Treachery in Cocke County: Gatlinburg author sets novel in that place

May. 31, 2013 @ 04:23 PM

Author Matt Reid watches Amazon for feedback on his book "Mountain Treachery," which is set in Newport and Cocke County.

"Every time I get a review, it's a like a Christmas present," he said. "Good or bad, I want to see what people think of it. I like ones where people say they're from the area, and they're familiar with the places in the book."

A Christian suspense novel, "Mountain Treachery" is about Elijah Stokes, formerly an officer with the University of Tennessee Police Department.

"He feels God calling him back to Cocke County," Reid said.

After being turned down for a job with the sheriff's department, Elijah examines the doings of an overly aggressive real estate agent. He also looks into a church whose members raise funds in ways that are, to use Reid's phrase, not biblical.

"He begins snooping around, and his world gets turned upside down, because he doesn't know whose toes he stepped on," said Reid, 42.

In addition to telling Elijah's story, Reid incorporates reflections on scripture. Early in the book, Elijah muses on the first chapter of Habbakuk, which reads, "Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed."

"Not only could one look at the 'nations,' but one could look at the church, his own life, and a number of things and be amazed at what God was going to do," Reid writes.

"What I'm trying to do is have a readable story, one that will be entertaining – but that will also be a sort of ministry to the reader," said Reid, who with his wife and seven children lives in the Gatlinburg house his parents bought in 1963. "Maybe give a little message to people who might not go to church."

Authors such as Frank Peretti and Dee Henderson have been quite successful writing Christian fiction, noted Reid, who describes himself as Baptist-slash-nondenominational.

"I would love to be able to write something that's like a Christian, self-help type of book," he said. "But I don't have the credentials for that. I haven't been to seminary. I'm not a church pastor or anything like that. I enjoy writing stories, and I thought that mixing Christianity and fiction would be an interesting thing."

A Knoxville native, Reid wrote "Mountain Treachery" while living in Georgia. To gather material, he made research trips to Newport and Cocke County, and he followed goings-on in the Newport newspaper. For help with local geography, he looked to Google Earth and Google Street View.

"Elijah's house is a fictional location," Reid said, "but Hartford Road is a real road."

Reid graduated with a degree in logistics and transportation from UT, where he played trombone in the marching band. He wrote his first story in the third grade. "It was a 'Dukes of Hazzard' sort of thing," he recalled.

"Mountain Treachery" has sold about 1,500 copies – as a physical book from the self-publishing company Lulu ($12.99), and as an e-book ($2.99). "I was turned down by probably 20 different publishers," Reid said, "and I didn't have the patience to play the game where you submit to agents. So I just decided to self-publish."

Because it is so much cheaper, Reid encourages readers to buy the Kindle version of his book.

"I think people reading on the Kindle, iPods, iPads – that's the way of the future," he said. "Unfortunately, books and bookstores will go the way of the past." Even so, he will put out a hard-copy version of his next book, a sequel to "Mountain Treachery" called "Mountain Politics."

"I like having a physical book that I can put my hands on," he said. "Also, I have a lot of relatives who don't have Kindles and want the physical book."

In "Mountain Politics," Elijah will run for sheriff. "I don't know whether he's going to win the election or not," Reid said. "I don't want him to lose, but if he loses, it could be a good Christian lesson."

Reid learned of the Habakkuk verse about 15 years ago, at a company where he was applying for a job. "The manager said that was the verse they applied to themselves," Reid said. "Look and watch and be utterly amazed."

Since then, Reid said, "I've grasped that as my own verse. God can do amazing things in my life, and your life, and everyone's life."

kburns@themountainpress.com