Mack Cameron is back at it again, publishing his third book earlier this year.
The novel, “Whatever It Takes,” is the third part of his trilogy that takes place on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
And if you’re looking for something to take your mind of COVID-19, the novel could be a good option.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is it, Cameron said. “However, I have left some doors open in the story line to potentially come back.”
The book took almost four years to write, with Cameron writing late at night.
“I would start writing around 7 p.m. and write until one or two in the morning – enough to get through with the draft of a scene,” he said.
The novel was published in late January. It follows “You Just Never Know,” the second title in the trilogy, and “The Bluffs of Devil’s Swamp,” the first.
The Bluffs takes place in the Roaring 1920s, amid a mobster’s moonshine operation on the Gulf Coast. The second book took place in the same area in the 1970s. The third picks up in present-day, when the main character of “You Just Never Know,” Tony Gable, returns home.
“The guy goes to Hollywood, gets there, gets to be a black belt specialist in the action movies, becomes a stand-in for the actors, and then gets to be the star himself,” Cameron said. “Then, he gets a telephone call, after all these years, asking him to return to the Gulf Coast.
“The guy who saved his life at the end of the second book is about to pass away, and he has something he wants to ask Tony to do for him.
“The story is about Tony looking into what his friend was concerned about,” he said. “And that leads him into various situations.”
Cameron was inspired, in part, by real-life stories.
“A lot of it is based on stuff that has happened. Some of it is my imagination,” he said. “I’ve spoken to several families for research. I’ve also pulled from true stories of things that have happened in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.”
The Laurel native currently resides in the reservoir area. He previously worked in the state attorney general’s office under Jim Hood.
Prior to that, Cameron served as an intern for U.S. Senator John Stennis, as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, and later as an attorney for the U.S. Secret Service under presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Before Hood, Cameron served under attorneys general A.F. Sumner, Bill Allain and Ed Pittman. He left the office for a while, due to health concerns.
While with the AG, Cameron went on to coordinate the state’s efforts to block the Tatum Salt Dome from being used for an atomic waste storage site.
The dome would have been used to dump state, national and international atomic waste, which would have had adverse environmental consequences for the state, and, not to mention, lead to numerous deaths.
Through Cameron’s investigations, the state learned that at least 18 people a year would die as a result of the waste and fallout from it.
“We also found out that you couldn’t clean up the groundwater if that got contaminated,” he said. “Numerous water aquifers go by (the dome). It was just a matter of time before that happened.”
Cameron worked with Sen. John Stennis to organize the state’s Congressional delegation to address the matter and plans to build the facility there were stopped.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I did,” he said.
Also, during his time with the AG, he worked to end corruption in local government’s dealings with 16th section land.
At the time, numerous county governments were awarding long-term leases on the government-owned land for far less than market value.
“We went from $34,000 a year in revenue in the late 1980s in Rankin County to as much as $1.8 million a year” in 16th section revenues,” he said. “We did that in other counties as well.”
Cameron’s first novel was inspired by the Tidelands Case, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The case involved determining how to measure the mean high tide line, which, in turn, would determine land ownership.
All land located above the line could be held privately, while land below the line is owned by the state.
The lower the mean average tide line, the more land a company or individual could own.
A company in Hancock County claimed to have ownership of the bayou beds and tried to block off those bayous to prevent people from fishing there, Cameron explained. The firm did so, by claiming ownership of some of the submerged land.
“They tried to put in a weir to block boats from going in and the locals blew it up,” he said.
While investigating that case, Cameron learned a famed Chicago mobster had once operated a moonshine operation in the area.
“That’s when I ran up on Al Capone’s operational site – in the middle of one of the huge swamps down there,” he said.
Cameron was encouraged to write by his wife, Chrissie.
“I’d come home and tell my wife about the stories I heard, and one night, she said, ‘why don’t you write a book about it?’
“I started fooling around with it, and lo and behold, I enjoyed doing it,” he said.
The novels have a little something for everybody – mobsters, Voodoo magic, federal agents and more.
But don’t worry. Just like at the start of the classic TV show Dragnet, names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent.
“There are no names or specific locations in the book, as a way to protect people who may have had family members working in the operation,” he said. “I’m not trying to hurt anybody. I’m just trying to tell an interesting story.”