Posts Tagged ‘austin’

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Here’s the Author’s Note to Buffalo Bayou Blues. I reserve the right to change or add to it prior to publication, for which I’m staring May 1st dead in the face:

AUTHOR’S NOTE

When I was very young, my father took me on a tour of blues joints in the Houston area. You see, my father was one of the original Hellfighters. He worked directly under Red Adair, and Boots and Coots. Some of my earliest memories are of him going off for weeks at a time to fight oilwell fires in the Gulf. I would throw a wall-eyed fit whenever he’d go off like that. Later, while working for Brown & Root, he had his back broken on an oilwell platform during a hurricane, and thus had to “slow down” a bit. Therefore, he went from longshoreman to truck driver, and drove a rig for Skerlock Oil Company, headquartered out of Houston. And before all of this—I don’t remember any of it, because I was far too young—we lived down in La Marque, right on the Houston Ship Channel. So, I suppose it should be no surprise that my father would know Houston, and know it well. Maybe a little too well, if you take my meaning. If you’re an old-timer, and lived during those times—you would have to be in your eighties or nineties, but I’m sure there are a few of you still around—and were around the Houston area, chances are you met him, and if you met him, why, you knew him. His name was Nelson Wier, and he was a force of nature.

When I was no more than seven, my father took me to some of the back street dives, little more than juke joints, with clouds of blue cigarette smoke and loud “colored” music filling the air. My father loved those places. For my own part, I was instantly enthralled.

Since that time, I have loved The Blues.

From my point of view, it was a matter of course that I would be accepted by the many people I visited in those back street blues joints, even though, technically speaking, I’m whiter than an unbaked flour cracker. At that early age, I suppose I was already closing my eyes and moving my head to the backbeat, lost in the mood, ducking with the changes, and showing it all on my face—that other place, apart from my sleeve, where I wear my heart for all the world to see. Possibly, I looked ridiculous. But I felt the music. It was the most real thing I’d ever heard, and it literally moved me.

My father passed away on September 12, 2007. He never got to hold one of my published books in his hands. He never met nor got to hold his great-granddaughter. He never got to see me sign a book or speak before a crowd of fans. But all that’s okay. You see, he got to know me, and he instilled in me so many things that without him, there would be no Bill Travis. There would be no great love for Texas. Without him, life would have been dull, beyond belief. Instead, because of him and his influence, life has been indeed rich.

Far from a simple tribute to my late father, I wanted to convey, here in this little Author’s Note, a little something more than is evidenced by the foregoing story.

The blues isn’t simply music, or a genre of music. It is a way of life for many—and that path is not limited to people of color by any means.

Fast forward to about 2003, when I laid down the titles to no less than twenty-one Bill Travis adventures. When I got to Trinity Trio, the alliteration bug set in, and the next one had to be alliterative as well. My whole life was right there in front of me that day. I could pick and choose anything. But one thing came through at that exact moment. The blues. I had to write about the blues. Houston, of course, sprang into mind. Those old blues joints with their blue cigarette smoke and gently clicking billiard balls, and…that wonderful sound. You can’t think long about Houston without thinking about Buffalo Bayou, and thus the title sprang full-blown like Athena from my forehead. I wrote it down without batting an eye.

And guess what. Just the other day, I unearthed that original piece of paper with all those titles on it. The order may have changed, somewhat, and a few of those titles have changed a little, but they’re basically still there, and Buffalo Bayou Blues is written there, plain as day. Would anyone like to have that piece of paper? I’m thinking of either framing it or auctioning it off.

So what’s there to write about the blues? Well, for one thing, a good half a dozen mystery writers have made writing about the blues part and parcel of their career. Guys like Tim Bryant, whose Dutch Curridge character hails from Waco during the heyday of the blues era, specifically the later forties and early fifties. Then there’s Ricky Bush, whose books have ‘blues’ right in the titles, such as Howling Mountain Blues and The Devil’s Blues. And there are many more, but these two come to mind most readily. So, the blues have not only been done, they’ve been done well. And wouldn’t you just know it, the blues are rife with such sentiments as, ‘My woman done gone and done me wrong’ and ‘He kilt her right then and there.’ That is to say that lust and betrayal, heartbreak, suicide, murder and a host of the world’s other evils are inherent within the blues. The blues sing out with them. They tell the story of—well, Houston, and Texas, and everyone who has ever drawn a breath in either or both of the two. But mostly, the blues just sing.

I find it the easiest thing in the world to write about this topic. It’s sort of like breathing. It just flows on out there, and I don’t even have to think about it.

So, I hope you enjoyed this little excursion to a side of life that is seldom written about, seldom visited, and even rarer, brought up to the surface and exposed. Because, as Bill would likely tell you, there’s nothing done in the dark that won’t sooner or later be exposed to the light of day.

Okay, that’s about it.

For the die-hard among you—the faithful ones; those who keep coming back for more, and more, and still even more—this book was for you. It’s my privilege to know you and to write for you. Thank you for giving me every chance along the way to make good my word. You’ve been good to me, and you have my undying devotion.

Therefore, all my love to you and yours.

And as always, all the best!

George Wier
Austin, Texas

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Here’s the Author’s Note to Trinity Trio, comin’ atcha soon!

AUTHOR’S NOTE

The Catholics say that confession is good for the soul. This must have some truth to it, or else I wouldn’t be so inclined to unburden myself, or at least not so easily. And it didn’t take any prompting either. Here’s the confession: I have to feel a certain way to slip into Bill Travis’s world.

There. I said it.

There can’t be any music playing, nor anything seriously going on. I have to be fairly well-rested and in equable health. And if these conditions are just right, and if my little mind’s eye GoPro cam into Bill’s world is turned on and tuned in, why then I can follow what’s going on and report it. Otherwise, uh uh. Which is the real reason why I have to have several projects going at once and also the real reason why these books are trickling out there like black strap molasses a week after New Years.

Mind you, now, once I’m “over there” in Bill’s world, and things are hopping and popping, why, I can just let it roll and it sluices out of the old barrel in one hell of a hurry, but that’s not typical until somewhere in the neighborhood of one-third of the way to the halfway-finished area of the book, not at the beginning. If I’m anywhere in those first knuckle-dragging neanderthal thirty to fifty pages, well, sometimes it’s slow going. I don’t know why that is, it simply works out that way.

So, like I say, multiple projects are called for.

While writing this one, my main “other” project has been what I call a “serious” work entitled Neptune’s Forge, an Antarctic mystery. And man, is that mystery dark. Also, it’s written in a completely different vernacular than anything else I’ve ever written. All the action takes place near the end of the 19th Century, and it started writing itself in the prose form of that era—sort of a melding of Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, and Jack London. I’m not sure what or who I may have been channeling during that book—the ghost of Henry James, possibly?—but, oh man, if you read it, you’ll see what I mean. Between that book and this, it’s not only different continents and disparate times, it’s different worlds.

Here’s another confession, of sorts: I have interesting dreams.

This book is the only book I’ve ever written which appeared entirely in the course of a single night; a lone episodic saga. I was able to remember that dream—no, not in its entirety, but in its depth, its intensity, and in its feel. I’ll tell you, the dream was nowhere near as funny as certain passages in this book.

Humor, to my mind, is the knee-jerk reaction to “things that ain’t right.” It’s that plus the fact that you got the joke. You saw and understood it wasn’t right, and can therefore laugh at it. I heard a speaker once say that, “If you’re angry, then you haven’t gotten the joke yet.” I kind of appreciated that when I heard it. In fact, I laughed out loud.

Most of the humor in the Bill Travis books is unintentional. I’ll be in here (in my office, on my computer) writing, and Sallie will be in the bedroom across the way, reading what I wrote just a few minutes before (I’ll sometimes dash off a page or two and get them to her so as not to interrupt her reading of them by allowing her to reach the abrupt end) and suddenly she’ll laugh out loud. I’ll get up, go in there, give her a funny look until she notices I’m standing there, and then I’ll ask her, “What’s so funny?”

She’ll say, “Oh, it’s this part here,” and then she’ll read it aloud to me, and I’ll be shocked to find out it was actually kind of humorous. I mean, I’m sort of stunned by that. I hadn’t set out to do it, this I promise you, it’s just that it sometimes works out that way.

And another thing I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t happen like that if I’m feeling the least bit off. If I’m having to force it, then it’s usually simply not right. I will, in fact, find myself backing up (a painful word here, but since we’re being all sober and truthful, the actual word is “deleting”) to where it first started going south and re-writing it, or even stopping and waiting until it feels right to proceed. Running that red light (by which I mean, writing when I shouldn’t be—when I have to expend effort to do so) can sometimes result in a pretty bad wreck.

All this by way of saying that if there’s not some real life humor on the printed page, then it’s just not a Bill Travis mystery the way it should be. Now, I know, sometimes things can get pretty dark. They can get downright real and dicey and the old pump is thudding in the chest and that old battery acid taste of adrenalin is coating the tongue, and man, even I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But even then, even there in the pitch blackness with the bad people running around in the dark trying to kill our friend Bill, there had better be something to laugh at, somewhere.

I suppose, in the final analysis, this is why Bill and I are still hanging together, and he allows me to ride along in the back seat with him and Hank up front. It’s because we both know these old back roads, we know this neck of the back woods like the backs of our hands. We’ve both been there, we’ve dodged fate and lived to fight another day, and we’re able to laugh about seeing the elephant. (By the way, that’s what the old campaigners used to call the action on the battlefield—“seeing the elephant.” I suppose that’s a nod to the Boer War, or something.) Because, let me tell you, we’ve seen the elephant—or at least the elephant as it exists in East and Central Texas—and it can still be a pretty big bastard.

That reminds me of the old redneck joke: The first guy says, “What are the three most dangerous words you can hear?” The second one replies, “I don’t know, what are they?” The first guys says, “Hey, watch this!” You know when you hear that, you’re in some deep kem-chee. Or, at least you are where I come from.

Well, the truth of the matter is that I’m a bit older now, and hopefully most of my kem-chee days are in the dark years of the ancient past. They are, that is, until Bill Travis dredges them up for me and shows them to me.

But hey, what are friends for?

All right, I guess that’s about it.

Y’all take care, until the next time. And in the meantime…

All the best to you and yours,

George Wier
Austin, Texas
November 12, 2016

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                                           Coming Soon!

Here’s another little (or not so little, maybe) snippet from Sentinel In Elysium:

Before they were out to M.L. Harper’s cruiser, Yonner said, “Chief, I’m powerful hungry. How about you?”

M.L. stopped at his car, looked over the roof of it at the old black man and nodded. “Yeah, I’m hungry too. Tell you what, I’ll spring for a hamburger over at the Dairy Delite. I need to talk to Landry Perkins at the supermarket next door anyway.”

“Uh, Chief. Do black folks eat at the Dairy Delite?”

“Yes they do, Mr. Cole. You need to get out more often.”

“I reckon I do. I cook my own food.”

“I don’t,” Harper said, and climbed inside his car.

*****

The Dairy Delite had started operation along about 1957, when sock-hops, Elvis haircuts and drive-up soda fountains were all the rage. By 1975 the Dairy Delite was a muted throwback to a time that was as dead as the Devonian Epoch. The fifty-foot tall cartoon cowboy with his Roy Rogers style pistol and lasso still cast a long shadow over the parking lot, and the few patrons that still came there for greasy hamburgers and even greasier french fries and gloppy ice cream shakes, hawked those parking spots that would remain the longest in the shade of the eerie obelisk. The cowboy—whom the locals referred to as ‘Roy’—bore a tinge of rust. Eighteen years will do that to sheet metal, even in dry Central Texas. The entire parking area up close to the burger stand had once been covered, but the tornado outbreak of ’67 had taken the awning away and deposited it in a pasture half a mile away where pieces of it still remained. The tornado had left Roy alone, as if it were leery of riling him.

M.L. Harper pulled his cruiser into Roy’s shade and got out. Yonner Cole remained in the car. He walked up to the window and placed an order and paid for it, directing the young lady to take the food out to the black man sitting in the patrol car. The girl nodded.

He then walked next door to the Elysian Fields grocery. Inside he passed by the three operational checkout stands, only one of which was manned, and to the raised Customer Service bullpen. This was where checks were cashed and credit was extended.

“Landry,” Harper called.

“Chief! Say, I heard somebody killed the Childresses. Any idea who done it?”

“No. I had an odd visit from Clyde Purtee. He insinuated that the City Council didn’t want me pursuing the double-murder. Do you know anything about that?”

Landry Perkins had a cigarette in his lips, held up by the adhesion of dried spittle and rolling paper alone. Somehow he talked around it without it falling. Instead it bobbed up and down like a cork in the river with a perch nibbling on the line. His hands held small stacks of two-dollar bills. M.L. waited for Landry to look him in the eye for more than a second. The balding man was still trying to count the stack.

“Oh crap. You made me lose count.” Landry dropped the stacks on the counter and covered one with the other.

“Sorry about that. You got any idea about Clyde’s problem?”

“Clyde’s got recto-cranial inversion.”

M.L. laughed. “What the hell is that?”

“It’s where your optic nerve gets crossed with your anus and you wind up with a shitty outlook.”

M.L. slapped the counter. “I’ll have to remember that.”

“Clyde called me about an hour ago and was trying to get me to say that we should push you to drop the investigation.”

“Did he say why?” M.L. asked.

“No sir. He didn’t say. He tried to act like it was the mayor’s idea. I doubt that very seriously.”

“Why?”

“Because Mayor Fry hasn’t had an original idea of his own since about World War II.”

Landry snapped his fingers suddenly.

“What?” M.L. asked.

“I just remembered. I was going to talk to you about this. Get your take on it. Walk outside with me, will you?”

“Sure.”

M.L. waited while Landry doffed his grocer’s apron and hung it on a hook. When the man stepped down from the side door of the bullpen, M.L. walked with him to the automatic door and outside to the parking lot. M.L. glanced over to see the carhop girl handing Yonner his food, meanwhile he kept pace with Landry.

“Where are we going?” M.L. asked.

“Right here.” Landry stopped at the edge of the street and pointed north along Austin Avenue toward the distant hill and the wilderness beyond the main thoroughfare. “Tell me, Chief. What do you see?” A cigarette lighter magically appeared in Landry’s hand and he re-lit his cigarette. The thing had gone out in transit.

“I see a whole load of nothin’.”

“No sir,” he said and shook his head. A grin had stolen over his face. “It ain’t nothing. It’s a far sight from nothing.”

“You just swallow the bird of paradise or something?”

“Tell me, Chief, that you don’t know about what’s going on in this town?”

“Apparently I don’t. But now I think you’d better tell me.”

“I happen to know that there’s a little secret deal in the works. All that land over there belongs to the Air Force.”

“The old base. Yep. I knew that. Used to know some of the flyboys that did touch and go landings here from San Antonio. They would fly in from Lackland, Randolf and Brooks. That was fifteen or twenty years ago. Used to make ‘em sleep off their drunks in my jail.”

“Yeah, I suppose you did,” Landry said. “I have it on authority that it’s about to be sold to an outfit for a dollar. They’re going to put a junior college there. A two-year school.”

“What the hell for?” M.L. asked.

“Education, Chief. It’s going to put Elysium on the map.”

“They’re going to bulldoze the place?”

“Yep. And they’re going to put up a bunch of buildings—administration building, dormitories, classrooms. All kinds of shit. And I’m getting in on the ground floor.”

“How are you getting in? You’re a grocer!”

“Not for much longer.” Landry turned and regarded the Dairy Delite. He pointed. “That thing there is on its last legs.” Landry pivoted again as if he were about to bowl a perfect ten, brought his arm up and pointed to the west side of Austin Avenue. “I’m about to buy the Blakely Place. Also, I’m buying the Dairy Delite and shutting it down.”

“What in the hell for?”

“Because I’m building a real burger stand on Austin Avenue. The real estate closings for both are in two weeks.”

“You’re either crazy or you’re a genius,” M.L. said. “I suppose time will tell which it is.”

“You’ll see I’m not crazy,” Landry said. The wide smile on his face had not faltered the whole time.

“This what you wanted to tell me?”

“Sure. That’s it.” Landry held out his hands palm up to the sky.

“Okay, what are you going to call this divine, genius hamburger stand of yours?”

“That’s the beautiful part of it, Chief. I’m gonna call it The Blitz!”

M.L. nodded.

“Okay, Landry. When it’s up and running, I’ll come try one of your hamburgers. But they damn well better be better than the Delite’s, or I’ll arrest you for sheer meanness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got business to attend to.”

M.L. walked back toward the Dairy Delite and Yonner Cole.

“And that’s why they call him Mucho Love,” Landry said to himself. He shook his head, grinned widely, threw a kiss behind him to the acreage of overgrown brush, and started back toward his supermarket.