Posts Tagged ‘Bill’

I don’t know what this is, nor where it’s going, but…hmmm…here it is:

Of all the tales of great adventure that come down to us from the old days and the older ways, nary a one is any more moving, any more adventurous, nor more affecting than that of Craypipe and Stovelilly. As you all know, Craypipe lived in the Wide Valley and Stovelilly kept her abode up in the Laurel Range of the Saw Teeth, and only upon great peril would Craypipe adventure forth from his shack among the stands of paper reeds; but the weather was fine and Craypipe was still young and less set in his ways, and he wondered what sort of land lay beyond those far, high and jagged peaks, and as you well know, there is no stronger motivation than simple curiosity. So one clear and bright morning, after all the chores had been done, Craypipe cursed to himself, threw up his hands—those hard hands were already gnarled with great strength and abrasive and harsh toil, even then—and put a paper note on his door saying, Gone Explorin’, put a blanket and one of his old belts around the mule, put some crackers, cheese and jars of honey wine in his burlap sack, grabbed his stick and set to walking.

Now, as you also know, Stovelilly got her name on account of her odd birth—her mother, Pratelin, was cooking that day for the Savior Man’s Feast and all the extended family in the hills, and the babe chose that precise moment when two or three things were ready to come off the stove or out of the oven all at once to come into this screaming world. Pratelin felt Stovelilly start to drop and reached down in a flash and caught her by the foot, lifted her up and set her in the cooking pot on the back of the stove—there was no fire under that burner, don’t you know, because it was nothing there but water for cooling things down with—and the new babe settled into the cool water, looked up at her mother and smiled. In the next instant, Old Ames came into the kitchen, took one look and stated, “Now Ma, what you cooking over there on that corner? Because I don’t think the folks will want any of that!”

“Oh shoo!” Pratelin said, damping down the fire under the taters. “That’s nothin’ but my little stove lilly.” And as you know, the name stuck.

But that was a long time ago, close on to thirty years, and Stovelilly lived in the cabin perched on the saddle of land between the two valleys all alone. Old Ames had died of white rot and Pratelin got herself struck by lightning—and that is a whole other story, let me tell you—and it’s a hard world when you’re living on your lonesome. The family didn’t bother to come and state when they were moving off to the valley. They had forgotten about Stovelilly, as people sometimes do when they are deeply involved in their own affairs.

Now there was still magic in the Earth in those days. Some believe that it originally came from the great volcanic vents in the ocean, mixed with the water, was skimmed from the waves by the great winds that blow unceasing, and was dropped upon the mountains in great rain deluges, and ran down across the land and found its way into the very crops and the animals that we eat. It didn’t, then, take a lot of magic to manifest itself in ordinary ways such that no one thought of it as being quite…magical. They will see a tree growing from a little nut and think nothing of it, or a water spring up from a rock and pass it off as simply the way of the world. But it takes magic to move things, to cause them be when they weren’t before, and to generally bring forth life and living.

However the magic came to be there, it so happened that Stovelilly was particularly sensitive to the ways of magic. She saw it everywhere around her, and was quite versed in pushing it along, of spreading it around such that little things throve and grew in profusion near her. Consequently, the saddle of land between Laurel Mountain and Forrestal Peak became ringed with a great forest of birch and pine, black walnut and maple, and fruit trees were everywhere such that there was no need to plant any crops nor slaughter any animals—for it wasn’t in Stovelilly’s nature to kill anything that could gaze upon a sunset or grow tired or thirsty. Thus, she walked alone in the forest, singing songs to herself to bide her time, and wondered as she walked if she would ever hear the voice of another human being ever again.

She had no way of knowing that a human being would be coming to visit her, and very soon. The magic didn’t speak of it, and her Dream Spirit kept the secret of his coming, for if she had any inkling of what would thereafter occur, she might have blanched at the aspect of it, and hidden herself, and not answered when the call came, borne of the wind that blows about the misty peaks in the morning.

It was seven days for Craypipe from the morning he left the shack until he came to the foothills beneath Laurel Mountain. He spent much of his time talking to his mule. The mule listened, but to his credit didn’t talk back. Nor had Craypipe ever named the beast, other than to call him, properly, Mule.

When Craypipe laid his head down that last evening before attempting the peak, he looked up at the stars and saw that they had not changed one iota from where they were back home, and he wondered at this. He had always heard that the stars were different in the southern climes. This, from the tales of old explorers, handed down through the years. But those old explorers had great boats, and all he had was an old mule who couldn’t talk or even curse back at him. Maybe it was all foolishness. How could the stars change?

Sometimes the most fun writing these things is the dialogue. Here’s a little snippet from the forthcoming The Lone Star Express:

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Apparently anything can go wrong.

The train was slowing. Not majorly slowing, but the vibration and the rocking seemed less, and the lights passing in the night seemed to go by more slowly. I had swept most of the broken glass—all that wasn’t beneath Frank—into the corner where I had gotten the blankets, and Frank was trying to get to his feet.

“You want to help me up?” he asked. He had his left arm braced on a bar, trying to lever himself to his feet.

“I want you to lay there,” I said.

He faltered for a moment and lay back down. “I’m gonna try again in a minute. By the way, you make a terrible nurse.”

“I do.”

“Bill? Over!” The voice over the radio JoJo’s.

I picked up the radio and keyed the mic. “Yeah? Over.”

“Get up here. I need an extra hand. Only came with two of them. Charlie’s coming back there to spell you because he can’t…”

I waited. “Can’t what? Over.”

“Never mind that. Can you come on over?” Then, uncertainly, “Over.”

“Come over where? Over.”

“Come forward until you find me. Over.”

“Can we stop saying ‘over’? It’s getting old. Over.”

“Sure. Over.”

“Okay. I’m coming…uh, over.”

There was a beat of a pause, then, “So when are you going to stop saying ‘over?’ Over.”

“Right now,” I said, and released the mic. I waited, then keyed the mic again. “I’m also leaving off the ‘out’.”

“Uh huh.”

With that done, I looked back down at Frank. “You gonna be okay there for a few minutes? Charlie’s coming back here.”

“I heard.”

I turned to go, but then heard him whisper, “Amateurs.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just go.”

I opened the door onto the narrow brim beneath my feet, and for a moment began to doubt where I was going anywhere. The problem was the blackness of the night outside the caboose. The dim lighting from inside cast my shadow onto the rear of the refrigeration car in front of me. When I stepped a little to the side, I could see the brim of the car three feet in front of me and the faintly illuminated rungs of the later, but the problem was that when I stepped back in order to prepare myself to lunge forward, the ladder vanished into the darkness.

JoJo saved me with a squawk over the radio: “Bill, there’s a light switch by the door.”

I flipped it, but at that instant it decided to burn out. The flare was brief, and I knew if from all the times I had turned on my closet light or my back porch light and the tiny filaments in the bulb of glass decided to take the opportunity to check out.

I keyed the mic. “Just burned out. Here goes nothing.”

“It’s a piece of cake,” she said, and silence ensued.

“I now officially miss ‘over’,” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Will you two can the chatter?” Corky’s voice came over the radio. “We’re losing pressure fast.”

“I know. I know,” JoJo said. “Give us a minute.”

“Or five,” I said.

“You’ve got about four, and then this thing is coming to a stop and we’ll have to bank the fire.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“Starve it of oxygen,” Leo’s voice stated.

“Just aim and jump,” JoJo said.

“Okay,” I said. “Everybody shut up. Here I come.”

I turned the radio off, put it in my pocket, stepped to the side to let the dim light through.

Behind me, Frank shouted, “Just jump!”

“All right, already. Everybody’s a critic.”

I studied the rung I was going to grasp, and where I would have to put my feet. I counted from ten to one, then decided to start all over.

It came unbidden into my mind at that moment. One time Jessica and I were playing one-on-one basketball in the driveway and she was standing her ground from well past the free-throw line, and I couldn’t get past her. I dribbled, held the ball, dribbled and stepped, held it again, and then a feeling came over me. It was a sense of rightness. Why was I trying to get closer to the basket when all I needed was that feeling? I had height on Jessica, and I knew there was really nothing she could do. I dribbled once more, made as if I were going to step again, but instead leapt straight up and threw. The ball sailed up in a beautiful slow motion arc, as if what I had done was the laziest thing in the world, then went through the net without touching the hoop. It was game point. Jessica’s shoulders slumped and she said, “How am I supposed to defend against that?” to which I replied, “You don’t. There’s no defense against that.” “What do you call that?” “It’s a thing wonderful and rare. It’s called a sense of rightness.” The next morning I was awakened by the sound of a basketball banging off of the backboard. I looked out the window, and there was Jessica, practicing from past the freethrow line. She would jump straight up and throw, miss, try again and miss. Finally, as I watched, she got it. Then she stood there and I watched as the implication sunk in. And that was my gift that day to her.

I stood there in the night and waited. When it came, I recognized it and didn’t hesitate. I jump forward and my overly large shadow in front of me shrank. The rung of the ladder came into my hands at the same moment that my feet came down exactly where they were supposed to land. I started up without a second thought. There’s something to be said for rightness.

            Yes, you’ve read that right.

            Poster.

          Die-hard  and sure, even live-strong lovers of The Bill Travis Mysteries can now display their love and pride and general awesomeness on their walls in the form of this amazing poster:

 

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          Awesome, right? You know you want one. Imagine. The colors! The mystery! The, even more colors! What a great way to keep track of where you are in the series and show off how many books you read.

 

               Here’s a photo of George with his very own poster:

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The poster is already available, so no waiting required (except for the time it takes to be shipped to you).  Get yours HERE.

 

-Jessica

 

 

 

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I know I’m a bit of a tease, but here is Chapter One of The Lone Star Express!

CHAPTER ONE

Invest heavily in ammunition. That’s the flip-side of the warning on seeking revenge—the one about first digging two graves. When vengeance seeks you out—as opposed to the other way around—it’s wise to be locked, loaded and ready. But you have to know it’s coming, first.

With me it’s always something like that.

I’m Bill Travis, and apparently I’ve never met a problem I didn’t welcome to come on in and pull up a chair.

It began, innocently enough, with the performance of a good deed. Which brings up the second warning that I somehow bypassed during all the sturm and drang of Governor Richard Sawyer’s final disposition: no good deed goes unpunished.

Here’s how it started.

*****

Former Texas Governor Richard Donegal Sawyer was born in the Louisiana canebrakes back in the dark days of World War II. As an infant he was brought to the Texas Gulf Coast and raised by his father, his mother having died in childbirth. At age sixteen, or thereabouts, Sawyer and his father had a falling out over the fact of the elder Sawyer’s being a bloodthirsty killer and crime boss. The junior Sawyer’s feet carried him all the way to West Texas where he settled down at a life of hard labor as an oil field worker in the Permian Basin—Midland and Odessa. With his passing, at the ripe age of eighty, someone had to go looking for his will. I got that duty, at the request of his granddaughter, Elizabeth.

I was no more than a few days back from Mexico when she asked me. The next morning, I got up before the crack of dawn and drove Julie and a whole truckload of kids down to Houston, and stopped by the Sawyer home.

Julie rocked the baby in the rocking chair in Sawyer’s living room while Elizabeth and I commiserated at the dining room table, thirty feet away. There were a couple of banker’s boxes open on the glass tabletop and the contents—old papers, invoices, random things like insurance policies and old hospital bills—were poured into each box so tightly that both were apt to burst at the seams. I understood the filing system. It’s easier to throw it all in a box, especially after you realize that every single scrap of paper would need its own separate file, and office supply stores don’t typically carry fifty-thousand file folders. At least not in the economy pack.

“Do you mind?” I asked Elizabeth, and gestured with my hand over one of the boxes.

“Please do. I’m afraid to touch any of it. I’ll get immersed in it and won’t see daylight for days on end.”

I nodded and pulled out a thick sheaf of papers, about a reams-worth, and dropped it on the table-top. What spilled out was expired insurance policies, licensing agreements for trucks and tractors, old pay stubs going back to the 1950s and 60s, random photographs; a lifetime’s worth of the detritus of those things that, at the time, could not be simply thrown away. The things a person keeps!

“Yuck,” Elizabeth said.

“Everything here tells a tale,” I said. “If you were to piece it all together, maybe put it in chronological order, you’ve got a piece of the story of your grandfather’s life, which is another part of the story of Texas.”

“I know it’s not all trash, but some of it’s trash,” she said.

“No doubt. Okay, we’re looking for his will. And you say that it’s not tucked away in a safe-deposit box somewhere?”

“Uh uh. I cleaned those out. It wasn’t in there.”

“Then it’s here. Let’s keep looking.”

It took thirty minutes, but I found it. Oddly enough, it was fairly recent and tucked into the front end of the second box, right where you’d put something recent, if you were archiving it. The will was signed, witnessed and notarized roughly six months previous.

I began reading aloud.

“He leaves the whole kit ‘n kaboodle to you, Elizabeth,” I said.

“Let me see.”

I handed it to her and she read it to herself, her lips moving soundlessly and her eyes going back and forth.

“It’s a lot of responsibility for a woman your age. But I’m sure you can handle it.”

“There’s a list of stocks, bonds, all kinds of…”

“Financial instruments,” I finished for her.

“Yeah. Those.”

“It’ll take some time to find out what they’re all worth. No doubt the bulk of them were in the safe deposit boxes.”

“There was a bunch of that stuff in there, but I didn’t understand any of them.”

“I’ll take a look at them for you. For now, I suggest you get your own safe-deposit box and put them away. But after you make photo copies of everything. I’ll need a copy of it all, and I can get Penny at my office working on it in her spare time.”

“Ha. If she works for you, Mr. Travis, I doubt she has very much spare time.”

I chuckled. “You’re probably right. Never thought about it. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m naming her a full partner on Monday.”

“Then she’s been paying her dues all these years.”

“She has.”

Elizabeth turned a page, moved her eyes down and then struck upon something. She frowned.

“What is it?” I asked.

“A heading: Disposition of Remains.”

“Oh. They’ll need to know about this down at the funeral home. And pretty quick. Before I left Austin, I had a call from the Texas State Cemetery. They’re expecting to bury your grandfather there. It’s where we bury our Governors.”

“Not according to this, it’s not.”

“Crap. I’d better see it. Those guys may have already set aside a plot for him.”

She handed me the will.

“You’ll need to get this filed with the Probate Court as soon as—” I began, but by then my eyes were already taking in the bad news. My own name jumped out at me from the page:

DISPOSITION OF REMAINS

Since I buried my heart in Midland a long time ago, it is my wish that my body be buried there beneath the ancient mesquite. I purchased the plot in 1969, knowing full well that men can easily lose their lives in the oil patch. Further, I request that my friend Walter M. Cannon accompany my body by train to its final destination. If Walt Cannon predeceases me or, due to issues of health or availability, is unable to fulfill this wish, then I request that my dear friend, Bill Travis, should do so.

For many years I have been a supporting member of the Big Thicket Steam Association, headquartered in Palestine, Texas. I request that those old boys—those who have survived me—get the old ‘19 running for one last trip out west, and that I travel each mile between Austin or Houston and Midland by whatever rail line the boys may take. I pray that I may find my rest there in Midland.

“What’s the ‘Old ‘19′?” I thought, then realized I had said it aloud.

“I have no idea.”

“It’s okay. Tell you what, why don’t you ride with us down to the copy store where we’ll make three or four copies of this, then we’ll scoot by the funeral home, drop this off with the director and let him know how to contact me.

I detected a presence at my elbow. It was Julie, gently bouncing the baby.

“What’s going on?”

“It looks like I’m going to West Texas.”

“When? And how?”

“Soon,” I said, thinking all the while about bodies, temperature and steel boxes. “And by train.”

*****

I took the family back home to Austin after making certain that everybody on the Houston end of things was on the same page. The plan was for Governor Sawyer’s body to be transported to the State Capitol, there to lie in state for two days time where all Texans who wanted to might stop by and pay their respects. It’s a time-honored practice, and Sawyer’s will didn’t preclude it. I’m not certain it would have done any good if it had. In the final analysis, while we may suggest what should happen after we’re gone, it’s the family’s wishes that are usually honored, and at any time those wishes may be trumped by the state, particularly in the instance of a dignitary. In the end, we all render unto Caesar, right down to the toenails.

In the meantime, I had a ton of phone calls to make and correspondence to get out in preparation for what was to come—an event to which I was decidedly not looking forward.

I spent an entire day at the office, mostly listening to and receiving updates on Penny’s progress on the stocks and bonds.

At the appointed time—pre-arranged between my partner and me—Nat Bierstone came by the office. He was dressed in a blue jeans, red checkered shirt and suspenders. Penny gasped. She had never seen him in anything other than a business suit.

It had been three weeks since he had come by the office. Both he and I knew that he had already retired, but he was in to make it official.

“Mr. Bierstone, you look like…a real person!” Penny said. I listened from my office, having already glanced out my window when Nat pulled into circular driveway that runs behind the office and out the other side.

“Why thank you, Miss Taylor. Is Bill in? Thought I saw his car.”

“Come on back, Nat!” I called. “Penny, you come in here too.”

I waited. When they were both inside, Nat reached behind him and closed the door.

“Something is happening, isn’t it?” Penny asked. “Are you two about to fire me?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Nat said. She started to protest, but he raised a finger, then gestured to one of the two chairs in front of my desk. “Hush now and have a seat.”

“Yes sir,” she said.

Nat took the other chair, and by way of stretching the moment out interminably, fumbled in his blue jeans pocket for the front door key and the key to his office. He removed them from the key chain and said to Penny, “Hold out your hand.”

She did, and Nat placed the keys in it. “Don’t lose them until after you’ve made another copy. This is the only one to my office in existence.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Nat’s retiring,” I said, “effective today.” I picked up an envelope from the counter and handed it to him. He took it.

“What is that?” Penny asked.

“A check,” I said. “I just bought Nat’s half of the business.”

He looked at the envelope, poked a finger at the inside of the crease, as if he was about to open it with his finger, then instead handed it to Penny.

“You want me to open it for you?” she asked.

“I want you to keep it,” he said. “You can do whatever you want with it, since it’s yours.”

“I—I’m not sure what you mean.” Her voice trembled and had become very small.

“You know what it means,” I said.

“Let me do this, Bill,” he said. “I’ve earned the right.”

“This is where you fire me,” Penny said. She opened the envelope delicately and removed the check. The amount was eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Her eyes stared at the thin slip of paper.

“She’s gonna burn a hole in it,” I said.

“You can keep that and cash it,” Nat said, “or you can give it right back to Bill, keep that key of mine, and start worrying about who is going to replace you and become your secretary. Or rather, yours and his.” He hooked a thumb at me.

She looked across the desk at me. “How much is half the practice worth?” she asked me.

I laughed. “Spoken like a true accountant and financial consultant.” I leaned back in my chair and interlaced my fingers over my head. “Worth a hell of a lot more than twice eight-fifty.”

Penny handed the envelope back to me. “Then I suppose we’ll need to start interviewing applicants.”

I stood up and extended my hand.

“Welcome to Travis & Taylor,” I said. She stood slowly, then took my hand and shook it. And then she started crying.

Nat stood. She let go of my hand and threw her arms around his neck, her face disappearing from view. Nat grinned at me and patted her back.

When she released him, she stood and wiped the tears from her eyes, then slowly handed the check back to me.

“Go ahead and re-deposit it in the practice account. And make an appointment at the bank. You’re to be signatory to that account from now on, so consider that you just paid yourself back.”

“Who’s idea was this?”

“All three of us,” I said. “Nat, me, and Julie as well.”

“I wish she were here.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “She made me promise to give her the play-by-play tonight.”

“I don’t know what to say,” she said.

I laughed. “There’s a first time for everything.”

“I’ll try to be a good partner for you, Mr. Travis.”

“Penny, now that it’s official, you are required to call me Bill. I won’t have a partner who can’t say my name.”

“Mr. Bierstone calls you William.”

“He can get away with it because he’s older than I am, he’s the former Lieutenant Governor of Texas, and worse than that, he’s Julie’s uncle.” I grinned at her. “You can’t.”

“Okay, Bill,” she said. And you could have knocked me over with a feather.

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Here’s the Author’s Note for The Lone Star Express, which is well underway. For some reason, I have to write these things the minute they start talking, with only minor changes prior to publication. Anyway, here it is:

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Following on the heels of Mexico Fever—and having been conceived during the writing of it—The Lone Star Express, like all the books, was titled a very long time ago. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t remained fresh in my mind. From a point very early on, I could clearly see—as is depicted on the cover—Bill Travis walking along a stretch of railroad track and into the desert hardpan, his coat tucked under his arm, the wind tousling his hair, and nothing but miles stretching before him. My own question (and in my mind, there’s always at least one question, and typically more than one) was this: is the train ahead of him or behind? If it’s ahead of him, he’ll never catch up to it. If it’s behind, then maybe all he’ll have to do its get to the next required water stop or switch-track, and wait. Thus, the story as you find it here. With nothing more in mind than this mental image and the title, I began in earnest, and it all unfolded rather quickly.

This book is sort of an end in itself. No, it’s decidedly not the end of the Bill Travis Mysteries by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a commencement of sorts. As with any ending, there are new beginnings. Time doesn’t stop because we stop, even though one might argue that all things are relative. They may be, but there is far more to life than one’s own universe—there’s everybody else’s universe as well, and then there’s the one where we all meet and interact, and there, decidedly, if in fact not all things are relative, they’re at least related.

In this book several things speak to my little commencement theory. Penny finally comes into her own, and Nat, while not exactly exiting the stage, withdraws somewhat from the floodlights. Dick Sawyer is finally laid to rest—and we can only assume that he has actually found that rest he was looking for—and another Governor has come to the fore. Jessica has married and moved out, but I hope you do know that we will see her again—she’s simply too good not to write. Also, here, the last Travis kid is introduced, if in no other way than by foreshadowing what’s to come. (By way of a hint, from the beginning of this series, I wanted Bill’s family somewhat reflective of that of Charlie Chan.)

This is, by far, the longest of the Bill Travis books. It had to be, just as Mexico Fever had to be the shortest. It’s the story that determines that, not the author, and any writer worth his or her salt will confirm that fact. As I’ve held all along, I’m simply the reporter—Bill’s hanger-on journalist, his biographer. And one of these days I suspect he’s going to turn around, fix me with a cold stare, and let me know in no uncertain terms that I’m no longer welcome to hang around. When that happens, I’ll light out for the territories and make a whole new batch of friends. And maybe even an enemy or two.

As I stated a long time ago—along about Capitol Offense, of which this book is the decided sequel—you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. All this by way of saying that nothing is truly sacred. Before this series is done, we’re liable to see some folks we thought were stable, fall by the wayside. While Austin seems to be Bill’s home, there is, indeed, a rather large state out there beyond the Travis County line. Bill and company might move. It’s entirely possible. Anything can happen.

You see, this is life we’re dealing with here. It’s at least my life. And those of you who have participated, either by reading or through direct contact with me—I’m totally approachable, folks, so email me anytime, and you’re liable to get a phone call if you supply your number—know full well that things have a way of happening. Life is a river, and you can’t dip your foot into the same river twice. And old English prof of mine was fond of using that analogy, but with the English language in place of “life.” By the time you have removed your foot from the waters and immersed them again, it’s a different river. The water has changed and moved on downstream, fish have eaten other fish, thus cutting off whole bloodlines in the unending protoplasmic contest for imminence. It’s simply not the same. Life is like that. It isn’t static because it can’t be and still be considered life. Thus, those edifices we thought were fixed are invariably toppled, and new buildings and statues erected. Yesterday’s hero is tomorrow’s villain. What was all the rage is quickly forgotten in the windstorm of change. The seasons can be unkind.

Sorry, was waxing poetic there.

So, Bill Travis.

Bill and I are older now, that much is obvious. He doesn’t say nearly as much as he used to, but I feel like his waters have more depth, and sometimes those depths are dark indeed. (For instance, Bill actually shoots someone in Mexico Fever, as you well know. Let me tell you, that surprised the hell out of me, for sure! And gosh! What happens here gives me chills.) I can’t tell you much about my own waters, other than that things seem simpler to me now. But, when you strip away all the arbitraries and all the complexities (and you can easily read into that, all the things that aren’t important, especially the lies) a whole new world can open up, and it’s just as bright as it was when we were young and it was summer, and a day lasted a mere shadow shy of forever.

By way of final word, let’s talk about trains.

One of my earliest memories was of a train ride either on or to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation in deep East Texas. I couldn’t have been more than about three or four years old. There I met my first cousins (my father’s brother’s kids. And as an aside, one of those two brothers later became the Chief of the tribe!) and spent a day immersed in their culture. I loved it, but mostly I loved the train ride. Since that time I have had a fascination with trains, but no real outlet for that interest. I simply haven’t had the time to delve into it. Oh, I wanted to, but, you see, there’s this thing called “life,” and man, it can get in the way of quite a lot! So, here I am, nearly fifty years after the fact, and I find myself having come full circle back to that long, wonderfully slow train ride through the Big Thicket. If there is a heaven, then there is a passenger train running through it, and on to undiscovered lands. Either there must be, or there is no such thing as heaven.

So, trains. As in all things, I never knew one nth the amount I wanted to. And consequently, some of my favorite books and movies have been about trains: The Great Train Robbery, Runaway Train, Throw Momma From the Train, Von Ryan’s Express, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the ubiquitous Murder on the Orient Express, to name a few.

With the publication of The Lone Star Express, I feel as though I may have painted myself into a rather lovely corner. While I hope it’s my absolute best, it makes the next book an even greater challenge. But then again, what would life be if there weren’t a few prominent obstacles along the path, huh?

In any case, be looking for Trinity Trio, the next Bill Travis installment, in the coming months, followed quickly by Buffalo Bayou Blues. How’s that for titles?

I suppose that’s it, for now. I hope to see you soon. In the meantime…

All my best to you and yours.

George Wier
Austin, Texas
June 9, 2016

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Coming down the pike in a few days. Here’s the rough draft of the Foreword:

FOREWORD

Omnibus 3 has been a long time coming. What can I say? It takes a while to write twelve books, but that’s no excuse. I never intended this to be a long, drawn-out affair, but I do find that it has worked better this way for me (better, that is, than the way I originally intended, when I thought I could just fire out about twenty-one books in no more than a couple of years). That is to say that the time it has taken has had its effect on me, and that is reflected in Bill. You know, things have a way of happening in life. One thing leads to another, and even the catastrophes turn out, in the long run, to be okay.

I watched a little documentary once where the survivors of Hurricane Hugo were interviewed. This fellow had lost his home and all of his possessions, and he had to move to a new town and start all over. I was watching that, and before it got into the meat of his interview—this was all backstory, you see—I was thinking, “You know, I’d like to think that I’m a pretty flexible, bend-with-the-wind kind of fellow, but I just don’t know how I would handle that kind of setback.” Well, since that documentary, many years ago, I’ve had a few setbacks of my own—the kind where I lost everything and moved to a completely different city—so, yes, I can now say that I do have the ability to cope with most anything that life can throw at me. But then, the interviewer in that documentary asked the survivor this telling question: “If you could, would you go back and change things, such that this one devastating event didn’t happen to you?” And the guy told the interviewer something to the effect that, indeed no, he wouldn’t change it if he could. After moving to a new city and starting all over, he met the most wonderful woman, and the two of them had several beautiful children, and he was leading the life he’d always wanted to lead. All this by way of saying that, no, I wouldn’t go back and change how this series ultimately has been written. Each book is its own little universe. Bill and Julie got together at the end of The Last Call, and they were having kids together by the middle of Longnecks & Twisted Hearts. And later those kids (and even Julie) had integral roles in some of the later adventures.

But then again, I suppose that’s what life is. It’s one big adventure. The wind blows. Sometimes it blows everything away, and you have to pick up the pieces after the fact. But, you’re still alive. You can live to fight another day. And that sunrise of the new day is the most glorious sight you could ever lay your eyes on.

This series, I must admit, has been reflective of my own life. I’m fifty-one years old, as of this writing. I don’t feel fifty-one (an age I once thought of as the time when a fellow has to get ready to die). At times I feel as though I’m in my thirties, and at other times I’m no more than a teenager. And every once in a blue moon, why, I’m about eight years old again, the world a reflective gleam in my eye, the future stretched out before me, staggering and beautiful, and anything is possible. You see, it is, still. Anything is possible, and I don’t close myself off from the potential for it, whatever that might be.

This day and age, a fellow has to really bend with the wind. He has to keep abreast of new technologies, the new trends, the new ways of looking at things. And he can’t, for even a minute, spend valuable, never-to-be-seen-again seconds in regret.

So, it is without one scintilla of regret that I offer The Bill Travis Omnibus 3. This third, four-volume installment represents the culmination of the last fourteen years of my writing. Yes, the stories are shorter, but that’s because I’ve learned what didn’t need to be included. Yes, Bill still has the occasional disturbing and nevertheless poignant dream. Yes, he occasionally brings either the kids along for the ride—and one time, here, Julie—or friends such as Hank Sterling or Walt Cannon. And indeed, yes, he’ll get to the end of it despite being shot at, or nearly blown up, and all while on little sleep. But act his age? Uh uh. No way. Not even. You see, that’s how it should be, because…he’s Bill Travis. And here, at this late date, I’ll confess to just you and only you, that he’s a little bit George Wier. Dang, I can’t believe I said that, but there it is.

I want to take a moment and thank some folks— knowing full well that it’s impossible to thank each who have helped me, or been a friend, or read my books along the way.

Casting my mind as far back as it will go along this track, I would like to thank the following:

The memory of those who have gone, including—

Lester Dent, who inspired me to write action and adventure stories; Theodore Sturgeon, who personally convinced me I should become a writer during a twenty-minute one-on-one discussion that changed my life at about age thirteen; Milton T. Burton, sage, counselor, and friend; and Nelson Wier, my father. I miss you. Thank you for having lived.

And those who abide, including—

Fellow authors: Billy Kring, T.R. “Tom” Harris, Nick Russell, Craig Johnson, Valerie P. Chandler, Laura Oles, Reavis Wortham, Steven M. Thomas, Cleve Sylcox, Terry Shames, Joe R. Lansdale, Claude Bouchard, Kristie Haigwood, Robert Thomas, Stephen Arsenault, Brandon Hale, Alison Blake, Randy Morris, David A. Cuban, Jesse Sublett, Carol Ann Newsome, Suzy Steward Dubot, Mike Meyer, Mark Pryor, J. Carson Black, Kate Aaron, AJ Rose, Jess Mountifield, Manning Wolfe, Chris Ward, Russell Blake, Albert Benson, Holli Marie Spaulding, Thomas & Angie Jenner, Corrie Stout, Catherine Weaver, Chantell Renee, Bill McClure, Ricky Bush, Alan Martin, Beck Bee, Jay Allan, Dale Roberts, Daniel C. Chamberlain, Molly Burton, Scott Langrel, Andy Downs, Donald Everetti, Tim Bryant, Saxon Andrew, Ronnie Pace, David Carus, Ben Rehder, Lindsey McCullen, C. Craig Coleman, Charles Hall, James F. Coyle, Sally A. Wolf, Lee Spiller, John Daulton, Liz Miller, Dale Bradley Morris, Bill Crider, Donna Blanchard McNicol, Sharon Delarose, Jacques Duvoisin, Lee Burton, Ron Moss, Scott Montgomery, and many, many more. You folks inspire me to become better than I am.

And all the fans who have reached out to me and have become steadfast friends, including but in no wise limited to: Jim Geckles & Dawn Vizzotsky, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, Bob Thomas, Ruth Ellen Clendenin, Russ & Lauren DeWitt, Belinda Jayne Parker, Catherine Boyd, John Lucenti, Tom Burks, David Jefferson Potter, Jim & Eva Neikirk, Mary J. Vander Meiden, Courtney Michelle DeWitt, Dave Minnich, Guy van Zijil, Richard Waynn Bentley, Bill Cunningham, Brad Hicks, Don Riley, Gerrie Lispon Salinas, James Barbatano, Heather Quiring, Chuck Holland, Mike Collella, Tonya Connell, Nicole Hall, Bob Henslee, Lia Pham, Linda Kay Shadden, Joseph Pally, Gary Carlin, Jeri R. Walker, Norma Dell Jones, Carol Kropp, Ray Fisher, Roni Valdez-Cuellar, Mike Saliwanchik, Travis & Jo Ann Everett, Wikus Hattingh, Jayne James, Don Hardman, Nicole Combs, Todd Dempsey, Daniel G. Benes, Jeff & Candace Fischer, and Deborah Scouras, Kevin Tipple, Amy McMurrough, Christine Bell, and actually, too many more to put on the printed page. I thank all of you, from the depths of my heart.

No man is an island. Therefore, the following team members deserve special mention: Elizabeth Mackey, graphic cover artist extraordinaire; Mike Williams, photographer and filmmaker; Jessica Conley Potter, without whom I wouldn’t be able to function as a writer. Thank you all so very much.

And my immediate family: Clarice Caldwell, my mother, conscience and guide; Joseph and Maggie Strickland; Carlie and Shoshone Sky; and the one who assures that the road goes ever on, my Sallie. You know my love.

I guess that’s it.

All the best to you and yours,

George Wier
Austin, Texas
June 1, 2016

 

Mexico Fever

Here’s the Author’s Note for Mexico Fever. The book is coming soon. Look for it this May.

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I’ve taken a number of trips down into the interior of Mexico, interspersed over a great many years. My first excursion was in 1991, around the time I got married for the first time. That one was a simple border crossing, and my fiance and I enjoyed a meal in Nuevo Laredo at the famous Cadillac Bar. That one sort of doesn’t count, you know. I was never more than a stone’s throw from Texas, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were waiting for me there in the middle of the Rio Grande. Many years later, around 2004, after I had moved to Austin and gotten a different wife, we took several trips down into the interior of Mexico. The first was a road trip to San Miguel de Allende, and we spent a week there. That’s the Mexico I know and love. If you ever get the chance to go to Mexico, go to San Miguel. It’s unforgettable, and you will likely fall in love. Since that time we’ve only been to Gaudalajara, a city with the largest concentration of American expatriots in the world. But Guadalajara is…Guadalajara. It’s not what you’d call a tourist destination. It’s raw and unforgiving. It is, simply put, Mexico.

I approached my decision to take Bill Travis out of Texas—and to drop him like a fish out of water into Mexico—with no small degree of trepidation. First of all, it would have to be real, and I knew I would be drawing on every experience I could recall. Second, I am not so fluent in Spanish as I should be. Chalk that one up to—as is the case in many things—me never finding the elusive Round Tuit, as in “I’ll get around to it.” No, I have a number of books and cassette tape courses on learning the language, but can you see me even for a moment tooling down the Interstate conjugating verbs in Spanish? I can’t, and maybe that’s part of the problem. You see, like most people, I walk around fooling myself. “Oh, I want to do this thing here. Oh, I’ll do that!” Right. Best to smile and nod, and quickly move on to another topic when someone starts talking like that. You know—and deep down they know—it’ll never happen. All by way of saying, “Nope, I haven’t learned Spanish. This is gonna be interesting.” So, to compensate for that, I had to keep the Spanish references down to the common ones that most people—especially yours truly—could wrap their wits around. Second, Bill knows no more Spanish than I do, so I decided that, as a writer, I would use that deficiency in the story. I would make it an asset, which calls for no slight measure of literary legerdemain. Oh, the possibilities that went flitting through my head as I began.

There’s another thing I try to do when I’m writing. I try, at every turn, to only use those places I have actually been in the story. For instance, when I wrote Caddo Cold, Sallie and I had to make three trips over that way. And yes, I did change the physical universe around just a tad to make it conform with the story, but at the very least, I had been there, and I knew what those changes were. But while Sallie has decidedly been down to Cancun and to the Chichen Itza site, I haven’t—or at least not during this lifetime. I don’t know what you believe on that score, and I don’t really care, but I do remember. I remember far more than I care to. And no, I don’t really care to return. There are too many negative associations with the place, and most of us don’t like returning to a place that once brought us great pain. That’s the nature of living life, and human beings are at least predictable in that respect. So, no, we didn’t go to Chichen-Itza before I wrote this book. It’s about the same reason I’m reluctant to visit the Alamo. Will I never see Chichen-Itza this lifetime? I’ve found it’s not a healthy thing to go around saying, “Never.” That’s usually where the trouble begins. So, my apologies on that score. I didn’t go. And I don’t plan to. Sorry for having to say so. But—and this is a rather large ‘but’—I’ve discovered that Bill Travis is no less than my avatar. I can send him places I no longer dare to tread. It’s true, many of the situations in the earlier adventures were situations I have been in (for instance, I have landed a plane with the wind, instead of against it, I have been in some knock-down drag-out fist fights, and prior to my current marriage, I have been known to dive into relationships on the first date). But for once, why not break out of the box—the box in this case being Texas—and send Bill abroad? Why not send Bill to Mexico? And doing so, why not give him the best reason in the world for jumping in an airplane in the dead of night and heading out? And while we’re at it, why the hell not make it the greatest white-knuckle adventure of all time? There! The defense rests!

You know, this one sort of makes Bill an international man of mystery. Just sayin’.

Since we’re down the list on book twelve at the moment—and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you hanging with me for this long; I mean, that’s a special kind of devotion, and I am forever indebted to you—you have by this time noticed that some of these books are “a bit out there.” As the famous mystery reviewer, Kevin Tipple, said when he reviewed Ghost of the Karankawa, “Often he gets into cases where one can almost hear The Twilight Zone theme music playing in the background…” and “George Wier again strains reader suspension of disbelief at a couple of points, but the read is very well worth it.” Yes, guilty as charged, and I throw myself on the mercy of the Court. I confess that I do love a fantastic tale. They attract me, they pull me right on in, and I have no power over them. (For instance, I just got back from a trip last night to San Antonio, where I got to meet Charles Hall, the author of the Millennial Hospitality series—five books, thus far, about his experiences with the Tall White extraterrestrials while serving in the Air Force. Goodness Grief, it’s wonderful stuff, whether you believe him or not!) So why should I not include the fantastic in my own fiction? For those of you who don’t write, I offer the following explanation: a good writer doesn’t choose his story—the story chooses him! That’s right, you’d think I’m the arbiter of this particular universe; the world where Bill and Julie move around and have their being, and where Jessica is on patrol with the Sheriff’s Department, and where Perry Reilly is yet again hitting on his new young receptionist, and where Hank Sterling takes up karate. No. I don’t have much say there. Don’t look so surprised. You sort of knew it all along. The truth of the matter is these books write themselves. I’m just the conduit. Is this actual channeling? I dunno. I sure hope the hell not. But it is, at the very least, honest work. It’s like…it’s like Bill. He says no more and no less than what he means to say. And that makes me glad.

Okay, that’s about it. That’s about all I have to offer.

I hope you like book twelve, and I hope it doesn’t overly infect you with Mexico Fever. Or at least no more than you can easily ward off by diving into another book and leaving this one behind you.

All my best to you and yours.

George Wier
April 29, 2016
Austin, Texas

Mexico Fever

 

 

Here’s just a bit of teaser from Mexico Fever:

Piste came up ahead of me about five miles away. From the maps, I knew the airport was to the southwest of the city by no more than a few miles, and the Chichen-itza plaza was a mere stone’s throw from that. I banked to the south and scanned for the opening in the jungle—a mere rectangular swath—and found it. I cut the power by half, brought down the flaps ten degrees and shed both altitude and airspeed. I made the obligatory call to all Piste air traffic, but received not so much as a blip in acknowledgment.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Bill’s coming in, so everybody had better get out of my way.”
The runway turned out to be a small canyon in an ocean of jungle. The runway was so much hardpacked dirt. I brought Lola in with the landing gear grazing the palm fronds and set her down. I cut the engine all the way back, jumped on the pedals to keep from slewing into the jungle from the rough dirt runway, and rolled to a slow stop.
I scanned the airport. There was a lone building with the tanker portion of a rig parked outside, and a small car sandwiched between them. A lone Mexican man walked out on the porch, doffed his hat and waved at me. I brought the engine back up and rolled slowly over to him and off the runway. I cut the power and climbed out.
“Buenos Dios,” I said.
“Gringo,” he stated. “How long are you here?” While his words were English, his accent was thick. He appeared to be in his late twenties, or perhaps early thirties. Sometimes people age differently closer to the Equator. He had black, curly hair and a thick mustache. His clothes appeared slept in.
“I don’t know. A few days, maybe.”
“Come to see the pyramids?”
“No.”
He shook his head.
I offered my hand and he frowned and slowly took it and shook. “I’m Bill Travis.”
“I see,” he said. “I am Phillip. You may call me Phil. I run the airport for twelve hours every day. I sell fuel. Do you need fuel?”
“Not now,” I said. “I will need to gas up when I’m ready to leave. Is there some place I can tie down?”
“Tie…? Are you camping?”
“No. The plane.”
“What for do you need to tie the plane? We have no wind here. We have nothing here, just in case you did not know.”
A chicken walked by and Phil made as if to kick at it. The chicken sped up and moved along.
“You have chickens,” I said.
“We have chickens and we have eggs. Do you wish for either?”
I shook my head again. “No. What I need is a ride into town, and the recommendation for a good hotel.”
“Oh.” Phil turned his head toward the jungle that lay in the direction of town, as if that might jog his memory. “Well, you need a ride.”
“That’s right. I need a ride.”
He regarded me again. “We do not have rides here. But, if you can make it into town, go to the center of town. There they will have hotels.”
“How should I get to town, other than by walking?”
Phil frowned again, as if framing the question seriously to himself. He peered at the ground at his feet, as if consulting it. After a moment he looked back up. “Well, you can walk to the gate to the Pyramid Plaza and wait for the autobus. Or, you can take Senor Burro.” Phil pointed and I followed his gaze.
There, tied to a tree, was my worst nightmare. A burro, or what we commonly refer to in the states as a donkey.
“If I take Senor Burro,” I said, “which road do I take to town?”
“There is only one road. You just tell Senor Burro where you want to go. You say, ‘Senor Burro, take me to Piste,’ and he take you. You say, ‘Senor Burro, take me to aeropuerto,’ and he take you. If you don’t need him anymore, you tell him ‘Go home, Senor Burro,’ and he go home.”
“How much will you rent him to me for?”
Phil raised his hand and gave a dismissive wave. “For nothing. I hate Senor Burro. Maybe you will kill him. Will you kill him and poke out his eyes?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“Okay. You…mucho consado.”
“What?”
“How you say? Tired.”
“Oh. Yes. Mucho consado. Tell me, Phil, is there another gringo in Piste? An old man?”
“There are many old gringos in Piste. Gringos may no go home, or have to go to old people house.”
“Nursing homes. You’re referring to nursing homes.”
“Si. Si. Who is this gringo?” he asked. Very clearly, this was the most exciting event of Phil’s entire day. A tired gringo who looks as though he’s been ridden hard and put up wet comes flying in on a single-engine prop, needs a ride to town, and starts asking questions.
“A friend,” I said. And then I thought about Dick Sawyer, his eyes boring into me, telling me about a revolutionary named Sunlight. I was in enemy territory. It was time for me to shut up and get to town. “Don’t worry. I’ll find him. He’s an old man who drinks too much. I need to take him back to the United States. He has a room in a nursing home waiting for him.”
Phil shook his head, as if I had just confirmed his entire world view.
“Si. That is what I say about the old gringos, but no one believes me.”
“No one believes anything anymore,” I said.
Phil shook his head in complete agreement.
“I’ll take Senor Burro.” I noted that Phil was about to speak, so I decided to cut him off. “And no, I will not kill him.” Phil shrugged, turned around and went back into the office.

Desperate Crimes

When Jennifer Travis’s piano teacher, Todd Landry, goes missing, Bill Travis has to pull out of all the stops to find him before her upcoming piano recital. Along for the ride is not only Jennifer herself, but also her pet ferret, Morgan Freeman, and Bill’s old running buddy, Hank Sterling. Zig-zagging all over the map on the trail of an elusive Todd (whom people keep calling “Sam”) the team encounters a host of interesting characters including the members of a dynastic millionaire family with enough skeletons in their collective closet to fill a boneyard. It’s murder, mayhem, conspiracy and intrigue at a fever pitch for Bill Travis and company. Desperate Crimes is the 11th installment in the Bill Travis Mystery series.

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