Beneath Still Waters

THE BOOK: Beneath Still Waters


THE AUTHOR: Cynthia A. Graham

THE EDITOR: Kristina Blank Makansi and Donna Essner

THE PUBLISHER: Blank Slate Press, an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group LLC

SUMMARY: Hick Blackburn, a reluctant sheriff with a troubled past, is called to the scene of a gruesome murder. With nothing to go on except the victim’s race and sex, the task of discovering who she is and how she died challenges all of Hick’s investigative skills. But Hick faces a deeper challenge. The vision of the victim has left him shattered, a reminder of a war crime has tried to lock away, a crime that has begun to eat away at the edges of his life, destroying him one relationship at a time.

Set in the wake of World War II, Beneath Still Waters is a lyrical and haunting tale about the loss of innocence, the resilience of love, and the lengths to which people will go to survive.

THE BACK STORY: Beneath Still Waters is the culmination of thought … thoughts about war and those sent to fight and also about the notion of deciding who is worthy of life and who is not. I think too often war is romanticized. Rather than John Wayne type heroes, I wanted to portray the effects of war on the young men called to serve – the disorientation of being thrust from small-town America into a war zone. I wanted to write something that clearly showed the personal, individual cost of war.

WHY THIS TITLE? The title refers to both the water where the victim is discovered, and Hick’s state of mind. The saying “still waters run deep” is indicative of the inner turmoil he tries to disguise.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I often describe this book as an “accidental mystery.” At its heart, there is a crime to be solved and through this crime the reader will be able to examine issues of life and death in small town America. Although the protagonist has lived through some dark moments, at its heart, Beneath Still Waters is a story of love, compassion, and community and stands as a reminder that there is no one beyond redemption.


“When the headless body of a baby girl is found in the swamp near Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas, it is up to Hick Blackburn, the town’s reluctant sheriff, to uncover the truth about the infant’s death. But the body isn’t the only thing that the still, murky waters of the Arkansas slough dredge up. The body stirs up powerful emotions in Hick – from the horror he faced and committed during WWII, to his tenuous relationship with his former fiancée – and in the town itself, making everyone reassess the place they call home and the balance between good and evil inside them all.

“Beneath Still Waters is Southern lit at its finest and most poignant. On the one hand we have Hick Blackburn’s struggle with his role in his family – his broken-off marriage with Maggie, and his relationship with his sister and brother-in-law (also his deputy) – and, on the other hand, Hick’s doubts about his place in the community. He didn’t want to be sheriff, and now he isn’t sure he wants to chase down the killer of the baby, as it might just be a young girl in town and he wants to avoid scandal. Cynthia Graham’s writing is crisp and to the heart. Her characters are true, honest, and quickly become a part of you. This book is a page-turner that will keep you guessing about the identity of the killer until the very end. And, yes, there is a mule within the pages of the story, but it isn’t dead. Highly recommended.” – Historical Novel Society, Editor’s Choice

“From the moment you step into the world of Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas, you will find it unforgettable … First-time novelist Cynthia A. Graham has succeeded in creating a setting and characters that flow in perfect synch.” – Claire Applewhite, author of the ‘Nam Noir series

“When the badly decomposed and headless body of a baby is found in the swamp, Sheriff Blackburn is, at first, reluctant to investigate. He suspects the perpetrator was probably a frightened teen and no good will be served by finding them. Since returning from duty in WWII, Hick has been trying to leave his past behind including giving up the woman he loves. And this baby has brought back memories of those days, memories he has been trying very hard to forget. But it becomes clear that he must find justice for this baby and, as he digs deeper into the crime, he begins to realize that he must confront not only his own past but the secrets lurking just under the surface of this small southern town. Beneath Still Waters by author Cynthia A Graham is much more than a simple murder mystery. It a beautifully drawn portrait of a post-war southern town as well as the stress returning soldiers experienced as they tried to reintegrate into civilian life after the trauma of combat. The characters are well-drawn and complex and, for the most part, very sympathetic. Graham makes you care about them, to feel you know them or want to and you care about the outcome, not only of the murder but of many of the other people in this small town who have been touched by it if only peripherally. This is a story about secrets and deceits, yes, but also about love and healing and community and it keeps the reader engaged from the first sentence to the last.” – Maxine, Goodreads reviewer

AUTHOR PROFILE: As a child, Cynthia A. Graham spent every weekend and vacation in the cotton belt of Missouri where she grew to love the mystery and beauty of the stark, delta plain. Today, Cynthia lives in St. Louis where she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Missouri – St. Louis with a B.A. in English. She has won several awards for her short stories and has been published in both university and national literary publications. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Sisters In Crime.

Beneath Still Waters is her first novel.


WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Blank Slate Press, Your local independent bookstore

PRICE: $14.95


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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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