Friday, August 28, 2009

Eulogy for Elmer Kelton

The following eulogy was delivered at the funeral of Elmer Kelton Thursday afternoon by the Rev. Ricky Burk, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church.

In his autobiography, “Sandhills Boy,” Elmer says he discovered America on April 29, 1926, at Horse Camp on the Five Wells Ranch a few miles east of Andrews, Texas. His mother often told him that it was a wet, stormy day and the first few weeks were equally stormy for Elmer and his parents. Elmer was born prematurely, and his mother kept him in a shoebox and often in the oven in order to keep him warm and help him survive those first perilous weeks.

Although he grew up on a ranch, Elmer and horses never connected. He said it might have begun before he was even able to walk. His father was working half-broken horses and his mom was sitting on the fence holding him and watching her husband. Dad decided it was time for Elmer to have his first ride, so he placed Elmer in front of him in the saddle. The bronc immediately began to pitch while Dad held on to the reigns with one hand and Elmer with the other. He calmly worked the bucking bronc around to where mom was seated on the fence and handed off Elmer like a quarterback handing off a football. Elmer said that from that day forward his relationship with horses went downhill.

The family showed me a picture of the last time Elmer was ever on a horse. He was in the Big Bend area and posed on a big, beautiful palomino for a picture. You can tell by looking at both Elmer and the horse that neither was sure what would happen next. Elmer never mounted a horse again and, years later, when plans were made for the library statue now in progress, he made the artist promise to place him next to a fence, not on a horse!

Growing up in the midst of cowboys and horses, it was always his dream to be a cowboy like his Dad. But, in addition to his lack of confidence in riding, he was seriously nearsighted. It often caused him to mess up the cattle drive by getting lost or turned around. But soon Elmer made two great discoveries: glasses and books. He was a voracious reader, immersing himself in any available print.

He missed most of fifth grade due to a mild form of tuberculosis. Forced to stay in bed most of the time, he read, wrote, and did imaginary radio broadcasts. He even made his own movies by drawing pictures on long strips of paper, then pulling them through slots in a large piece of cardboard, one at a time. From behind the cardboard he would voice the dialogue. His God-given gift was beginning to surface.

As he faced graduation from high school he began to work up the nerve to break the news to his father about his intended career. Elmer finally told him that he wanted to go to the University of Texas, study journalism and become a writer. His dad, a hard-core rancher to the bone, didn’t take it well. Elmer said, “He gave me a look that would kill Johnson grass and said, ‘That’s the problem with you kids these days, you all want to make a living without working for it.’” Elmer was never certain what his father thought about his career.

Soon the drums of war began to beat in Europe and Elmer decided to do his part and enlist in the Navy. They turned him down due to flat feet. That was no problem for the Army and when he turned 18 they accepted him. His basic training was at Fort Bliss, near El Paso. He graduated around Christmas time and was given holiday leave to a base near Gainesville, Texas. It was there he began to attend a Methodist Church. He was given a New Testament which he carried overseas and always kept in his pocket. Shortly before he shipped out he attended a service which concluded with the hymn “Just as I Am.” He said the words burned into his memory and brought him comfort during the many difficult times ahead.

Once as I visited Elmer in the nursing home I felt the need as his pastor to ask about his relationship with God. Had he made peace with God? Did he have the assurance of his salvation? Although he was lying flat on his back, he propped himself up on both elbows, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh yes, Preacher. I took care of that a long time ago.” I’ve always wondered if that commitment was made at that Methodist church service as he listened to the words of “Just as I Am.”

During the war Elmer was dispatched to the little Austrian town of Ebensee. There he would meet the love of his life, his wife for 62 years, Anni Lipp. In “Sandhills Boy” he says, “the course of one’s life may hinge on a chance moment, an unanticipated coincidence. It was by pure chance that I happened to be at Ebensee’s boat landing the evening of Oct. 14, 1945, and met Anni Lipp. She had a little boy named Gerhard, then four-going-on-five and without a father. By the time the relationship became serious I was deeply attached to him.” Anni would always lovingly say that Elmer was a like a stray pet: “I fed a soldier apple strudel and he kept coming back.”

But soon the war was over and Elmer was sent back stateside. He promised that he would return for Anni and Gerhard. Every day, for more than a year, he wrote her a letter. Anni said that she could read very little English but it didn’t matter because each letter meant that he would keep his promise and return for them.

Elmer finally fought his way through the red tape of government bureaucracy and brought Anni and little Gerhard home to Texas. They were married in his grandmother’s house in Midland. There was no honeymoon, only work to be done. About a week after her arrival, Elmer took Anni to Pecos to introduce her to the thrill of a rodeo. It was hot, dusty, windy, and a far cry from the beauty of Austria. She’s never been to a Pecos rodeo since.

Little Gerhard adjusted quickly. He picked up English easily from the cowboys. The only problem was that most of them were four-letter words he couldn’t repeat! The cowboys decided that Gerhard was too foreign-sounding, so they began calling him Gary for short, and Gary it still is.

Elmer, Anni and Gary soon moved to San Angelo, and he began working for the San Angelo Standard-Times. That was his day job. At night he would work on his writings, slowly enjoying success. He would eventually write over 60 books (two will come out in the near future) including “The Time It Never Rained,” “The Good Old Boys,” which Tommy Lee Jones turned into a movie, “The Wolf and the Buffalo,” “The Day the Cowboys Quit,” “The Man Who Rode Midnight” and many others I’m sure you would call your favorites.

Through the characters of his writings Elmer taught us a lot about life. His books were about basic human nature, the struggles we all face. In “Sandhills Boy” he wrote “I try to avoid superheroes, for I have never known any. The people I have known have for the most part have been common folks struggling to get along, meeting life’s obstacles with the best that is in them, or in some cases giving up and going down in defeat. Not all stories have a happy ending. Life is not that kind to us.”

In “The Time It Never Rained” he wrote, concerning his characters, “They are not the traditional Western fictional heroes, standing up to a villain for one splendid moment of glory. They are quiet but determined men and women who stand their ground year after year in a fight they can never fully win, against an unforgiving enemy they know will return to challenge them again and again so long as they live. They are the true heroes.”

In “The Good Old Boys” he writes about Hewey Calloway (his favorite character), stating “Hewey, like all of us, faces the necessity of painful choices, knowing that every choice will bring sacrifices. He knows, as we all know, that we cannot have everything we want in this life. To fulfill a wish we often must give up something of equal or nearly equal value. He cannot have it all; nobody can. In this respect, Hewey Calloway is all of us.”

To read Elmer Kelton is to understand the world itself. He recognized the human dilemma as few of us do and articulated its reality with such clarity that anyone could learn from him. He was one of life’s greatest teachers.

Elmer was named the greatest western writer of all time by the Western Writers of America. Seven times he was awarded the Spur Award for the best novel of the year. He received four Western Heritage Wrangler awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and countless awards and recognitions too numerous to list.

Yet, Elmer always said his proudest moment was when he broke the story about Billie Sol Estes to the national press in the early ’60s. The Estes scandal shook the Pecos area like an earthquake, triggering a rash of bankruptcies, at least a couple of violent deaths, the derailing of political careers and a prison sentence for Estes.

At one point it was rumored that Estes had fled the country. Estes’ attorney wanted to put that rumor to rest and decided to choose two journalists — out of hundreds — to accompany him to his hotel room where Estes was staying. One of the chosen was Elmer Kelton. Elmer wrote repeated articles about the Estes scandal and always felt it was then that he did his best work because both sides were mad at him!

As it has already been stated, history will record that Elmer didn’t write westerns — he wrote western literature. When you opened a Kelton novel you knew it would be clean enough for any member of the family to read, always historically accurate, and inspirational. He was loved by his readers; a gentle, unassuming, humble man always willing to talk to anyone, sign a stack of books, or offer advice to want-to-be writers.

And, I believe that history will also record that even though he was a great writer, he was even greater in character. To rub shoulders with Elmer Kelton made you want to be a better person and leave this world better than you found it. I will never cease to be amazed how he could achieve such fame, popularity, and, no doubt, the wealth that came with it, yet never let it change him. In a world where success is harder to handle than failure, Elmer remained untouched.

Elmer Kelton. Today we say goodbye to one of the giants in literature. He has changed our lives and made our world better. Although he has left us, we are left with the treasures of his writings.

Elmer Kelton: A Kind and Gracious Person

I received this message from an author who was befriended by Elmer Kelton:

A friend sent me an e-mail with your article on Elmer Kelton.

In 2005, several friends talked me into writing a biography of my uncle, Juan Light Salinas, a Mexican-American cowboy who roped with the best in the 1930s and 1940s. After some coaxing, I spent most of 2006 writing the book, after which Texas A&M Press agreed to publish it. In early 2007, buying a new pair of boots at a store in Cotulla, Texas, the owner encouraged me to contact Elmer and see if he would read my manuscript and provide a blurb for the cover of the book.

I drove home that day and called information in San Angelo, got his number and called him. I was pleased when he answered the phone. I explained that I wanted him to read my manuscript and if he felt proper to provide a blurb for the cover of the book. We talked for a couple of minutes, during which he graciously agreed to read the manuscript, and he felt sure provide a blurb. He went on to talk about my subject, said he had seen him rope on several occaisions. We hung up, I mailed him the manuscript, and he provided a very nice blurb. I looked forward to meeting him someday. I did not know he was ill. I contributed to the statue project, then suddenly I hear that he has passed away.

I did not know him well, but what little I did know of him, I can describe as being a very kind and gracious person, one that I regret not meeting face to face.

Ricardo Palacios
Author, Tio Cowboy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Geronimo, Texas

We were passing through the town of Geronimo, Texas, the other day, and I wish we had stopped to get a T-shirt saying "Where the Heck is Geronimo, Texas?" that I saw a sign for.

I, like probably most people passing through the town, figured it was named for the famous Indian chief. I was wrong.

Geronimo is a small unincorporated town on Highway 123 between San Marcos and Seguin. It is named for nearby Geronimo Creek, which was in turn named to honor St. Jerome, [Mexican nickname: Geronimo, born Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius about 340 A. D.] a Christian monk and scholar.

The home of the Navarro High School Panthers, Geronimo grew from about 250 population in 1990 to 619 in 2000, according to census figures.

Learn more about Geronimo, Texas, from the website, And Carolyn Bading has written a book -- The History of Geronimo, Guadalupe County, Texas 78115 -- which sells for $26.95 plus 6.75% Texas State Tax (no tax out of the State of Texas) plus $5.00 for shipping and handling. Contact her at P.O. Box 82, Geronimo, TX 78115.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Tribute to Elmer Kelton

Elmer Kelton, a giant in Texas literature and a truly decent human being and a good friend, has died at age 83.

He died peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning, Aug. 22, 2009. He had struggled with health problems all summer.

Elmer had won so many awards he hardly had room for them in his spacious home office in San Angelo. Yet, it wasn’t the awards that drew people to him and his books. It was his writing, his humility, and his graciousness.

I got to know Elmer in December 2002. I was driving to work one morning at McWhiney Foundation Press at McMurry University, and the thought popped into my head: “I wonder if Elmer Kelton has written a Christmas book.” I Googled “Elmer Kelton, Christmas” and two stories popped up. I looked them up in the McMurry library, and of course they were excellent stories – one about Christmas at the ranch as a young boy and one about Christmas before going off to fight in World War II.

So, I took the next step. I called Elmer, who didn’t know me from Adam. It would be the beginning of a deep friendship.

I introduced myself and told him we were interested in publishing a book of his Christmas stories.

“I’ve only written two Christmas stories,” Elmer replied.

“Well, that’s all I had been able to find. If you could write one more, I think we could make a small book out of them.”

I suggested that the third story might be the Christmas he took his beloved Ann back to her home country of Austria. He had referred to that in another piece.

A few days later he wrote the third story and we had a small book, just 64 pages but with a gorgeous cover painting by H. C. Zachry and a foreword by the Texas poet laureate, Walt McDonald.

Christmas at the Ranch sold well the next Christmas, 2003, and Elmer and Ann and my wife Carol and I became friends. Ann smiled and told me it was the first book of Elmer’s she had read.

The next year Carol and I opened a Texas book and gift store – Texas Star Trading Company – in downtown Abilene. Of course, one of the first book signings we had was with Elmer Kelton. We had many more over the years, and we became good friends with Elmer and Ann. Ann baked a special Austrian dessert for us the past two Christmases.

One thing we quickly noticed at these book signings was how reverently his readers felt about him. A common occurrence: An older man and woman would get in line to have a book signed. When they would get to the front, the man would hand Elmer the book to sign and his wife would ask if they could have their picture taken together. The man would stand by Elmer and the wife would snap their picture. It was like the couple had finally had a chance to meet their hero – not a sports star or an astronaut or a politician, but a writer. A writer who touched something in their common experience.

Elmer would stay as long as people wanted him to sign books. We usually scheduled his signings from 1-3 p.m. on Saturdays, but rarely did he finish before 3:30 or 4. One reason his signings ran long was because so many people would want to tell him that his book, The Time It Never Rained, must have been written about their father or uncle or grandfather.

I heard Elmer say on several occasions that The Time It Never Rained was his favorite of all the books he wrote. And it was the favorite of most of his fans as well. Several years ago I included it in my list of “10 Great Books for Your Texas Library.” You can see the full list at

A funny story: The first Saturday of December in 2007 Elmer and Ann were at Texas Star for a book signing. It was a huge day. People not only bought his books but other things in the store as well. By mid-afternoon, it was clear that this would be the biggest sales day in the history of our store, eclipsing the sales record set by the iconoclastic Kinky Friedman, who had run for governor on the ticket, “Why the hell not?”

“Elmer,” I said, “you have just set a record for sales in our store, even more than Kinky Friedman. Maybe you ought to consider running for governor.”

Elmer immediately deadpanned, “Why the hell not?” and everyone broke up.

Elmer’s writing, his wonderful stories, will live on for years to come. But, oh, how we will miss his wry wit, his smile, his humility, his character, his great spirit. He was truly one of a kind, a Sandhills boy from West Texas who touched many, many lives.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gertrude Beasley: The Rest of the Story

A Texas literary mystery – “Whatever Happened to Gertrude Beasley?” -- has been solved. Sort of.

Edna Gertrude Beasley -- who graduated from Simmons College in Abilene in 1914, taught school in West Texas and Chicago, and traveled the world as a journalist -- wrote a provocative autobiography published in Paris in 1925, My First Thirty Years.

The graphic language and content of the book resulted in it being banned in England despite a positive review by one of America’s best-known critics, H. L. Mencken, who called it “the first genuinely realistic picture of the Southern poor white trash.”

“Thirty years ago,” the book began, “I lay in the womb of a woman, conceived in a sexual act of rape, being carried during the prenatal period by an unwilling and rebellious mother, finally bursting from the womb only to be tormented in a family whose members I despised or pitied…”

She went on to tell how one of her first memories was her 16-year-old brother pressing down on top of her trying to rape her when she was 4, among other gruesome, explicit and lurid details.

In early 1928, at age 35, Gertrude Beasley vanished, as far as anyone knew. No one had been able to trace her whereabouts since.

And many have tried, including novelist Larry McMurtry, Texas literature authority Don Graham, and author Bert Almon, all of whom have written about Beasley over the years. Actress Veronica Russell performed a 90-minute one-woman off-Broadway show in New York four years ago based on Beasley’s book.

Among those who have developed a keen interest in Beasley is Alice Specht, dean of libraries at Hardin-Simmons University. Over the years Specht has acquired an impressive collection of information about Beasley and has corresponded with family members and others seeking details about the writer’s life after 1928.

On Jan. 7, 1928, while aboard the ship the S.S. Republic, Beasley wrote a long letter to the U.S. Secretary of State claiming that the British government owed her $25,000 for arresting her, trying to deport her and conspiring against her as a writer.

And that was the last anyone heard of Gertrude Beasley.

Until a couple of years ago when researcher John Cummings wrote Specht that he had found evidence from the 1930 U.S. census that Beasley may have been residing in a Suffolk County, New York, mental facility.

However, Cummings and Specht were unable to confirm that she was the same Gertrude Beasley they were looking for. Specht tried to get more information from the institution but couldn’t because she had no family standing.

Earlier this year, Specht received an e-mail out of the blue from a Fort Worth relative of Beasley’s – Juanita Jones – granddaughter of one of Beasley’s brothers. Jones said she had just learned of the Beasley book and asked Specht’s help in locating a copy.

Specht told Jones about the 1930 census, and Jones inquired to Suffolk County as a family member.

Last month, Specht received an e-mail from Jones which included a copy of the Suffolk County death certificate for “Edna Beasley,” a single, white, female writer born in Texas on Edna Gertrude Beasley’s known birthday, June 20. It listed her father as William Beasley, which was Gertrude’s father’s name.

The certificate showed that Beasley died at the Central Islip State Hospital in New York on July 27, 1955. Further, it noted that she had lived at the mental facility for 27 years, six months, and eight days, or since early 1928.

Additionally, Jones said she had discovered information written by one of Gertrude’s brothers in 1967 that said she was sent to a mental institution, but “she was no more crazy than you or I” and even ran the facility’s bookkeeping department. He implied that publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who owned several of the publications Beasley wrote for as a journalist, had her committed.

The death certificate said Beasley died of pancreatic cancer and that she had also suffered from dementia and paranoia.

So was Gertrude Beasley crazy, or was she put away because she was too outspoken? That part of the mystery still remains.

More About Gertrude Beasley

H. L. Mencken, reviewing My First Thirty Years: This book, I suspect, comes out with a Paris imprint because no American publisher would risk printing it…. The book is a social document of the utmost interest. It presents the first genuinely realistic picture of the Southern poor white trash ever heard of. The author has emancipated herself from her native wallow, but she does not view it with superior sniffs. Instead, she frankly takes us back to it, and tells us all she knows about its fauna, simply and honestly. There is frequent indignation in her chronicle, but never any derision. Her story interests her immensely, and she is obviously convinced that it should be interesting to others. I think she is right.

Don Graham, in his book Lone Star Literature, an Anthology: One of the least known of Texas memoirists, Beasley is easily the most shocking and sensational.

Larry McMurtry: (Her book) is one of the finest Texas books of its era; in my view, the finest.

Robert McAlmon, who published My First Thirty Years: In the publishing of some twenty books only two authors got “temperamental” and they were both Gertrudes, Stein and Beasley, and may it be said, both megalomaniacs with an idea that to know them was to serve them without question about their demands.

Article from the London Telegraph, June 27, 1925: London – Police authorities here today failed in their efforts to bring about the deportation of Miss Edna Beasley, an American newspaperwoman whose home is in Texas, on charges that she is writing an indecent book on American life.

Miss Beasley was arrested for failure to comply with a police regulation requiring the registration of all aliens. Urging their disapproval of her book as sufficient grounds, the police sought a deportation order.

The authoress’s attorney declared her book is merely a portrayal of american life and as such in no way offends decency. He said it would be brought out in France by the same firm which published Joyce’s Ulysses.

Miss Beasley was fined $25 for failing to register as an alien, but the request of the police for her deportation was not complied with. As a newspaper writer, she has worked on the Pacific coast, Chicago and New York papers.

From the 1914 Bronco yearbook, Simmons College, Abilene: Gertrude has made her work by attending the spring, summer and fall terms, and teaching during the winter. She is a very successful teacher. Doesn’t believe in sparing the rod... Her work in building up rural communities is very commendable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We're All on Facebook Now

When it came to writing letters
We had all but forgotten how,
But then we discovered computers,
And we’re all on Facebook now.

Carrie posts pix of her grandkids,
From Ann comes her mama’s chow-chow,
Roy Gene really hates the government,
And we’re all on Facebook now.

Yes, Mary Lou, I still love you,
I want that to come through somehow,
Though I must admit you’ve aged a bit,
And we’re all on Facebook now.

So many good mem’ries to share
If time will us gently allow
To hang on a while and share a smile --
‘Cause we’re all on Facebook now.

Glenn Dromgoole

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Award Honors Lou Rodenberger

Texas Tech University Press is creating the Lou Halsell Robenberger Prize in Texas History and Literature honoring one of Texas’s most beloved literary figures, Dr. Lou Rodenberger, who died on April 9.

Lou taught for many years at McMurry University in Abilene and was an author, editor, and loving literary advocate for books about Texas, and especially West Texas.

The award in her honor will carry a cash prize as well as publication of a manuscript “on or by a woman whose writing illuminates Texas history, culture and letters, especially in West Texas and the Texas Border Region.”

The first deadline for manuscripts (50,000 to 90,000 words) is Sept. 15, 2011, and the winning entry will be published in 2013.

For more information, see the Texas Tech University Press web site –

Book on 42 in Fourth Edition

Texas Tech University Press has come out with the fourth edition of Winning 42: Strategy and Lore of the National Game of Texas, first published in 1997.

Written by Dennis Roberson of Fort Worth, a 42 champion himself, the award-winning paperback book ($15.95) offers useful information for the beginner and the veteran 42 player alike.

The new edition is updated with more stories, more strategies, and clearer illustrations and type.

If you don’t know what 42 is, then you must not have lived in Texas very long. It’s a game played with dominoes by two teams of two players each. The teams bid against each other, and the team members work together to try to reach their bid or keep the other team from reaching its bid.

The name “42” reflects the fact that there are 35 points (“count”) in even fives, plus seven hands of four dominoes per hand or “trick.” The 35 points are the six-four, the five-five, the four-one, the three-two, and the five-oh.

In an interview on the Texas Tech Press web site, Roberson says the purpose of his book is to keep the game of 42 alive, and that seems to be happening, given that it is now into its fourth edition.

The game, he says, “was invented by two Texas teenagers in the late 1880s and passed down orally for generations, spreading across Texas like wildfire. It is truly a Texas cultural phenomenon.”

That may well be true, but one of the best 42 players I ever encountered was from Arkansas. We played some wild 42 games at Texas A&M back in the day, and Bill from Arkansas was the most daring bidder I ever played against. He was fun to play with, much more so than the stoic West Texan I was often paired with who wouldn’t offer a bid unless he had a “lay-down” hand. Even then, he would rarely bid more than 30 – the minimum opening bid.

Roberson says 42 “has been played by presidents, governors, singers, writers and astronauts. Once people learn it, they can’t seem to get enough of it.”

I haven’t played in years myself, but it’s good to see that the author is helping to introduce a great game to a new generation of players.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ann Whitaker Book Signing

Former Abilene High School English teacher Ann Whitaker will sign copies of her first novel, Dog Nanny, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 13) at Texas Star Trading Company, 174 Cypress Street in downtown Abilene.

Her story, about a woman who seems to be much better at relationships with dogs than with men, fits in with Thursday night's ArtWalk theme, the Dog Days of Summer.

Whitaker and her husband, former Abilene Reporter-News columnist Bill Whitaker, moved to Waco several years ago. The novel is set in Abilene and Waco.

For more details, call 325-672-9696.

New Biographies Teach Children About Texas Heroes

Two new series of biographies for children about Texas heroes have been launched by Bright Sky Press, formerly of Albany, now of Houston.

One series is for children in the primary grades, ages 5-7. The other series is intended for elementary students ages 8-11.

Veteran children’s author Mary Dodson Wade, a former teacher and librarian, has written all but one of the first seven books in the two series – two for younger readers and five for the older ones.

Sam Houston: Standing Firm and Jane Long: Choosing Texas, both by Wade, lead off the series for the primary grades.

For an example of the easy-reading writing style, the Sam Houston book begins like this: “Sam Houston was a big man. He did big things. He did not always do what other people thought he should. He did what he thought was right. Even when people said he was a bad leader, he did not listen.”

Joy Fisher Hein illustrated the Sam Houston book, Virginia Marsh Roeder the Jane Long book. Each book is $16.95.

The series for older readers is written in a more narrative style, with 10-12 chapters. Most chapters are just three or four pages long and include black and white illustrations.

The first five books in that series are: Stephen F. Austin: The Son Becomes Father of Texas, Jane Long: Texas Journey, David Crockett: Hero and Legend, Gregorio Esparza: Alamo Defender, and Sam Houston: I Am Houston.

Wade is the author of all but the Esparza biography which was written by William R. Chemerka. Don Collins, Pat Finney and Roeder provide the illustrations. Books in this series are also $16.95.

Upcoming volumes in the primary series will focus on Crockett and Austin. Coming soon in the elementary series are biographies of Henrietta King and Juan Seguin.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dixie Cash Book Signing at Texas Star on Saturday, August 8

Two West Texas sisters who write under the pen name Dixie Cash will be in Abilene Saturday, Aug. 8, to sign copies of their fifth novel, Curing the Blues With a New Pair of Shoes.

The sisters, Pam Cumbie and Jeffery McClanahan, grew up in rural West Texas. Cumbie, a former resident of Abilene, now lives in Arlington. McClanahan, who also writes romance novels under several pen names, lives in Granbury.

Several years ago they started writing romantic suspense novels with humorous titles. Their first book was Since You’re Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash, followed by My Heart May Be Broken, But My Hair Still Looks Great; I Gave You My Heart, But You Sold It Online, and Don’t Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes.

The novels feature two West Texas hairstylists who double as detectives, Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins Martin, in the fictional town of Salt Lick. The new book includes Edwina’s husband’s recipe for “Flaming-Hot Armadillo Eggs.”

McClanahan and Cumbie will sign books from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at Texas Star Trading Company, 174 Cypress Street. For more information or to reserve copies of the book, call 325-672-9696.

Four Texas Novelists Spin Readable Tales

Texas is full of great stories, and fortunately we have some terrific story-tellers to tell them. Here are four you might want to check out:

The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow, $25.99 hardcover).

Jiles has written two best-selling novels,Stormy Weather and Enemy Women. Her latest novel is based on the true story of ex-slave Britt Johnson, who settles in Comanche territory in West Texas in the 1860s.

While the Civil War rages, Johnson faces his own trials as his family is attacked by Comanches while Britt is away on business. He vows to bring his family back together again, and that is the principal plotline of this fast-paced historical novel.

Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey (St. Martin’s, $24.99 hardcover).

Casey has written several true crime books, and last year she penned her first novel,
Singularity, starring a new heroine, Sarah Armstrong, a criminal profiler with the Texas Rangers and a single mom.

Casey and Armstrong are back for a sequel in Blood Lines. The story follows two cases Armstrong is tracking – the apparent (maybe too apparent) suicide of oil businesswoman Billie Cox and the threatening e-mails sent by a stalker to teen pop star Cassidy Collins in advance of her upcoming Texas concerts.

Casey knows how to keep readers turning the pages to get to the stirring conclusion.

Don’t Let It Be True by Jo Barrett (Avon, $13.99 paperback).

The third novel from Texas author Jo Barrett is a fun read and offers plenty of over-the-top Texas stereotypes.

Don't Let It Be True is the tale of Houston socialite Kathleen King, who has a dirty little secret -- she's flat broke.

Kathleen manages to put up a good front, with her boyfriend footing the bill for her fancy apartment inside the loop, and her stylish wardrobe coming from vintage clothing stores.

However, everything falls apart when her boyfriend's oil fortune is lost, and Kathleen must still manage to put on her famous King Foundation annual dinner, lavishly done with all the bells and whistles expected by creme de la creme of Houston society.

Although predictable, this novel is a relaxing summer read -- perfect for an afternoon by the pool.

The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate (New American Library, $15 paperback).

Wingate, the popular and prolific author from Clifton, has a new novel just released in July.

The Summer Kitchen is the second book in the Blue Sky Hill Series, which began last year with A Month of Summer. Set in a transitional Dallas neighborhood, this story is told in alternating chapters in the voices of two very different characters.

SandraKaye Darden is a suburban mom whose comfortable life is coming unraveled. Cass Blue is a runaway from foster care with her older brother Rusty, trying to make it on their own in Dallas.

Soon their lives intersect and are changed in profound ways. As always, Wingate’s stories are uplifting and wholesome, dealing with matters like friendship, grace, and the power to make a difference in other’s lives.

Jenkins Collection Recaps 60 Years of Golf Writing

Dan Jenkins has covered professional golf as a newspaper and magazine writer for nearly six full decades, beginning in 1951 when Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open.

At last count, he had been there for 58 Masters Tournaments, 55 U.S. Opens, 44 PGAs, and 40 British Opens – 197 majors in all, and still going.

He has collected edited versions of 94 of his favorite stories, columns, and feature articles into Jenkins at the Majors: Sixty Years of the World’s Best Golf Writing, from Hogan to Tiger (Doubleday, $26.95).

Jenkins wrote for the Fort Worth Press and Dallas Times Herald before moving onto the national sports stage at Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. He’s had the privilege of knowing personally all of the major golf stars in his lifetime, including Byron Nelson, who actually had retired from the game before Jenkins came along.

Nelson, he writes, “was as lovely a gentleman and as great a champion as ever played the game.”

About Ben Hogan, Jenkins says, “I suppose earning Ben Hogan’s friendship, coooperation, and, to some degree, his respect has been the greatest treasure of this journey.” He has high marks for other superstars like Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

He pays special tribute to Nicklaus, calling him “the most interesting,, cooperative, and informative athlete I’ve ever interviewed in any sport, ever.”