Tuesday, October 17, 2023

CRUEL LESSONS: #NewRelease from Randy Overbeck

Randy Overbeck joins me with a look at CRUEL LESSONS, his newest release and book one his new mystery series, Lessons in Peril. This new series is set in the world of classroom. Randy used his many years as an educator to create his amateur sleuths, Superintendent Ken Parks and teacher Stacy Turner, and lend an air of realism to his fiction. Welcome, Randy!


“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.”

This quote from Stephen King came to mind when I thought about my newest work. In October, the Wild Rose Press will release my newest fiction, CRUEL LESSONS, an atmospheric amateur sleuth mystery and the first in a new series called “Lessons in Peril” stories set in schools. The novel features a pair of middle age protagonists who are, you guessed it, educators, in fact, an elementary school teacher and a school administrator. Hardly your normal heroes. In the story, fifth graders get hold of a dangerous hallucinogenic, steal a car and die in a horrific crash. Assistant Superintendent Ken Parks and teacher Stacy Turner struggle to uncover who is peddling the deadly drugs before more kids die.

What brought King’s words to mind is that, while the novel is my newest work, it is also my oldest. I’ve been at this writing thing for a while now. Cruel Lessons will be my fifth published work in the past decade or so. But like most writers I think, I’ve been inventing stories, imagining characters and conjuring up plots and crimes for quite a while. One of my earliest fictional inventions was this story—or at least a very early version of the narrative and characters. This manuscript has lain in the virtual drawer for twenty years—the first attempt at the tale written long hand on legal pads—waiting for me to mature and improve as a writer and storyteller. Even though the current published version of Cruel Lessons has been through too many revisions, re-writings and editings to count, the skeleton of the narrative is much the same as envisioned so many years ago. So, like King wrote, what’s old is new again, though this was probably not King’s intent for the saying. 

Cruel Lessons is an atmospheric, amateur sleuth mystery, the first in a new series set in schools called “Lessons in Peril.” The story involves a rogue, hallucinogenic drug being pushed in a middle school and, after it results in the death of four students, the rush to stop the drug pusher before more children die. 

I think you’re going to like the final rendering of the tale. The early reviewers certainly do.

Literary Titan wrote that the novel was “masterfully written. Each new revelation adds to the suspense and keeps the reader on edge, eagerly anticipating what further secrets the story holds…… a gripping crime thriller and amateur sleuth mystery.” 

The folks at ReaderViews called it “a thrilling murder mystery…with an immersive plot, steady pace and stellar character development…one of the best mysteries of 2023.” 

And the reviewers at N N Light Bookheaven thought CRUEL LESSONS was “brilliant from start to finish…Impressive storytelling left me with a racing heart and shivers. One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read.” Interested yet?

Be among the first. 

CRUEL LESSONS is going to be one of your favorite new mysteries.


Four kids dead. Can Assistant Superintendent Ken Parks unmask the drug dealer poisoning his students before more kids die?

On a school camping trip, fifth graders experiment with a dangerous new hallucinogen and die in a horrific accident, their deaths shattering the quiet town. Assistant Superintendent Ken Parks, hoping to redeem a fatal mistake from his past, grasps the opportunity to conduct the district investigation of how students are getting the drugs. Almost before he begins, the cops make a stunning arrest. But Parks battles on, convinced the real pusher is still out there, poisoning more kids until he receives an anonymous threat: if he continues, those close to him will pay. Is Parks willing to risk those he loves for a chance at redemption?


From the bend, the road descended quickly and Amanda felt the car picking up speed as gravity and its powerful engine propelled it downhill. As she approached the next turn, she realized she was coming in a little too fast. She slid her foot to the brake. Her concentration on steering the twisting road ahead, at first it didn’t register. She dared to take her gaze off the road and look down at her feet before she understood. When her right foot depressed the brake, the pedal glided all the way to the floor. No friction. She pulled her foot back and slammed on the brake again. The pedal slid all the way down. Unbelieving, she pumped it, again and again.  

There was nothing there.

She jerked her eyes back. The hairpin turn hurtled at her. On instinct, she kept jamming on the pedal. It was supposed to work. She turned the wheel wildly. The big car shuddered as it tried to negotiate the turn. The two rear wheels slipped off the pavement, spinning in space. With the front wheel drive, the front two tires managed enough traction to catch. The car veered around the curve and headed down the next straight incline. The heavy vehicle rolled faster again as gravity pulled it down the hill. 

Amanda’s mind reeled. What was she supposed to do? 

Struggling desperately to force her mind to think, Amanda tried to consider her options. It was all happening too quickly. The next treacherous turn came at her fast. She had no way to slow down. White knuckles gripped the steering wheel.

The bend ahead showed a hard curve to the right, not quite as tight as the last one, but steeper. And she felt the car accelerating, though she hadn’t touched the gas pedal. Right before the car hit the curve, Amanda spun the steering wheel. The car lurched around the bend. The driver side of the car lifted up. Halfway through the long bend, Amanda watched the hood tilt in the turn until it was almost vertical. No seat belt on, she was catapulted down the leather seat, crashing into the passenger door.  

“Hell!” she cried, reaching to grab her bruised shoulder. 

She froze as the two wheels still on the ground shuddered in the gravel, sliding off the small road. Slammed against the side door, she heard the tall weeds and low branches whip against the body. But the car didn’t slow. Blood streamed from a gash on her forehead. For an instant she lay there stretched across the passenger door, holding her breath.

Then she sensed the car teetering. The front tire bumped something hard. Amanda stared, unbelieving, as the car began to flip. As the Regal made the first revolution, she screamed.


Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for more than three decades and has turned that experience into captivating fiction, authoring the bestselling series, the Haunted Shores Mysteries, winner of nine national awards. This fall, the Wild Rose Press will release his newest work, an atmospheric amateur sleuth mystery, CRUEL LESSONS, the first installment in a new series set in schools, “Lessons in Peril.” He is the host of the popular podcast, “Great Stories about Great Storytellers,” which reveals the unusual and sometimes strange backstories of famous authors, directors and poets. He is also a speaker in much demand, sharing his multi-media presentations, “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” “A Few Favorite Haunts,” and “Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing” with audiences all over the USA. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop.

More info about his novels, programs and podcast can be found at his website www.authorrandyoverbeck.com .




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