Creating Fictional Towns For Your Books


For the novels in my series, Once Upon a Time in the Texas Panhandle, I invented a town named “Mackenzie,” after Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie. In retrospect, I think a better name would have been “Leetown,” after Gen. Robert E. Lee. Underlying my stories is the idea that in the decades after the American Civil War, bands of ex-Confederate soldiers and their families established new towns across the Texas Panhandle that would continue the values and ideals of the “Old South” and the “Southern Way of Life.”

            Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in 1865, followed by Reconstruction and occupation of the ex-Confederate States by the Union Army, marked the demise of the centuries-old traditions of the white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon South. But in my interpretation of history, several thousand veterans of the Confederate Army and their families emigrated from the devastated areas of the Deep South and went onto the verdant prairies of the Texas Panhandle, which as a result of the Red River War of 1874-1875, had recently been cleared of Indians and were open for settlement—to whites only.

            Accordingly, in my novels, the town of Mackenzie, which I should have called “Leetown,” was established several decades after the War, by Southerners who were determined to keep their cherished “Southern Way of Life” from perishing. Just as Italian immigrants established a “Little Italy” wherever they went and Chinese immigrants established a “Chinatown,” Johnny Reb immigrants established a “Leetown.”

            Part of the culture and sociology of such a town would be that it is completely controlled by the white race. African Americans, while no longer slaves, are totally subservient to Caucasians, and must know their place—or face serious consequences. The same would be true for Hispanic Americans. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, which is the time period of my novels, such was the case in the Texas Panhandle. My stories, therefore, indirectly study the effects of one such segregated and white-ruled community—fictional Mackenzie, a.k.a. Leetown—on people like myself, who were growing up there.

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