A (Partial) Atlas of Texas Crime Fiction

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

A hard land with a difficult history, Texas has always lent itself well to crime fiction. From the crime fiction greats who helped define the genre to those writers shaping the landscape of crime fiction today, Texas has a long tradition of social critiques and sendoffs of hypocrisy (the hallmarks of Texas crime fiction, in my opinion) delivered via murder mystery. Tales of Texas history may gaslight their audiences into believing in the state as a land of triumph, but we crime fiction readers know the dark, murderous truth about the land we call home….

Below, you’ll find an incomplete (of necessity) guide to Texas crime fiction, brought to y’all in honor of Texas Mystery Writers Month (that is, May). Emphasis is placed on well-known classic writers and the wide array of new crime fiction released in the past few years. We know we’re leaving out quite a few of the Texas mystery writer greats, and many of the good one-off novels. Some have gone out of print; others have simply dropped off our radar as we find new voices to champion.

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Guest Post: David Hansard on “The Lonely Star”

Our final author to contribute an essay for MysteryPeople’s celebration of Texas Mystery Writers Month is David Hansard, writer of One Minute Gone, one of our best selling thrillers in MysteryPeople. David questions who he is as a Texan and reflects on the power of writing to provide him with the best answers.

“About the only thing common to the various Texan prototypes is that they have almost nothing in common, and really don’t like each other much. Although they do all like being Texan.”

“The Lonely Star” by David Hansard

Texas is romance, myth, legend, and stereotype. A bunch of them, and they’re all different and to a significant degree, contradictory and incompatible. Just like Texans. About the only thing common to the various Texan prototypes is that they have almost nothing in common, and really don’t like each other much. Although they do all like being Texan. I’m not talking only about rural vs. urban or farmers vs. ranchers vs. oilmen, let alone any political denigrations. Among animal people, sheep raisers and cow raisers don’t like each other, and among urbanites, Dallasites and Houstonians like each other as much Longhorns and Aggies. Ft. Worth is next door to Dallas, and those tribes really don’t like each other. Wealthy Ft. Worth native and philanthropist, Amon Carter, was known for taking a bag lunch when he had to go to The Bid D for a business meeting so he didn’t have to spend a nickel in that town.

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Coming Up on May 21st: Our Annual Free Crime Fiction Workshop!

 

Presented by Sisters in Crime and MysteryPeople

Our annual free workshop to celebrate Texas Mystery Writers Month with Sisters In Crime will start at 9:15, Saturday May 21st. Throughout the morning and afternoon Texas writers will share their knowledge. It is great for aspiring authors in any genre and for readers curious about the author’s process. This year we have a broad range of criminal wordsmiths. Our schedule is below:

9:15 AM

Orientation

Meet the authors and get a brief overview of the creative day to come!

9:30 – 10:30 AM

George Wier On Action Writing

George Wier, author of the successful Bill Travis series, puts you through the paces of a fine tuned action sequence and shows you how to ratchet up the tension.

11:00 AM- Noon

Terry Shames On Character And Setting Interaction

Terry Shames’ Samuel Craddock novels have been praised for their depictions of small town life. The award winning author shows how to make setting another character with whom your protagonist has a relationship.

Noon – 1:30 PM

Lunch Break

Don’t just use this time to eat. Ask a fellow attendee you don’t know to join you and start networking.

1:30 – 2:30 PM

Brent Douglass & James Dennis On Collaboration

Brent and James make up 2/3rds of the pen name of Mile Arceneux with their friend John Davis. They will show you how to write about murder without killing your partner.

3:00-4:00 PM

Panel Discussion With Authors

Is there something the authors didn’t cover or was there a subject we didn’t hit upon? Here’s your chance. After a quick Q&A with the authors by MysteryPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator, Scott Montgomery, the authors take questions from you.

Attend which topics you’d like or stay all day. It is completely free. Books by the authors will be on sale. Bring, paper, pen, and your criminal mind.

Guest Post: Jesse Sublett on Texas Legends and Landmarks

Continuing our series of Texas crime fiction writers on their home state, we next have a piece from Noir At The Bar cohort Jesse Sublett. In his piece Jesse looks at how Texas legend, history and violence shapes our state’s art and culture.

Jesse will be at tonight’s Noir at the Bar – this Thursday, May 12th, at our new home at Threadgills downtown. Jesse is joined by Con Lehane, Jordan Harper, and Les Edgerton. Each author’s latest title will be available for sale at the event. Readings begin at 7 PM. Booze, books, and bars – what’s not to love?

Guest Post by Jesse Sublett

When I was researching 1960s Austin Gangsters, I visited many Texas landmarks that had been devastated by greed and avarice over the past several centuries. Gun-toting thugs, pimps, petty thieves, and wisecracking roughnecks were not the ones who devastated these places. The culprits were corporations, land barons, bankers, and other would-be empire builders.

Take the upper Panhandle town of Mobeetie, for example. Texian settlers came through in the early 1800s and began killing off the nomadic Plains tribes. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it proved more efficient to kill off the buffalo herds on which the Plains Indians were so dependent for their lifestyle and culture. During that time, also known as the Buffalo Wars, the town of Mobeetie became a thriving city, an economic crossroads. After the bison herds had been slaughtered, the land barons moved into the Panhandle and West Texas and ran cattle for a couple of decades. After beef industry took a steep dive in the late 1800s, the landowners subdivided and town-promoted. After Spindletop, there were oil boom towns. They erupted across the state like festering blisters, places as crazy, cash-drenched, and vice-ridden as any Wild West movie you can imagine. Most of those boom towns are gone now.

“After Spindletop, there were oil boom towns. They erupted across the state like festering blisters, places as crazy, cash-drenched, and vice-ridden as any Wild West movie you can imagine.”

Today Mobeetie (which is more or less the same as New Mobeetie, just around the bend… long story…) is a stark, lonely little outpost of 200 or so people. Not much to look at and far less to do there. The population is unchanged since the Overton Gang came through in the spring of 1966 on a bank-burglary spree. Around one a.m. on the night of March 17, gunfire interrupted (the deputy shot out the tires of their getaway Cadillac parked on the road to the dump) the work of quintet of characters at the First State Bank and they scattered across the snow-dusted plains in all four directions. The ensuing fugitive manhunt for them encompassed thousands of square of miles of the shockingly empty landscape. Hundreds pitched in: deputies, rangers, G-men, and volunteers. They spread out on foot, in cars, on horseback, in airplanes, in helicopters, trailing bloodhounds. By the end of the week, all five were in jail.

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Guest Post: Miles Arceneaux on Writing the Gulf Coast

With May being Texas Mystery Writers Month we will have several guest blogs during May from crime fiction writers in our home state writing about the Lone Star Life. We start with John Davis, Brent Douglass, and James Davis who together write under the name “Miles Arceneaux.” Here, Miles describes the setting for their books, The Texas Gulf Coast.

Miles Arceneaux will be speaking and signing their latest collaborative effort, North Beachon Wednesday, May 4th, at 7 PM. Miles will be joined by Irish crime writer Paul Charles, touring with his new Inspector Starrett mystery, St. Ernan’s Blues. 

Guest post by Miles Arceneaux

 

Though the issues in my books, including the clash of cultures, the erosion of time, the nature of friendship and loyalty, might (I hope) seem nuanced, the characters at the heart of the story are pretty simple. I write about men and women you can root for and enjoy hanging out with, bad guys who are low-down sons of bitches who get what’s coming to them and supporting characters who make you laugh, shake your head or maybe both.

The dilemma of writing mysteries set on the Texas Gulf Coast isn’t an absence of compelling characters to drive the plot and flesh out the scenery. On the contrary, there’s too damn many of ‘em to ever winnow down, even over the course of four (so far) novels.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, folks. What the Texas coast lacks in terms of sun-kissed white sand beaches, beautiful people and tony resorts (instead of Donald Trump’s sumptuous Mar-A-Lago, we’ve got the No Esta Aquí Lounge, featuring u-peel-‘em shrimp and cockfights on Sundays), we make up for in local color.

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