Author Terry Shames discusses recent book, veteran treatment at book signing

Author and UT alumna Terry Shames discussed her recent book at a signing event in Austin Monday evening. Her book, “The Last Death of Jack Harbin,” is the second installment in the Samuel Craddock Mystery series. The event was hosted by MysteryPeople, a mystery bookstore located within Bookpeople.

Scott Montgomery, crime fiction coordinator at BookPeople and founder of MysteryPeople, said that the book will be named MysteryPeople’s “Book of the Month” for February.

The story follows ex-police chief Samuel Craddock as he investigates the murder of a wounded veteran in the fictional town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. “The Last Death” has received a lot of praise since its release on January 7, including reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. The Toronto Star describes the character Samuel Craddock as “the most engaging new sleuth in American crime fiction.”

Shames grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas but now lives in Northern California. She studied English at UT and has a master’s from San Francisco State University. She is “a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, [and] she serves on the boards of Northern California chapters of both,” according to her website.

Shames, who once worked for the CIA, briefly spoke about prominent themes and issues brought up in her book, including guilt.

“Scott [Montgomery] mentioned that he thought there was a lot about guilt in this book. And I think he’s right. We’re all guilty of something and this book is about what people do with their guilt,” Shames said.

But to Shames, the most important issue that her work touches on is the treatment of veterans after they return from war.

“When I was in college, a guy that I knew… went off to the Vietnam War and he came back blinded and missing a leg. And that’s what has happened to this vet in [this book]. And I always remembered that, and I just felt like I needed to write about the plight of veterans in this country, how they’re not valued after they are warriors,” Shames said.

Shames is working on the third book in the series, according to her website, and she is toying with the idea of writing a prequel.

Kathy Waller, a fellow member of Sisters in Crime and attendee of the event, recommended the series.

“She’s using a Texas setting, and she is just pitch perfect in her tone and descriptions,” Waller said, “This woman knows her setting. She knows what she’s talking about.”