Western

Texas Fiction – 2016 List

 

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Every once in a while, it’s fun to focus on regional fiction. It’s a chance for readers to concentrate on stories that take place in their favorite part of the world or an area that has aroused their curiosity. Sometimes, fans like to search for books written by authors that live in that region.

 

The Texas list of 36 authors is a mix of:

 

  • Authors who live there, but write books set elsewhere
  • Authors that have written novels set in Texas, but live elsewhere.
  • Authors who live in and write about Texas.

 

Click on the names to take you to the author sites.

 

Kathleen Rice Adams: “Prodigal Gun”

Susan Wittig Albert: “Blood Orange”

 

Linda Bingham: “Skyscraper Caper”

Parris Afton Bonds:  “Blue Bayou” box set

James Lee Burke: “House of the Rising Sun”

 

Valerie P Chandler: ‘Rota Fortunae’ in “Murder on Wheels”

Caroline Clemmons: “Angeline”

Catherine Coulter: “Nemesis”

Bill Crider: “Between the Living and the Dead”

 

Stephanie Jaye Evans:  "Safe from Harm"

Ann Everett: “Say You’ll Never Love Me”

 

Kay Finch: “The Black Cat Knocks on Wood”

Kinky Friedman – series about a Texan living in NYC

 

Meg Gardiner: “Phantom Instinct”  (reviewed here)

Kaye George: Imogene Duckworthy series, “Broke”

 

Linda Kozar: “Weighty Matters”

Billy Kring:  “Tonton”

 

Liz Lipperman:  “Chicken Caccia-Killer”

 

Nancy Martin: “Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything”

Larry McMurtry: “Lonesome Dove”

James Michener: “Texas”

 

Golden Keyes Parsons: “His Steadfast Love”

Mark Pryor: “Hollow Man”    

 

James Reasoner: “The Last War Chief”

Catie Rhodes:  “Rest Stop” 

Rick Riordan: “Rebel Island”

 

Terry Shames: “The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake”

Leann Sweeney: Yellow Rose Mystery Series

 

Livia Washburn: “Peach of a Murder”

Nancy G. West:  "Smart, but Dead"

George Wier: “Cold Rains”

Lori Wilde:  “Love of the Game”

Lynn Chandler Willis: “Wink of an Eye”  (reviewed here)

Manning Wolfe:  "Dollar Signs"

Reavis Z. Wortham:  “Dark Places”

 

Celia Yeary:  “Annalisa”

 

 

Have fun choosing from this great list of Texas fiction.  🙂

 

 

 

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“Trapline” by Mark Stevens

 

Book Cover - Trapline

 

 

 

 

“Trapline” is the third book in Mark Stevens’ series featuring Allison Coil, a hunting guide with a talent for looking beyond the obvious in order to solve crimes in her beloved Colorado mountains. With a past that still haunts her, she is happiest away from crowds of people, following the trails into the hills on her horse, or guiding hunting parties to bag big game. Her boyfriend, Colin, a hunk that also works for her, is making serious inroads into her heart. Who can resist a guy that knows how to use an atlatl and understands without asking, what she needs?

 

A mangled body is found near a campsite, and Allison’s investigation leads to a horrifying discovery. A Senatorial candidate is shot during an outdoor speech in a nearby town, but why? And does the shooting have anything to do with the body in the mountains? As the parallel storylines sizzle and explode in “Trapline,” Stevens reveals a lot about the depths to which humans will go when greed is involved. We learn more about one of this country’s hot button topics: undocumented workers. Problems with the border, people who seek to exploit the undocumented and/or transient workers, the impact on the economy, and the scandal of private prisons, are all explored from several sides of the complex issues.

 

Allison’s best friend, Trudy, the pesto queen and kitchen cook delivering to local stores in book #2, has grown into a full fledged regional farmer and business woman who supplies assorted organic, locally sourced goodies throughout the region. This character is so well-developed that I felt compelled to search for pesto recipes while reading “Buried by the Roan.” A vegan pal shared a great one.  🙂

 

The survival of Trudy’s business may be at stake in “Trapline,” because Trudy hired workers that she thought were legal, but may not all be. She has a few that she knows very well, but as in any growing organization that hires temporary farm workers, it’s practically impossible to know everyone’s story and how they came to work there. Her boyfriend has been in charge of managing the company and she has happily given him more and more control. Can a couple survive when linked together in both business and love?

 

The unspoiled mountains of Colorado take center stage again, with discussions about the tugs of war between commercial development and a wish to keep the wild safe and protected from greedy businessmen – businessmen who seem ignorant of the fact that destroying the very wilderness that provides their livelihood gets them to sum zero. Nobody wins.

 

Readers of “Buried by the Roan” will recognize the central characters in “Trapline,” with Duncan Bloom taking a greater role this time, and others changing/growing as the books continue. Allison is tenacious about her love of the high country and fights to keep its reputation and glory intact, despite several threats to her own safety. She is tenacious about maintaining her privacy as well, but a few edges have softened since her arrival in the first book, and Stevens lets us see more of the vulnerabilities and strengths of this very human lead character.

 

Stevens is adept at weaving the majesty of the Colorado terrain with the serious societal and political topics he brings to each book. With layers of compelling story and a solid group of friends in Allison, Trudy and the rest of the tight-knit crew, he creates page-turners that linger with us long after the books have ended.

 

“Trapline” won the 2015 Colorado Book Award for Mystery, and the 2015 Colorado Authors League Award for Genre Fiction. Deservedly so.

 

Read the review of “Buried by the Roan,” here.

“Lake of Fire,” the fourth in the series, will be available on September 8, 2015.

For more about Mark Stevens and his work, please visit www.writermarkstevens.com

 

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“Kindness Goes Unpunished” by Craig Johnson

 

Book Cover - Kindness Goes Unpunished

When considering “Kindness Goes Unpunished” for my next book to read and review, the fact that Craig Johnson included a road trip to Philadelphia cinched the decision for me. Philly may have the best cheese steak sandwiches in the world, and some great universities, but it also has a mean street or two. There’s a quote near the beginning of the book:  "Philadelphia, where no good deed goes unpunished…” (Steve Lopez, The Philadelphia Inquirer) that sets the tone for the case in this third book in the Walt Longmire series.

 

“Kindness Goes Unpunished” opens with an elementary school  classroom scene – Walt is doing his bit in a pre-election campaign stop. He is most comfortable chasing the bad guys and getting justice for the victims in fictional Absaroka County, but when he faces twenty-three 5 year olds, he is decidedly out of his element. Brutal questions and critiques about his reading-aloud skills strike fear in his heart, making him long for backup. It’s a LOL funny scene for any reader who works with young children and Johnson is pitch perfect with both the children and Longmire’s reactions.

 

Why would Walt leave the safety of Wyoming to visit Philadelphia, the supposed City of Brotherly Love? His best friend, Henry Standing Bear, has been asked to lecture about his collection of photographs at a prestigious Fine Arts Academy and Walt decides to tag along, visit his daughter, Cady, and get a look at the new boyfriend. Sounds much simpler than it turns out to be, because the first time Walt actually sees his daughter, she’s in intensive care at a Trauma Center.

 

The case central to the story is complex and dangerous, the bad guys are mean, arrogant and devious, the cover-ups clever, and we are not sure which people can be trusted. With Cady near death, Walt is pushed to the breaking point with worry. We feel the distress that a parent would have when facing the possible loss of a child, no matter how old that child is. His anger is palpable and he puts it to work to discover the multi-layered truth about Cady’s accident.

 

Vic Moretti, Longmire’s deputy, is from Philadelphia and her family wants to touch base with him and Cady during the visit. The Moretti crew is in law enforcement, and is readily supportive when things go south for the Wyoming contingent. The dynamic between Walt and Vic shifts in an interesting way after she arrives in town (in response to him being unreachable) and Walt’s mental reaction to that shift may be the best line quickly capturing a character’s feelings that I’ve read in a while.

 

Johnson continues to explore the human condition with the core characters in the series. Their frailties are understandable and their quirks believable, and they all have differing strengths upon which Walt relies. We ache as they struggle and cheer when they triumph.

 

We may not be in Wyoming for much of the book, but in “Kindness Goes Unpunished,” Johnson still places us in living, breathing surroundings. He nails the feel of the Philly neighborhoods, with their pubs and noise and people still on the street late at night. If you’ve ever visited Philadelphia, you will enjoy the many references to famous landmarks.

 

The "Longmire" TV show is no longer affiliated with the A&E television network (because of a shift in network policy) and as of this writing (September, 2014) is looking for a new home.

 

“It’s dangerous out there.”

 

Please check in at www.craigallenjohnson.com for information about the rest of the Longmire series of books, where you can catch Johnson out on the trail, and even a store that stocks Longmire goodies.

 

My review of Craig Johnson’s “The Cold Dish” can be read here.

 

 

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“The Cold Dish” by Craig Johnson

 

Book Cover - Cold Dish

When a novel begins with, “Bob Barnes says they got a dead body out on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land,” you’d be sure that murder was afoot. But in "The Cold Dish," Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, thinks the drunken hunters merely saw a dead sheep. The Sheriff is told to bring beer when he goes out to investigate. So, he does what any seasoned Sheriff would do – he manipulates his bored, testy, always swearing, deputy Vic (short for Victoria) to head out to the sheep in question, heads home early and keeps the six-pack.

 

But, his thoughts as he sits in his ‘under construction’ house, are never far from the job, even as he polishes off the Rainier by himself. He doesn’t need a file in front of him to remember the details of one horrific event when justice was not served. The racially charged case that troubles him involves a young Indian girl with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome who had been raped three years before, but her case had only recently come to trial. He muses over injustice in the world, and what he, as the investigating officer on the case, might have done differently. Then Vic reports that the dead body found among the sheep is one of the alleged rapists.

 

Melissa Little Bird’s attackers received a slap on the wrist, but is someone making up for the lapse in the law? When the second of Little Bird’s attackers is killed, Longmire and his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear, owner of the local watering hole and Walt’s occasional liaison with the Reservation, must choose whom to protect.

 

What follows is an extremely well written modern Western mystery, with honest dialogue, and complex, realistic characters dealing with serious issues in a harsh world. Friend and foe alike are under suspicion as the cases develop and overlap next to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, in sight of the breathtaking Bighorn Mountains. A century of distrust among the area residents is not helped by the deaths or the investigations.

 

Johnson has accurately portrayed the hollowness of being a widower, the severity of an unforgiving winter that impedes pursuits, the challenge of forensic analysis without a lab close by, the search for a 125 year old .45-70 Sharpe’s Buffalo rifle, the emptiness of having an estranged daughter, and the issue of an upcoming election for Sheriff. This multi-dimensional background to the central story creates an absorbing introduction to the Longmire series of novels.

 

Homage is paid to Cheyenne culture throughout “The Cold Dish,” but a haunting scene late in the book will stay with me forever. Imagine echoes of braves singing, whispering to Longmire, and playing drums alongside him during a blizzard on a mountainside, as he fights the pull to the Camp of the Dead. One voice among many says, “Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.”

 

Johnson now lives on a ranch in Wyoming and was a law enforcement officer for a few years, although in a large eastern city. In order to get the feel of a Western County Sheriff’s job right for his books, he shadowed a Sheriff friend of his back in Wyoming.

 

If you have watched “Longmire,” the TV show on A & E, you have met the Sheriff in the persona of Robert Taylor, the Australian actor who has captured the depth and pain of Longmire perfectly. The other actors in the show, most notably Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff, and Bailey Chase, are marvelous in their roles.

 

Please visit www.craigallenjohnson.com to learn more about Craig Johnson and his NYT bestselling, award-winning novels.

 

 

 

 

 

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