SUPPORTING THE BLUE: REAVIS WORTHAM TALKS ABOUT WRITING, THE ADVANTAGES OF AGE, THE LAW, & HIS LATEST NOVEL

Reavis Worham’s latest in his Red River mystery series, Gold Dust, has the folks who keep the law in nineteen sixties Central Springs, Texas, and their families off in different directions with plots involving a CIA experiment, modern cattle rustles, and a fake gold rush. On October 9th Reavis will be at BookPeople with Melissa Lenhardt (Heresy) to discuss their books, but we grabbed him ahead of time for a few questions.

Image result for reavis worthamMysteryPeople Scott: What aspects of the sixties did you want to explore in Gold Dust?

Reavis Wortham: The initial idea came from the true story of a CIA experiment in 1950 called Operation Sea-Spray, in which a supposedly benign bacteria was sprayed over the city of San Francisco in a simulated biological warfare attack. A number of citizens fell ill with pneumonia-like illnesses, and at least one person died as a result.

So as usual, I wondered, “What if?” What if something similar happened to the tiny northeast community of Center Springs at the end of the 1960s, that complicated decade full of war, civil unrest, and space travel? As in all my novels, I thrust normal people in abnormal situations and watch how the characters respond to an unexpected world of challenges. What happens if someone starts a gold rush in Northeast Texas while at the same time cattle rustlers murder a local farmer in a completely separate incident? How does law enforcement separate these crimes that might be connected?

I’ve heard stories of gold buried and lost in Lamar County, and after the novel came out, I learned of a real gold mine near Chicota, Texas.

So after wandering around a bit with this answer, the truth is I wanted to explore the ultimate question of what Constable Ned Parker would do if his family faces this personal danger from a government he trusts, while at the same time an entire world of mystery swirls around the community. I honestly didn’t know he’d load up with an old friend and head for Washington D.C. to find out who was responsible for nearly killing Top, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Gold Dust (Red River Mysteries #7) Cover ImageMPS: You’re near the end of the decade. How has it affected Center Springs?

RW: Small towns are like small pools or stock tanks, with little exposed on the surface, but if you could peer underwater you’d find an entire hidden world full of beauty and danger. I think of that tiny community as a vortex, the swirling center of situations that involve the characters that have grown through the seven Red River novels. We’re all impacted by our decisions, and oftentimes, the decisions of others.

As I said earlier, the 1960s were packed with significant events that come in from the outside world and involve people who only want to live their lives with as little trauma and drama as possible. When outside influences impact those farmers who live off the land, they respond with force. Center Springs wants to be left alone, but when the world intrudes, it changes the community a little at a time, drawing them into life beyond Lamar County.

The community is scarred from those intrusions, but holds on to the past in many ways, because these were people who survived the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, and are enduring Vietnam. They still raise their own crops, slaughter cattle and hogs for food, and often wear the same style of clothes year after year. They’re hardened even more by the end of the decade, but still hold dear those same senses of family and community they’ve always possessed.

MPS: You brought retired Texas Ranger Tom Bell back. What does he bring to the ensemble?

RW: I left Tom Bell wounded and dying in Mexico at the end of The Right Side of Wrong. Since then, I haven’t been to a signing or speaking event that someone didn’t ask if he was ever coming back. Tom proved to be a favorite character who has his own following and I realized he needed to return from the dead.

He has many of the same moral values as Ned Parker, but he’s darker, more experienced in the outside world, and will step over that gray line between right and wrong when necessary. He’s tough, smart as a whip, experienced in more ways than we have yet to realize, and full of surprises. Tom is that guy who watches, waits, and when necessary, responds in a way that most true Texans appreciate, dispensing justice without remorse, because it’s the right thing to do.

MPS: Ned and Tom, the oldest characters, handle themselves the best. What does age give them over the younger folks?

RW: They handle situations due to their experience as lawmen. The younger characters are on a learning curve, and sometimes hesitate to make dramatic decisions, whereas Ned and Tom will do what’s necessary to protect family and freedom. They’ve already made the mistakes younger people are yet to experience, and operate with that knowledge in the back of their minds.

MPS: You have at least four plots running that the reader follows without any problem. How did you approach those spinning plates?

RW: There are four? Dang. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Honestly, I write these novels without an outline, and simply follow the characters as they stumble through life. When a plot line diverges, I’ll follow it to see what happens. Each chapter is a surprise for us all. I guess if I had to examine what I do, I’ll simply say that by the time I finish a chapter that follows one character or plot line, I want to see what the rest are doing, so I’ll just “change the channel.” It’s satisfying to know that readers can progress without getting lost. That means I’ve done my job.

MPS: Many of your characters are in law enforcement. What do you want to get across about that profession to the reader?

RW: I have a simple philosophy. If you don’t break the law, you won’t find yourself in opposition with those who wear a badge.

Growing up, my grandfather, Joe Armstrong, was the constable in Lamar County Precinct 3. I heard from my parents and grandparents from day one that law enforcement officers were my best friends. I know friends and family members who have been police officers, sheriff’s deputies, U.S. Marshals, and judges. They are all that stands between us and anarchy.

Just look around and see how quickly things can go bad. I support the blue, and though there are always bad apples, or terrible mistakes, these men and women who wear badges have my utmost respect.

 

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AFFECTS ON A BRILLIANT MIND : SHERRY THOMAS’ LADY SHERLOCK

Rachel R., who co-leads the 7% Solution Book Club, wrote about Sherry Thomas’s new Lady Sherlock book and Holmes adaptations ahead of the release of the latest book in the series. 

Sherlock Holmes fandom has been active since the publication of the first short stories. It’s a commonly known fact that the only reason Holmes came back from the dead, for example, is because too many fans wrote angry letters at Arthur Conan Doyle demanding his return. These days, it’s almost as common to see a Sherlock Holmes adaptation as it is to see one of Shakespeare. What tends to make or break a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, in my experience, is not a supposed “faithfulness” to the characters or the cases (though that’s too often used as an excuse for lazy writing), but a thoughtful engagement with the world that Holmes and their ilk inhabit. Take Elementary, for example; many of the cases, if they reference the original stories at all, do so in name only, and Holmes and Watson, though true to the spirit of their Conan Doyle counterparts, live in different places in society. They’re not gentlemen of leisure; the detective work is their livelihood. But what makes Elementary so captivating as a Holmes adaptation is the extent to which the show examines what someone with Sherlock’s capabilities would struggle with in the 2010s in New York City: drug use, mental health, et cetera. At one point Sherlock, speaking during an AA meeting, asks, “Sometimes I wonder if I should have been born in a different time…ours is an era of distraction, it’s a punching drumbeat of constant input, this cacophony which follows us into our homes and even into our beds…In my less productive moments, I am left to wonder, if I had just been born when it was a little quieter out there, would I have even become an addict in the first place?”

This attention to place and its effect on a mind as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes’ is no less acute in Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series, though she still resides in 1880s London. Charlotte Holmes cannot move about society, restricted by her gender, and instead pretends to be an assistant for her recluse brother, the nonexistent Sherlock Holmes. But this gender reversal doesn’t just serve as a story hook, something cool and new and different—there have actually been several Holmes adaptations in which Holmes or Watson or both have been women over the years—but instead Holmes’ gender fundamentally alters the world in which the story takes place. Holmes, no longer the aforementioned gentleman of leisure, desires and wants things from a world that does not immediately provide them: mostly autonomy, bodily, financial, or otherwise. At one point while trying to figure out her financial situation, Charlotte explains, “I do not like the idea of bartering the use of my reproductive system for a man’s support—not in the absence of other choices.” These wants extend past Charlotte herself; she wants that for her landlady and confidante Mrs. Watson, for her sisters, and the many women of all classes that she encounters in the ins and outs of her cases. By changing Holmes’ gender, Sherry Thomas has done something that Arthur Conan Doyle was never able to do: she has made Sherlock Holmes altruistic.

Thomas is well acquainted with the significance of setting in her work. In her romances, both historical and contemporary, the setting often serves to inform the plot beyond mere contrivance. Her young adult fantasy novels, with their rich worldbuilding, still keep one foot firmly in the “real” world, giving each character who crosses over to the fantastical setting the gift of awe at seeing magic for the first time. It is a delight to be a bookseller who reads across genres, watching her become more and more refined in her craft, as she continues to interrogate what is important about stories, whether they be romance, or fantasy, or mystery.

Sherry Thomas will be at BookPeople Tuesday, October 2nd at 7PM to celebrate the release of the third Lady Sherlock book, The Hollow of Fear. The 7% Solution book club (which I co-lead) will be meeting directly before the event on the third floor to discuss the second in the series, A Scandal in Belgravia, before we attend the event together. All are welcome to join, whether or not you finished the book, although there may be spoilers for the first two novels. We usually meet the first Monday of every month at 7PM; upcoming discussion titles can be found on BookPeople’s website here.

INTERVIEW WITH SARA GRAN

We are excited to have Sara Gran join us at BookPeople tomorrow. She is a first class author, creating one of the most unique detectives in crime fiction today, Claire DeWitt, who fits the Nancy Drew mold, with a lot of dark undercurrents, — a young woman who grew up to be a professional private detective. In her latest, Infinite Blacktop, someone from Claire’s past is out to get her and it is tied to two other mysteries in her past, one being the disappearance of the teenage friend she solved mysteries with. Sara was kind enough to sit through an interrogation with us earlier.

MysteryPeople Scott: Usually a series detective character is entrenched in a city, but you have moved Claire DeWitt about in each book. Is there a particular reason for that decision?

Sara Gran: I keep moving! Life certainly takes you in strange directions, literally and metaphorically. Also, given that place is always a big character in detective fiction, it makes sense to push my character (Claire) up against these other characters (different cities and places) and see what comes from the meeting.

MPS: The Infinite Blacktop is a detective mystery that looks at the idea and concepts of mystery and detection. What did you want to explore in those ideas?

SG: I think the idea of the mystery that needs to be solved is a very central metaphor for our time. You’ll notice that when storytellers — writers, newscasters, politicians, doctors — want to interest their audience in something, they will often frame it as a whodunit. I also think the linguistic and historic link between mystic and mystery is not to be underestimated.

The Infinite Blacktop: A Novel Cover ImageMPS: As with many of your books, Claire is dealing with her past. What draws you to people with damaged histories?

SG: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone without some damage in their history.

MPS: What I enjoyed about these books is that they are somehow both gritty and ethereal, like we’re on the edge of reality. Did that come to be as an attempt to build the mood or simply grow from Claire and her world?

SG: Thank you for a really interesting question I’ve never been asked before.  The answer is both: the two desires — the desire to build a specific, evocative, slightly magical world that hopefully provokes some thought and emotion in the reader about their own world, and the desire to be absolutely true to this character as she presents herself in my brain — inform each other and work together to create the world of these books.

MPS :As a writer, what has made Claire DeWitt worth coming back to as a character?

SG: Everything that fascinates me in life is wrapped up in this series, so both the character and the world are more interesting to me all the time. Originally I thought I’d stop after four books, but now I think I’ll write this series for the rest of my life.

 

INTERVIEW WITH EDWIN HILL

Edwin Hill’s Little Comfort introduces us to Hester Thursby, a librarian who uses her research skills to find missing persons as a side hustle. Her latest job has her dealing with family secrets, false identities, and more than a few gunshots. Mr. Hill , who will be with Scott Von Doviak on September 22nd at 6pm at BookPeople, was kind enough to take some of our questions  in advance.

Little Comfort (A Hester Thursby Mystery #1) Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: How did Little Comfort come about?

Edwin Hill: Do you remember the Clark Rockefeller case? He was that guy who claimed to be a member of the Rockefeller family and married a successful business woman, and then went on the run with his daughter when everything unraveled. And it also turned out he’d murdered people.

I was fascinated by that story, and one day when it  was all over the news I sat down and wrote a scene about a guy who’d been impersonating someone (I wasn’t sure who) and needed to leave town. The character’s name was Sam (no last name) and I knew I wanted him to be a sort of Tom Ripley-like antihero. Like Clark Rockefeller, I also knew I wanted him to be someone who could charm his way into any situation. But that’s all I had, and that scene sat on my computer for about two years before I did anything with it. Once I started working in earnest, I added in a foil for Sam, and the protagonist, Hester Thursby, was born. Hester is a librarian at Harvard’s Widener Library who finds missing people as a side gig, and her case in this story is to find Sam. Sam doesn’t want to be found, and things go downhill from there!

MPS: I also have to ask how you came up with your protagonist’s name, Hester Thursby? It is almost from another era.

EH: When I am drafting a novel, it’s really easy for me to get distracted by, well, anything, so I name characters very, very quickly – otherwise I can lose hours “researching” on baby-naming websites. I’ll name characters after friends’ pets or people I know or just random names that come to me in a flash. Some of these names stick, and others I change later on in the drafting process. (For example, I wound up using the name Sam Blaine after my friend’s beagle.)

When I came up with Hester as a character, I didn’t know much about her besides that she was a single woman with a child so the first names that flashed through my mind – and this is so pretentious it makes me want to throw up in my mouth – were Hester, for the woman, and Pearl, for the child. I quickly (and I mean the next day) changed the girl’s name to Chloe, and then changed it again to Kate. I liked the name Hester, though, and it stuck.

When I first started drafting the series, I thought it would be lighter than it wound up being, and I played around with titles based on movies. One of the titles I considered was His Girl Thursby, and Hester’s last name was born. Of course, Little Comfort wound up being much darker than I planned, a psychological thriller rather than a traditional mystery, and the title no longer fit. But, again, I liked the full name of Hester Thursby and decided to keep it! (A few people have asked if Thursby is in homage to Floyd Thursby in The Maltese Falcon. Alas, no. Just a happy coincidence.)

MPS: The book deals with the past’s relationship with the present. What did you want to explore in that idea?

EH: There are three main characters in this novel: Hester, Sam, and Sam’s best friend, Gabe DiPursio. They are each haunted by things that have happened to them in the past, but they all choose to move forward in different ways. (For more on that, see this terrific review on BOLO Books

Some of the people in this book do really terrible things to other people, but I didn’t want that to be what this book was about. I wanted to be sure to separate the action of the character from the humanity of the character. Every person on earth has something good and worthwhile at their core, or at least that’s what I believe. When I focus in on that good, it makes the contrast of terrible actions and decisions all the more powerful.

MPS: This being a debut, did you draw from any influences?

EH: Sure!  Like most writers, I read all the time. One of the influences for this book is Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, but there are other influences as well. When I first wrote that scene I mentioned above, the one with Sam escaping town, I happened to read Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories. I was inspired by the way she mixed genres – mystery and literary – and was able to infuse so much humor into the Jackson Brodie series. She also really tore apart the structure of a “mystery” novel and made it something completely unique. I’m inspired by the humanity in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. One novel that I read regularly (maybe because it’s short!) is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. She is such a craftsman, and is able to move through time so effortlessly in that novel. I like to read it to remind myself what’s possible.

MPS: You’ll be doing an event with us on the 22nd with Scott Von Doviak and another Boston native with a book set there. There is rich tradition of crime writers from your city, Lehane, Parker, George V. Higgins. What makes Boston great for crime fiction?

EH: I think there are a lot of reasons. Boston is a beautiful town filled with iconic landmarks, to start, which always makes for good storytelling. Scott, for example, makes great use of Fenway Park and the Back Bay area of Boston in his novel. Because his novel is set in three distinct time periods, he’s able to pull in many of those sites and neighborhoods, like Dewey Square, that have changed with city. Those details give his novel a fantastic texture.

New England has a varied landscape too, going from urban to rugged very quickly, which is one of the things I use in Little Comfort, where much of the action takes place in rural New Hampshire in the depths of winter.

MPS: What do you think is the biggest misconception of the city?

EH: When I think of Boston in the media, I think of crime (The Town), education (The Paper Chase), and rabid sports fans (Fever Pitch). But like most places, Boston has many sides.

One of the reasons I set Little Comfort in Somerville, was because it shows a different part of the metro area. Somerville (which used to be nicknamed Slumerville) is diverse, with people from all different backgrounds. It’s vibrant, and a very accepting and open community. And like many urban areas in the country, like Austin, Somerville is experiencing a boom, which is creating tensions between older residents and the new people moving in. I hope to explore that in a later book in the series.

At the same time, Somerville also has many of the elements that people think of when they think of Boston. It’s right next to Cambridge, so you still feel the glow of Harvard, but with a bit more grit. Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang was named for a neighborhood in Somerville. And the Boston Garden and Fenway are each only a T ride away. So maybe there is some truth in those media images!

INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT VON DOVIAK

Scott Von Doviak’s Charlesgate Confidential is a one-of-a-kind read, with three storylines of different periods in Boston’s Charlesgate building that affect one another. Von Doviak binds them together with a liberal use of the city’s history and lore. Scott will beat BookPeople along with Edwin Hill (Little Comfort) Saturday September 22nd at 6pm to discuss and sign their books. He was kind enough to take some questions from us earlier.

Charlesgate Confidential Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: Charlesgate Confidential  is a very unique book. How did the idea for it form?

Scott Von Doviak: Several ideas came together. I’d been wanting to write about the Charlesgate building in Boston for some time, both because of its fascinating history and because I’d actually lived there in the ‘80s when it was an Emerson College residence hall. I wanted to come up with a story that could encompass several different eras in the building’s history, but I also wanted to write a crime novel rather than a ghost story (which would have been the obvious way to go, given the building’s haunted reputation). Incorporating a fictionalized version of the Gardner Museum heist solved some problems, especially once I decided to move the heist back in time from 1990 to 1946. I really liked the idea of telling the story in a nonlinear way, by rotating through these time periods, sort of like solving a Rubik’s Cube twist by twist. At first you wouldn’t see any connection between the stories aside from the building, but as you go along, all the pieces slide into place.

MPS: How did you handle juggling the three time periods?

SVD: I didn’t have a spreadsheet or a True Detective wall with note cards and string or anything like that. It was all pretty intuitive. It was more fun that way because I would leave myself a little cliffhanger at the end of a 1946 chapter and then I’d move on to 1986 and 2014, which would give me time to think about what should happen next back in the ’40s. The way the time lines dovetail was kind of tricky, because I had to time all the revelations just right and make sure I didn’t give certain things away too early. So there was some trial and error involved, but that made it exciting for me.

MPS: Was there any Boston history or lore you wanted to get in there but couldn’t?

SVD: I considered some other things, notably the Coconut Grove fire in 1942, but in the end I felt like I had enough for this story. I flirted with incorporating the Red Sox 2004 World Series run, but that would have felt like overkill. There’s certainly plenty to explore, though. I don’t know that I’ll ever write a sequel, since this novel is very self-contained, but one idea would be to explore some different eras in the Charlesgate’s history, which stretches back as far as 1891. I’d need a good story to pull it together, though.

MPS: So many great crime novelists come from Boston like Robert B. Parker, George V Higgins, and Dennis Lehane. What makes the town such a hotbed for crime fiction talent?

SVD: Well, the city does have a noir-ish quality, particularly in the fall when the temperatures drop and the nights get longer. There are plenty of famous crimes and criminals—the Brinks Job, the Boston Strangler, Whitey Bulger. But I attribute most of it to Higgins. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is the ultimate Boston crime novel (and movie), and along with his follow-ups Cogan’s Trade and The Digger’s Game, really set the template for Boston as a crime town teeming with colorful characters. Higgins was a huge influence on Charlesgate Confidential, particularly the way in which story and character emerge from dialogue in his books.

MPS: What is the biggest misconception about the city?

SVD: Well, first of all, not everyone has that accent! I think our pop culture has become over saturated with one particular slice of Boston. You’d think everyone who lives there is either a criminal or an obnoxious sports fan, and sure, there are plenty of those. The friends I still have there are nothing like that, though. They’re artists and professionals and they don’t sound like Casey Affleck in that SNL Dunkin’ Donuts sketch. I confess, though, I do love the accent (maybe because I don’t live there anymore) and I’ll have a hard time not lapsing into a bad version of it during my reading.

MPS: What are you working on now?

SVD: I have a few things in various states of completion, and I’m not sure exactly what comes next. I definitely want to stay in the genre, and one thing I’m working on would be a series of books set in Austin that would sort of chart all the changes that have been going on here through the lens of crime fiction. I don’t know whether that’s my next project, though—a lot depends on how things go with Charlesgate Confidential. Meanwhile, you can still find me at The Onion’s AV Club writing about your favorite (or maybe not so favorite) TV shows.

INTERVIEW WITH REED FARREL COLEMAN

Reed Farrel Coleman has put his own literary stamp on Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone. In the latest, Colorblind, he has the Paradise police chief in AA and encountering a new character who will change his life, all while dealing with a case that puts him up against a hate group when his black officer is accused of shooting the leader’s unarmed son. Reed will be at BookPeople September 16th at 5PM. We got to him ahead of time to talk about the book and the new paces he is putting Jesse through.

MysteryPeople Scott: In Colorblind you tackle the issue of race relations. Did you have a certain approach or aspect in looking at it?

Reed Farrel Coleman: The amazing thing here is that I turned this manuscript in a full month before Charlottesville. And for me, I’m not really tackling an issue. I don’t write message books and readers can take from the book what they will. My intent is always how the issue approaches the protagonist—in this case, Jesse Stone—not how the protagonist approaches the issue. I was also harkening back to the very first Jesse Stone novel, Night Passage, written by Bob Parker in the late ‘90s. I suggest readers go back to that book and see the connection between it and the new one.     

MPS: Is there anything you have to keep in mind as a writer when your dealing with events that mirror what is in the news?

RFC: As per my first answer, I turned the book in a month before Charlottesville, so I wasn’t actually writing a  “ripped from the headlines” book. But I did realize that this was a sensitive issue and that as deplorable as Jesse finds racism, his job is to first uphold the law and to protect the citizens of Paradise. And if that means allowing public demonstrations by groups he doesn’t agree with, he does it. I put Jesse in a very difficult spot. That’s the whole point, putting one’s characters in difficult and/or dangerous situations and letting them deal. The big challenge here was to bring some level of humanity to the “bad” guys. If all characters are is evil, then they are boring to write and boring to read.     

Robert B. Parker's Colorblind (A Jesse Stone Novel) Cover ImageMPS: The big change in this book is that Jesse is in AA. How was it writing him on the wagon?

RFC: Writing Jesse as drunk was easy, but it was getting played out in the same way that Jesse’s  constant on again off again relationship to his ex-wife Jenn was getting stale. The series needed a shift. What makes this book different is that unlike other “dry” periods in Jesse’s life, he has made his desire to stop drinking official, for lack of a better term. He is committed to it and when Jesse Stone commits to something, he hangs in there. For Jesse this is now a lifetime thing and his struggle is no longer with drinking, but with not drinking. We’ll see how that goes.

MPS: Jesse is also dealing with a young man who comes into town as well as the case and his drinking. What do you enjoy about having your protagonists having so much to deal with in a story?

RFC: Life is pretty complicated for all of us. We’re never dealing with just one thing. My dad had a form of bone cancer from the time I was four years old, but that wasn’t the only thing in his life he had to manage. He had his job, his family, he still loved sports. Why should we let our protagonists have it easy by dealing with just one thing? What’s fun for me is watching Jesse juggle all the new stuff in his life with the old stuff and the crimes at hand.

MPS: I was happy to see Suitcase come more into his own. I think that’s the one character in the series that can easily be mishandled and you have always given him three dimensions as well as growth. Do you have to approach him in a certain way?

RFC: I approach Suit the way I approach all my characters. Anyone who has ever heard me speak or teach a class on writing has heard me say, “There is no such thing as a minor character.” I never think of my characters as cartoon-ish. For me, they all have full internal lives and that’s how I think of them when I write them. It’s easy to love Suit, the big guy, the earnest guy with the big heart who is kind of goofy and envious. But he was always so much more than that for me as a reader and I wanted him to become more realized in my Jesse books. He is brave and loving and I wanted to show that. I think I’ve accomplished with him what I set out to do.

MPS: You often have more than one iron in the fire. Is there anything we need to look out for?

RFC: Well, yes, I’m writing the prequel novel to film director Michael Mann’s magnum opus crime drama Heat. It should be out sometime in 2019. Also other big projects ahead about which I am very excited, but about which I cannot speak.  

DAVID CORBETT’S THE LONG-LOST LOVE LETTERS OF DOC HOLLIDAY SHOWS THE WEST CAN STILL BE WILD

The American West has returned as a hot spot for crime fiction. Revived by the likes of Craig Johnson and C.J. Box, sheriffs now square off with meth dealers instead of train robbers, instead of the cavalry, Indians fight crime and politics of the reservation, and a game warden can become an unlikely hero, fusing modern crime fiction with the classic western. David Corbett swaggers into this territory with the fresh and inventive The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday.Join us this evening, August 27th, at 7pm to hear Corbett speak about the book. 

The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday Cover ImageHe gives us a unique protagonist in Tuck Mercer, a former rodeo rider and western art forger who became a western artifact appraiser after a stint in prison. The man is Sam Elliot with a touch of slick salesman thrown in. His time for a big payoff occurs when he comes into possession of the correspondences between the infamous gunfighter Doc Holliday and his sweetheart Mattie. He enlists Lisa Ballermo, and arts attorney with a crush on him, to sell them. News of the letters comes to a shady judge who will do anything to get his hands on them, including the use of a local militia group. Soon there is enough gunfire to give Tombstone in the 1880s a run for its money.

Corbett studies several facets of the west. Tuck and Maria have to maneuver through the neuvo-rich who both live and profit from cowboy fantasies, as they search for a buyer. They also encounter the sons of the pioneers who have lived there for generations living the values the history has instilled in them. Others have twisted those values like other terrorists have done with the Qur’an, and turned them into something xenophobic and bullying. He frames all of it by weaving in the correspondences between Doc and Mattie, creating an elegant counterpoint of the old west to the raucous new one.

The Long Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday uses it’s story and characters to paint a vivid landscape of the American west. Corbett melds action thriller, courtroom drama, and Elmore Leonard-style crime novel to explore the territory that defines our culture and how we define it with legend, lore, and fact colliding together. Thank God a literary prospector like David Corbett was the one to come along and mine it.