The Souvenir Keeper: Outer Banks author Joseph L.S. Terrell releases latest crime fiction novel

Published 10:29 am Saturday, October 16, 2021

Outer Banks writer Joseph L.S. Terrell recently released his latest crime novel in the Harrison Weaver series, The Souvenir Keeper, a fictional story about the search to find a serial murderer and rapist before he strikes again.

The Souvenir Keeper is the ninth in the series and the 15th of Terrell’s published books. The book opens with the discovery of a second rape and murder in the area. Local law enforcement in the Dare County Courthouse in Manteo begin work on the case, aided by crime writer Harrison Weaver, who tags along and can’t help but try to piece together the clues. Intensity builds as the case is solved slowly and the reader knows the serial killer is looking for his next victim. Terrell expertly creates tension by casually describing various female characters – waitresses, office clerks, friends – causing the reader to wonder which woman the killer will stalk next.

Despite the genre, the book is a light read. I surprised myself by devouring it in a single evening and enjoyed the book more than I did John Grisham’s latest. Likable characters and a fast-moving story keep the reader entertained, and Outer Bankers can’t help but be charmed by the setting. The main character dines in maybe a half dozen actual restaurants, with details as specific as Reuben sandwiches at Poor Richard’s and famous crab cakes at The Dunes.

Terrell knows the area well and it shows in his detail: “Driving south on the Bypass, I turned onto Ocean Bay Boulevard and parked at the beach access lot at the end of the road. A fancy name for a road that is one block long.”

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Joseph L.S. Terrell autographs one of his 15 published novels. Summer Stevens photo

His first person writing is casual but comforting, notoriously missing the subject in a sentence, and brings to mind the voice of Friday from the 1960s detective TV show “Dragnet.” There are many similarities between Terrell and his lead character – they are both crime writers, they both live on the Outer Banks and they both play the bass and perform occasionally – though Terrell said he didn’t base his character off himself. “Harrison is a lot younger than me. And a lot taller!” he laughed.

Several of the characters in the story are real, such as Gail Hutchison, victim’s advocate for the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, to whom the book is dedicated. Most are a work of a writer’s imagination, though one suspects they may be inspired by the author’s acquaintances.

The Souvenir Keeper, published by Bella Rosa books, can be read out of series order, though each book adds to the metanarrative of Weaver’s personal life and relationship with his sweetheart Elly Pedersen. Terrell is already planning the 10th Harrison Weaver story, though he confesses that the story comes to him as he writes. “I like to write and say, ‘Golly, I didn’t know that was going to happen!’”

“I’ve never wanted to be anything but a writer, except maybe a professional musician,” he said. A high school literature teacher introduced him to Hemingway, and he was hooked. He recalls, “I wouldn’t tell anybody. It’s like saying you want to be a movie star.” But it was a calling and Terrell couldn’t not write.

He headed to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to pursue a degree in English. Terrell served in the Korean War as a special agent in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps. He later returned to UNC to pursue graduate studies in journalism, working for United Press International as a staff writer, followed by a position with The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau covering the Pentagon.

It was after covering true crime as a newspaper reporter that someone asked him if he ever considered writing a mystery novel. His first crime novel—Tide of Darkness, the first Harrison Weaver book – was based on the real murder of a staff member from The Lost Colony play, and though well researched, Terrell’s accounting was fictional.

Terrell has been a writer for over 40 years, producing not only mystery novels, but topics in true crime, psychology, military and government affairs, agribusiness and more. He’s written for newspapers, magazines, radio and television, and is a first place winner in the National Press Club’s Short Fiction Contest.

When he’s not working on his southern crime novels in the Outer Banks, he’s planning his next trip to Paris. He tries to get out there every year, to visit and do some writing. His thought is, “You’ve spent so much money to get here, you’d better do some work.”

The Souvenir Keeper and other books by Joseph Terrell can be found in local Outer Banks bookstores.

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