, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for nearly three decades, and I’ve often thought how great a setting it would be for a novel. Second, I’d been toying for a while with the idea featuring a “good guy” character on the run from “bad guys” in difficult terrain, and the conflict between them arising out of being some sort of dispute over land use. (Were the bad guys poaching? Did they manage a hostile takeover of public lands like the Ammon Bundy situation?) Third, I found an article in 2018 in the magazine Outside profiling the National Park Service’s own FBI-type law enforcement organization, the Investigative Services Branch. Based on my research, no prior novel has featured an ISB special agent, and I realized this was an opportunity for a compelling and unique “good guy.”
What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?
Being patient–with myself, with my writing, with the whole process of querying and publication. It takes a long time to write a good book, and when that’s done, you’re still only like halfway there.
What do you absolutely need while writing?
Quiet and time. Writing takes all of my attention, so I need a distraction free zone.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Tsula Walker is my favorite. She’s a flinty woman doing a tough job and dealing with complications at home. She’s far from perfect, but her heart is in the right place. I almost feel bad for what I put her through in the story.
Tell us why we should read your book.
I wrote a book I’d want to read, and I doubt I’m terribly unique in my tastes. I enjoy crime novels and outdoor adventure stories, and Twentymile has a bit of both. In addition, my favorite novels are those whose themes and subtext run deep, give me something to chew on long after the resolution. Twentymile, I hope, raises important questions about the history of its setting, about what “home” means, and about the stories we tell ourselves about our history.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
I’ll go with the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch, which I had no idea even existed until 2018. It’s a group of about three dozen special agents that investigate the most serious crimes committed in our national parks. They’re like the FBI, except they’re far fewer in number and often work alone in remote locations. It takes a particular kind of person to want to do that.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to read Twentymile. I know how little time we all have and how many other books choices you had. I hope you enjoy it!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve loved books since I was a child, and when I entered college in 1993, I swore I was going to be a writer. I ended up going to law school instead of graduate school, and I’ve spent twenty years in practice. I still have the day job, but I finally had an idea for a novel that wouldn’t leave me alone, so I started writing three years ago. The result is Twentymile. Outside of work and writing, I’ve been married to my wife, Cindy, for nearly two decades, and we have a fifteen-year-old son, Everett. My hobbies include all manner of outdoor activities, but especially fly-fishing and spending time in the woods.
What’s next that we can look forward to?
I’m already at work on another novel, which is quite different from Twentymile. Think “crime in the early gig economy.” I figure it’ll take me a couple of years to finish, but in the meantime, a short story I’m pretty proud of will appear in the anthology Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 next fall.
Catch Up With C. Matthew Smith:
Twitter – @cmattwrite
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