An earlier, unpublished novella of mine ended with Casey Eubanks running for his life after a violent argument with his girlfriend Orella left his cousin dead. Casey stole Orella’s car and took off into the night. I wanted to see what happened to Casey after that night, and that became the seed for Casey’s Last Chance.
The Casey Eubanks who emerges out of the pages of Casey’s Last Chance is a much more complex person that I originally imagined him to be. I got to know him intimately writing this novel. I began to understand much better his anger at the world, his distrust of others, his quickness to blame others for his problems even when he knows down deep he’s the cause of most of them.
His relationship with Orella goes to the very heart of the battle that rages within Casey. He loves her, and he hates her, too. She’s the only person he’s ever known, including his promiscuous, simple-minded mother, who could be counted on to be there for him. Yet he finds her drunk in a tight red dress at a juke joint, so maybe she’s just like all the rest after all.
I had to see this relationship play out to the end, see where it would take these two star-crossed, hard-to-love lovers.
A 90-year-old cousin of mine told me a story a few years ago about the man who in part was the inspiration for Casey Eubanks. The man was the black sheep of the Atkins family, a ne’er-do-well in and out of trouble—and prison—most of his life. After many dissolute years, he tried to return home to central North Carolina and stayed with some relatives in rural Moore County. They couldn’t deal with him long, however, so they put him on a bus to Charlotte, where he died of a heart attack while walking down a lonely city street. Relatives took up a collection to pay for a grave and headstone. The prodigal son who was told to stay away!
That tale long circled in my head as I told Casey Eubanks’ own somewhat different-but-then-not-so-different story in Casey’s Last Chance.
Title: Casey’s Last Chance
Author: Joseph B. Atkins
Publisher: Sartoris Literary Group
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
Tough, gritty, and atmospheric, Casey’s Last Chance unfolds against the backdrop of a treacherous, race-torn 1960s South that’s ready to explode with civil rights workers challenging an organized resistance itching for combat. The central character, Casey Eubanks, is a small-time North Carolina hustler on the run after an argument with his girlfriend Orella leaves his cousin dead. A crony steers him to a big operator in Memphis, Max Duren, a shadowy former Nazi with a wide financial network. Duren hires Casey to do a hit on labor organizer Ala Gadomska, who is stirring up trouble at one of Duren’s mills. Things go wrong, and Casey’s on the run again, this time from Duren’s goons as well as the cops. Enter Martin Wolfe, a freelance reporter investigating Duren’s operation. He tries to solicit Casey to help him and FBI agent Hardy Beecher bring Duren down. Casey dumps Wolfe, steals his car, and returns home to Orella. A bloody shootout with a Duren goon, however, convinces Casey to join Wolfe and Beecher. It’s Casey’s last chance. The three take off back across the South to execute a plan to destroy Duren. Everything works until the explosive end…but will anyone emerge unscathed?