Severna Park author Rea Keech recently published the third and final installment of his trilogy, The Shady Park Chronicles. The novel, entitled “Shady Park Secrets,” centers around a high school teacher named Nora who, after raising her concerns about new alt-right textbooks, finds herself amid a sexting scandal. The first two novels of the series, “First World Problems” and “Shady Park Picnic” deal with rebelling against the social norms and gun violence, respectively.
Part of Keech’s inspiration for this series came from his teaching career. He has taught both abroad in Iran and here in the community at Anne Arundel Community College. At AACC, he worked as the coordinator of part-time faculty until his retirement in 2013. His insight into the academic realm is shown firsthand in the trilogy and especially in “Shady Park Secrets” when Nora is hired to work part-time at a community college.
Another part of his life that inspired the novels was his experience in the Peace Corps while based in Iran. Keech’s time overseas enlightened him on the issue of xenophobia, an idea that is present throughout each novel. He said he attempts to make the “current national xenophobia look ill-advised.” He uses his experiences abroad to enrich his novels, showing his reader an alternate way to respond to current political disputes in our country today.
Though Keech does have a strong liberal political stance throughout his series, he presents his beliefs without judgment of the opposing view. He tries to make light of things that he disapproves of instead of criticizing them. This technique has led to his novels being considered comical and humorous, instead of critical.
Politics were not the only aspect of the book inspired by Keech’s surroundings. After moving to Severna Park in 1980, he had wanted to write a story about the small-town environment in which he lived. “Shady Park” is based on any small suburban city in America, Keech said. His setting is meant to show the reader the homegrown small town that many people find familiar and relatable. This setting also contrasts with the concepts in the novel that demonstrate the desire to expose the wrongdoings of society and to find ways to improve them.
With his novels, Keech urges people to start questioning the trends that they follow, as well as to remember that the seemingly “unimportant people can have a good effect on society.”
Though third in the series, “Shady Park Secrets” can be read as a standalone novel, and it is available at Anne Arundel County Public Library locations. The entire series is also available to purchase at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.