Former law enforcement agent’s novels set for TV.
When is the last time you read a book of fiction that made you wonder if the events you read about really happened? Well, there is a North Mississippi author who has mirrored his book off of real life events in which he was a participant.
Former narcotics agent Merle Temple, who has penned four novels that draw from his experience in the field, recently signed a Hollywood contract with X-G Productions. The contract optioned all four books for a possible television series. They have already placed three new shows on network TV for 2017.
“They are enthusiastic about the series, and they are well connected,” Temple said. “One executive, who may be helpful, read their pitch and the books and called it ‘John Grisham meets True Detective.’ He found the concept of the lead character as a Christian . . . ‘intriguing.’ To have written something that could become a series, a modern ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ well, that would be something, something that could spawn other such series. We are hopeful and excited.”
The law and education
Temple was raised in North Mississippi, graduated from Nettleton High School and went to Washington, D.C. to train with the FBI and work as a fingerprint technician. After attending ICC, he graduated from Ole Miss with a Bachelor of Public Administration degree and a Master of Criminal Justice Management degree. Temple’s education laid the foundation for his life and his book series.
Temple worked at an assortment of part-time jobs to help pay his way through college. He interned with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department before he left Ole Miss. After returning to the Tupelo area, he was promoted to supervisor and then captain for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. It was during this time in the 1970s, which provided fodder for Temple’s first book, “A Ghostly Shade of Pale.”
Raids on moonshine operations deep in the woods of Prentiss, Tishomingo and other area counties were just the tip of the iceberg of corruption Temple met up with through his journey as a narcotics agent. Dealing with drug buys and busts, meeting with informants, liaising with local officials and putting himself in dangerous situations provided Temple with a firsthand account of corruption within the states of Mississippi and Tennessee.
Temple has ties to Baldwyn. As a Nettleton high school student, Temple participated in events against Baldwyn in a parliamentary procedure debate team, and on the track team competing with Baldwyn’s great discus thrower, Jerry Enis. Enis proved to be the expert in that event. Deputy Sheriff Lewis Springer, with whom Temple had interactions, lived near Baldwyn at one time and was close to Sheriff Bill Mitchell. Mitchell knew Elvis Presley and was a part of the historic day when Elvis came to Tupelo to get his deputy’s badge from Mitchell. Lewis was very helpful with the research of that event which is recounted in my novel, Deputy.
“My grandmother, Pearl, was my buddy and confidante, and the model of unconditional love that I would later find in Christ,” Temple said. “Pearl dispensed love and King Leo peppermint sticks, which to her were one and the same. She asked me to never forget her, like that was possible. So, I kept her real name in the first book, and that relationship between Michael and Pearl resonated with readers. Years ago, at a dinner in Atlanta, people brought those King Leo peppermint sticks to the dinner as gifts. Pearl would be pleased, I think.”
Temple said the most influential people in his life are and were Jesus Christ and his grandmother.
“I wanted to save the world, but I was the one who needed saving,” Temple said. “I crawled to the foot of the Cross, and said, “Master, I have ruined this life, May I have another?” It was then that grace and mercy flowed from His wounded side, and everything changed.”
Throughout the book series, Michael Parker is the main character. He is quixotic, always tilting at windmills and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He wants to right wrongs and rescue damsels in distress. A product of the 1950s and 60s, his heroes are the Lone Ranger, Elliott Ness and the Untouchables and Superman. Right is right, wrong is wrong, everything is black and white, with no stretch of gray between. Then Michael runs headlong into reality and finds that the world is not a neat and ordered place, that treachery abounds, with monsters all around, and those who should be friends are your worst enemies. He is immersed in works-based salvation, and is desperately trying to be “good enough.”
“Deputy: Once Upon A Time In Mississippi,” begins with Parker interning as a deputy sheriff in Lee County in 1970-1971. He experiences moonshiners, gun battles, high-speed chases, graveyards, voodoo, race relations, the KKK, mobsters who bomb the home of his boss, and his first encounter with politicians who have sold their souls and want to buy his. Familiar landmarks, Elvis and Buford Pusser, the fair, good times, and hard times . . . images of yesteryear abound for people of a certain age, and amidst it all, Jesus.
“A Ghostly Shade of Pale” begins when Parker leaves Ole Miss to slay dragons in the drug wars of the 1970s and to navigate the turbulent waters of the real world. In the nightclubs of the Dixie Mafia, he finds love, loses it, and finds it again and nearly loses himself in the silent chambers of the human heart. Held hostage by razor blade-eating drug dealers, targeted by assassins, and ambushed by a sniper, God rescues him time and time again. He encounters evil personified in the psychopath and Satanist, Fredrick, and discovers that he is not alone.
“A Rented World” finds Parker leaving the world of drug enforcement, hoping he has left behind gangsters and gunfights, only to find the corporate and political criminals he encounters in the unholy trinity of politics, crime and business are far more dangerous than the organized crime fighters who tried to kill him. He learns the gangsters were just choir boys compared to the politicians who try to do him in, that all damsels in distress can be saved, that treachery and betrayal run all the way to the front door of the White House, and he finally understands just how puny and frail he is without God.
“The Redeemed: A Leap Of Faith,” finds Parker reaping the consequences of his life, a knight-errant with rusty armor, tilting at windmills. The world abandons him, but he finds the Friend who will never leave or forsake him. Just as he thinks he is forever lost on a sea of darkness, the Lighthouse shines in the long, dark night of his soul, and he finds his purpose, that for which he was made.
Temple said that “Deputy: Once Upon A Time In Mississippi,” the new book and prequel to the original trilogy, is about 60 percent drawn from actual events in his life; “A Ghostly Shade of Pale” 65 to 70 percent; A Rented World 85 to 90 percent; and The Redeemed is about 90 percent.
Many Mississippi schools are using Temple’s books in their classrooms. These schools include Jackson, East Webster, Nettleton, Shannon, Saltillo, Louisville, Biggersville, Holly Springs, and Amory. Baldwyn High School journalism teacher, Demi Roberts, plans to include Temple’s books in her Mississippi authors curriculum. ICC made “A Ghostly Shade of Pale” required reading for all English students and some instructors are continuing in A Rented World.
A chance email
Temple’s world took a turn for the better as Temple knew the cousin of Jim Clemente, the writer-producer of the TV series of Criminal Minds and decided to write to Clemente and asked if he would read the manuscript of “A Ghostly Shade of Pale.” Time passed and when Temple had almost given up on a reply, Clemente emailed him and wrote the following: “You are not only a great writer but a great writer of American literature. That’s what it is, a big crime story as literature. Come to Hollywood. I want to represent you!”
“Like the Beverly Hillbillies, we loaded up the Murano and headed to Beverly . . . Hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars,” said Temple, “It was quite an adventure, meeting stars, dining with producers, doing radio and TV interviews, and signing books for the cast of Criminal Minds.”
Not only is Temple a novelist, he is also an evangelist. He witnesses to prisoners and everyone he runs into during his book tours and engagements.
“Being an evangelist is the best job of my life,” Temple said. “All the good, bad and tragedy in my life was just preparation to tell my story and His story of second chances and redemption.”
Temple is married to Judy M. Bates Temple. They live in Tupelo.
Temple plans to dedicate what time he has left to telling the good news of Jesus Christ, to aspire to an obituary that lists cause of death as: “He was just all used up for Jesus Christ.”