By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
With his flowing white handlebar moustache, Reavis Z. Wortham looks like he lost a snowball fight. The author of both the Red River and Sonny Hawke Western mysteries looks at the world from underneath a cowboy hat as his wire frame glasses take in a landscape full of potential stories – even from the top of the Presidio County Courthouse.
“I was standing up in the Courthouse looking out the window one day. I thought, you know, what if something happened down below?” Wortham said. “I’m way up high on the third floor, and it’s trouble to get up here.”
The former newspaper columnist and school teacher began seeing more than the streets of Marfa.
“That’s how writers’ minds work, I guess, because we always look for the darkest thing we can find, and then figure out how to make it bright.” Wortham said.
He pitched the idea to his agent and Sonny Hawke was born.
“I’d been wanting to a contemporary Ranger anyway” Wortham said. “I wanted to get everybody away from the Chuck Norris type of Ranger.”
The story Wortham crafted touches all the bases.
“So, Sonny Hawke’s up in that tower helping a student and Sonny’s wife is a teacher. She has a class downstairs from a field trip. And it begins to snow, and cold’s settling in. What they don’t know is this will be one of the heaviest snowstorms that they’ve had in a hundred years,” Wortham retold his story.
“While Sonny is up there, terrorists come into Texas, and take over the courthouse, simply for one reason only, and that’s to prove that nothing is safe, not even a small town in United States. The terrorists take over, but what they don’t reckon with, number one, is Sonny Hawke, Texas Ranger being up in the viewing tower, and number two, the storm of the century,” Wortham said.
While the Sonny Hawke mysteries are set in contemporary Texas, the Red River Mysteries occur in the 1960s in Lamar County and feature a constable roughly based on Wortham’s grandfather. “Gold Dust” is the latest Red River novel featuring a CIA plot outside Paris (renamed Chisolm).
Wortham said he will work on a book in each series at the same time. His goal is a 1,000-words for each book, each day.
“I tell everyone, when you’re watching television, you can watch a dozen TV series and then when it ends, you know what’s going to happen next week,” Wortham explained his ability to juggle two sets of characters and plots at the same time. “You know the characters next week, and you’ll find out what’s going to happen. That’s what I do.”
You might not figure the Western dressing, Western talking and Western writing Wortham as a graduate of WW Samuell High School in Dallas, but he is quick to tell you the cowboy flair is not just for show.
“It’s just not all hat,” Wortham declared.
“Dad left Lamar County and moved us to Dallas to go. He didn’t want to farm, he didn’t want to ranch. He did that when he was a kid. So, during the week, we lived in Dallas, but on the weekends, we would go to Lamar County,” Wortham said. “I learned to raise cows and farm, and feed cows, mend fences, that kind of thing.”
The boy never quite left the country.
“We have a family ranch up in Oklahoma now,” Wortham said. “It’s 1,600-acre ranch up there, a 50 cow-calf operation.”
Wortham expressed a fondness for Jefferson and the Pulpwood Queens’ Girlfriend Weekend which he will help host this weekend.
“I’ve been going to Pulpwood since my first novel came out in 2011,” Wortham said. “Kathy (Murphy) reached out to me and asked me if I would come out to Jefferson where it’ll be held again this year, and I told her I would. I didn’t know what to expect, you know, it’s a book club. But what I didn’t realize, it’s the largest book club organization in the world.”
Wortham noted how hundreds of readers attend the annual event.
“Kathy brings her huge personality into this venue, and all the writers that are there, they can be themselves, everyone has a good time,” Wortham said.
Hosting the event in Jefferson also has its advantages.
Reavis and Shana Wortham “love Jefferson, We try to get out there even when there’s not an event just to go and spend a few nights out at Caddo State Park in our camper and poke around the antique shops,” Wortham said.
With the Girlfriend Weekend based in the Travel Center on East Austin Street Thursday through Sunday, it looks like they will have another opportunity to go exploring.
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