N.W. “Red” Pope. The Sweet Potato Caper. Scottsdale, AZ: Five Points Publishing, 2009.

Benson, North Carolina, in the fall of 1959 may appear to be a typically sleepy, small Southern town, but that simplicity is deceiving. Sure, traditional mores still dictate interactions and stores close for the noontime meal (“dinner,” not “supper”). However, Benson becomes the center of excitement when a few outsiders kick up some dust.

The strangers who cause the ruckus arrive in Benson for different reasons. Jimmy, a gambler with a losing-streak and a demanding family, is in town to train for a banking job with the People’s State Bank. He drives to work from Raleigh with Woody, a likable fellow who begins dating a teller at the bank. One afternoon, they make the acquaintance of Tom Boney, aka T-Bone, an unsuccessful crop insurance salesman from Roanoke Rapids. His infidelity leads to divorce, and he is desperate for money. Woody makes an off-handed comment about how the positioning of the train – which divides Benson and blocks five major roads in town – would make robbing the bank easy. For the next few weeks, no one thinks anything else of his remark.

As Jimmy’s and T-Bone’s situations worsen, Jimmy decides to put Woody’s observation to the test. He gets T-Bone in on the plan, arranging for him to find two associates to help with the robbery. Although the burglary goes off without a hitch, the criminals leave damning clues that the FBI uses to catch two of the crooks; the other pair are off the hook to live luxuriously in Costa Rica.

And for Benson, this alarming episode signals a change in its once-trusting community – simply that “times ain’t like they used to be.”

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coastal Plain, Johnston, Pope, N. W., Suspense/Thriller, Wake

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