The boy was known to make up stories, so when he said he witnessed a murder, John carenen wasn’t sure to believe it.
It was years ago when Carenen was teaching struggling children in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The boy, Jeff, was one of his most rowdy students, practically a wild child. He roamed the mountains at all hours of the day.
One night Jeff said he was hiding in the brush when he saw three men coming up a stream. Without warning, two of the men shot the third, then threw his body into the woods.
“We said, ‘Jeff, are you sure this is what you saw? “And he was adamant,” Carenen said. “We gave up, but a few weeks later a police detective shows up at our door and wants to know if he can ask Jeff questions.”
But Jeff knew the rules of the mountain: shut up. He had already said too much and he didn’t want to be the next corpse thrown in the woods.
“The way Jeff held on and refused to say a word, it kind of stuck in the back of my head all the time,” Carenen said.
Carenen went on to become a professor at North Greenville University and Newberry College, but that story has always marked him, no matter how many decades have passed.
It is a difficult situation which now forms the basis of his new novel “Stay for himself” out June 22 at Koelher Books.
In her side of the story, Carenen trades the wild child Jeff for a lone veteran named Whit Coombs. Spiritually tormented by the death of his wife and physically injured since his time in Iraq, Coombs wants nothing more than to be left alone in his cabin by a lake in the mountains.
“At night, there was less to see and more to hear, if you weren’t afraid to listen. – to “keep for itself”
But one night on a moonlit hike, he witnesses a gruesome murder and is faced with a choice: either stay silent and let the killers get away, or report the crime and risk breaking his loneliness. so sought after.
Written in a sober yet poetic style, Carenen aims to capture the beauty and danger of the Blue Ridge.
“Some people at Blue Ridge see the mountains as a protection from the outside world,” Carenen said. “Others see it as containment. It’s beautiful there, no doubt, but not necessarily sure. There are teeth and claws up there, and some pretty tough people too.
“Keeping to Himself” is available June 22 from Fiction Addiction, M. Judson Booksellers, librairie.org and Amazon.com.