Discord In Harmony
A tale of love, duplicity, duty, deceit, and yes, discord and harmony
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When Alicia G. Copeland set out to write her book, "Discord in Harmony," she made sure she had a lot of index cards. For each of her numerous characters, even the minor ones, she had a card filled with information like the names of the relatives and parents, height, weight, eye color, birth date, place of birth, nose shape and even the favored hairstyle of the person.

Some of this information did not even make it into the book, but Copeland said it "helped make the characters real to me."

The characters seem real to the reader, too. The story centers on the lives of the people who live in the small town of Harmony during the Depression era. A string of petty thefts has scandalized the town. Sheriff Cletus Haley, one of the main characters, goes on the chase and travels down many other paths along the way. These sidelines introduce the reader to more of the town's people, like Ruby Jean Johnson, the sheriff's love interest and psycho extraordinaire who can play the piano and men's hearts with an ease that borders on genius.

Copeland is also able to capture the coarse angriness of Jimmy Pinkerton, a foul-mouthed bully and thug, even though she describes herself as the proud mother of two who never uses the F-word herself.

Her characters are studies of good and bad and shades of gray. Even if readers do not see any redemptive value in the vilest characters, they will understand how they came to be that way.

"That's what people are, a mix of good and bad," Copeland said. "I think it's better to show that rather than depicting someone as perfect when none of us is perfect. In a lot of ways, it makes us better. We all have a dark side and we have to try and overcome our dark sides."

The background of the town these characters live in is just as detailed as the characters. Although there is a real town called Harmony in California, Copeland fictionalizes hers, yet spent 11 months researching the area she wanted the town to be in, down to the type of plants that grew in the area.

She also researched the time period. Because one of the characters has an obsession with greatness and fame, Copeland made sure the movie stars and the titles of the movies they were playing in were historically accurate. She included slang from that era too, using phrases like "he did it for ducks," (which meant) to be funny.

...She manages not to muddle the several story lines ... The action moves progressively along ... and (though)the story does have a predictable ending ... there is joy in the journey to get there. It has several plot twists and enough revelations to keep readers turning the pages...


The central Coast of California has long been a favorite vacation spot for my family. The sign, "HARMONY Population 18," would always draw a smile as we wound our way up Highway 1. Recently, we stopped and visited the quaint artist town. As I walked down the street I could not help but wonder what this town was like years ago when perhaps it was a bustling community.

Alicia Copeland has marvelously crafted just such a "wondering" with Discord In Harmony. She has authentically captured the feel of a simpler time and place while presenting to us characters that are complex and nuanced. The story revolves around a mystery, which begins with petty theft but then darkly evolves into scandal, cover-up and murder. And through swirl of conflicts, both internal and external, our little town of Harmony is thrown into discord; yet Cletus Haley, our protagonist, remains true as a father, sheriff and as a man.

So convincing is Ms. Copeland's storytelling that I can well imagine myself visiting one of those old, abandoned cemeteries on the Central Coast and finding the graves of Cletus and Ruby. How did their lives unfold after we had left them in discord? I can only hope that a sequel to this excellent and highly recommended novel will assuage my curiosity.


Loved your book! It's a little of Steinbeck, somewhat like "Murder She Wrote" and then some. I felt I was reading about my family, especially in the areas of Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Grover Beach. Keep these characters going!


First let me say I'm 84 so I've read a lot of books in my time. Second, I was raised on a farm in Illinois. So I could relate to this story. I enjoy this kind of story! I had a hard time to stop reading it! I would like to have an update on the lives of the sheriff and his family!


I enjoyed Discord In Harmony very much. It was the kind of book I love - each time you have to put it down, you look forward to getting back to it and continuing the story. The characters were deep, the plot had twists, and the setting and historical background were compelling.


What a surprising read! Riveted for four nights. You can write just like men speak to each other. From intrigue to incest - whew! Female insights for why people behave the way they do. I should have known where Jimmy P. was hidden. No mention of San Simeon? Sea lions? Hearst? You channel expectations elsewhere! Excellent - Steinbeck would be proud.


Rosie Fabian, Covina City Clerk, and Copeland at Duarte Author's Festival.