A Great Partnership for the New Novel!
Updated: Oct 23
Earlier this month, the Wild Rose Press released my newest work, CRUEL LESSONS, and the professional reviewers are weighing in.
“Masterfully written…a gripping crime thriller”—Literary Titan
“A great slow-burn mystery…with great plot twists”—Nana’s Reviews, Greece
“One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read!”—N. N. Book Heaven
“A really good story and a great read”—Our Town Book Reviews
But CRUEL LESSONS is much more than an atmospheric, amateur sleuth mystery. If you’re familiar with my other work, you’ll know that I aim to do more than entertain with my fiction—though an engaging read is always my first goal. With CRUEL LESSONS, I’ve strive to use the mystery as a cautionary tale about student experimentation with drugs and the heartless adults who would victimize youth.
The story is set in 1995 in a small-town middle school against the backdrop of failing ‘JUST SAY NO” and “DARE” anti-drug programs. Four students get ahold of a powerful new hallucinogenic which they can simply apply to their skin like a temporary tattoo. Drugged and high, they steal a car for a joyride, all four dying in an horrific car crash. The town is so shaken by the deaths, citizens clamor to bring the drug dealer to justice. Ken Parks, Assistant Superintendent for the district, works with friend and local DARE officer, Bart Daugherty, to uncover how the drugs are getting into the school. And that’s only where the danger starts.
The critics have noticed as well.
“Every parent’s nightmare”—N N Light Book Heaven
“A sad story that had me in tears at times”—The Avid Reader
“A story of intrigue and social introspection”—D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
“A story taken straight from society today”—Have You Heard Book Reviews
My drug is imaginary—thank heaven—and my story is fictional. And I don’t pretend to have any special expertise on student drug use and abuse, though I’ve witnessed more than my share of this tragedy. Still, I believe my message is critical. I’ve chosen to set my story almost thirty years earlier, in part to make the tale metaphorical, rather than actual. But one thing is clear: student drug use, experimentation and abuse has only escalated in the past three decades. In a recent study, 50% of teenagers have admitted to misusing a drug, at least once in the past year. The same study demonstrated an astounding 61% increase in drug use among 8th graders between 2016 and 2021!
Plus, students today who dabble in drugs play a far more dangerous game than the those in my story. Unlike the 1990’s, one dose, one tablet, one trial of drugs today can prove catastrophic, even fatal. The accompanying graph portrays the shocking fact of the incredible increase in drug overdose deaths—of all ages, not just teenagers—from 20,000 a year in 1999 to a staggering 107,000 in 2021!
That’s one reason why with my new novel, CRUEL LESSONS, I’ve decided to partner with Natural High, a Drug Prevention Program for Youth. In fact, I’m so committed to this, I’ve decided to donate a portion of every copy of my new novel I sell to this program that provides great resources for parents and teachers.
Will my simple telling of this tragedy make any difference in the real world of 2023? Will someone read and take heed? I don’t know but one thing is sure: all these stats simply demonstrate my tale—even though set 30 years ago—could not be more timely.
"Of course, the tragedy is the war on drugs has only gotten worse."--ReaderViews
More info on CRUEL LESSONS and my other works can be found at my website, www.authorrandyoverbeck.com. Readers will also find a link there to the Natural High program as well.