All in historical fiction

I was surprised when the public librarian in a small town in Virginia rejected the idea of placing my novels in her library, saying, “They’re too regional—they’re all set in the Texas Panhandle. I don’t think my patrons here in Northern Virginia are interested in stories that take place out West. They want stories set in their part of the country.”

I can’t say that she was wrong about her patrons. Maybe they really are that limited in what they will read. But she certainly was wrong in saying that a story can be “too regional,” and for that reason would not be of interest to anyone who is not from wherever the story takes place.

Good stories are timeless and “place-less.”

It seems that most people don’t ask themselves, “Who am I?” Most people know who their parents are—and their grandparents and even their eight great-grandparents. So it seems that they’re sure of their ethnicity, religion and nationality. So it seems if you ask most people whether they know who they are, they’ll suppose it’s a trick question, and they’ll answer you unabashedly, “Sure, yes—of course I know who I am!”  But some people are not so sure.

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“[Good-bye] to officers who put ‘duty’ above ‘ethics,’ and to the troops who regularly complained that the Army’s Rules of Engagement were too strict—as if more brutality, bombing and firepower (with less concern for civilians) would have brought victory instead of stalemate.”

Words of Major Danny Sjursen, West Point graduate, who retired in 2018, after 18 years in the Army and 11 deployments, often to war zones. Words very unusual for a multi-medalist soldier who was teaching history at West Point. He had become a disillusioned pacifist after what he saw in his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan—and he gave up his once-promising career, in order to speak out.

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I have determined that one of my coming novels in the series, Once Upon a Time in the Texas Panhandle, will deal with the issue of whether to remove the Confederate statue from the central park of my fictitious city of Mackenzie, which is modeled after Amarillo. At present, there is an absolutely incredible number of such monuments, which are scattered throughout the former Confederate states. The central theme of my novel will be: Is it right to honor a soldier who served in the wrong army? That is, even if the soldiers of the Confederate States of America were heroes and valiant soldiers, were they mistaken in fighting for what became known as the “Lost Cause”?

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My novels all necessarily involve racism as an underlying theme. They take place in Texas—which is part of the South—during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, when white folks like me were being forced by the Civil Rights Movement to confront racism head-on, instead of pretending that segregation, discrimination and racial animus either did not exist, or were no big deal.

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            My mother’s stories about the Depression and Dust Bowl era were endless. They struggled to have enough to eat, never bought new clothes, never went anywhere, taped around windows and doors to keep out the dust from the dust storms that turned day into night. She said good-bye to many of her friends and their families, when they gave up and joined the endless procession of Okies going out West. Somehow, her family managed to survive and stay. But there was always fear: the dreaded thought that their time might too come, when they would have to leave and go to California.

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