David Mather, like many RPCVs, thought that his Peace Corps experience was one-of-a-kind and decided to write about it in novel format. He began writing One For The Road in 2006, and five years later it was published through Peace Corps Writers. It takes place in the foothills of the Andes of southern Chile where he was the most isolated Volunteer in his forestry program, and the novel could well be a primer for new Volunteers. This literary effort, though, was an epiphany for David: he discovered that he enjoyed writing. A sequel, When the Whistling Stopped, soon followed. After that, he began “The Crescent Beach Series,” three novels that take place in a fictitious backwater fishing village in the lawless Big Bend Area of Florida’s gulf coast. The Biloxi Connection is the third in the CB series and his fifth novel published through PCW.
Mather’s isolated PC experience in rural southern Chile (1968-70) strongly influenced the decisions he made later in life. He returned to the States and built a homestead in the woods of New Hampshire, over a mile off grid. He became a self-educated forester and began a successful specialty-wood company that has been in operation for over thirty-five years. With advancing age and all those harsh winters with temperatures twenty-five to thirty below coupled with freezing outhouse seats, plus walking the mile long soupy road in to his cabin during the spring when four feet of frost comes out of the ground, Mather and his wife began visiting the Big Bend Area. They became residents in 2006.
It is a special area. Forget the stereotype that most have of Florida. This is the land of “lawgs, hawgs, and dawgs.” There is an adage that the farther north you go in Florida, the farther south you are. This is the land of y’alls and sweet tea in the middle of the Bible Belt. The coastal area has no high rises, rather spur roads from state highways lead to small isolated and simple towns. Shrimpers and crabbers still work the waters that are unbelievably shallow — the rule of thumb is that a foot of depth is gained for every mile you go out into the Gulf. No jet skis here, just good ol’ boys and gals enjoying fishing and air boating. Welcome to the Redneck Riviera.
This is where the Crescent Beach series takes place. The first novel, “Crescent Beach,” is about the real-life drug smuggling where bales of marijuana called “square grouper” are smuggled ashore by local fishermen. A state trooper by the name of Rusty McMillan goes undercover and infiltrates the town. Problem is he begins to bond with the people he’s supposed to bust. The story is intriguing, but the strength of all three books is the characters. The reader feels that they are not just fabricated for the sake of the plot. They’re interesting, believable, even addicting. That is why the series is so entertaining. The reader has come to know the characters, and is interested in what comes next in their lives.
Finally, getting to The Biloxi Connection . . . all of the characters from the previous two novels reappear. Rusty, as always, plays a major role. Here he goes after the hired assassin that has killed his best friend. But there is a duel plot, the second quite current. Rebecca, the fourteen-year-old darling of Crescent Beach, goes off to high school in nearby Perry. She meets Billy, the first love of her life, who introduces her to drugs, primarily opiates. She gets hooked and goes into a tailspin. Both plots are interwoven with the comings and goings of daily life in the small town with its full cast of characters. The author would be the first to say that The Biloxi Connection would not qualify as literary fiction. Rather, he would say that it is solidly written and an entertaining read. The stories are all engaging, but it’s all about the characters.
5 Novels by David J Mather —
David’s website: onefortheroad-mather.com