28 March 2023

Recklesser or More Reckless

         Last week, Barb Goffman devoted her SleuthSayers blog to a conversation about Reckless in Texas, an anthology she edited. Reckless was released earlier this month. The book's selection committee kindly included a story I'd written, "Steer Clear." The tale allowed me to talk a bit about my city, Fort Worth. 

    In 1849, Major Ripley Arnold of the United States Army was ordered to establish an outpost in northern Texas near the confluence of the Clear and West Forks of the Trinity River. He, and the 2nd Drogoons he commanded, chose a site on flat ground at a bend in the river. This place, part of a line of garrisons, was to mark the boundary between the lands of settlers and those of the Native Americans. Arnold named this new site Camp Worth in honor of Major General William Jenkins Worth, a hero of the Mexican War and the recently deceased commander of all U.S. Army forces in Texas. 

    Arnold discovered that the advantage of the camp's location, ready access to good water, quickly became a drawback. Flooding of the Trinity moved the Dragoons to higher ground. The new outpost was built at the top of a bluff overlooking the river. Here, Fort Worth was established. 

    Following the Civil War, with that broad plain for grazing and the available water, Fort Worth developed into a stop on the Chisholm Trail for cattle drives. Hell's Half Acre emerged as the local entrepreneurs built a bustling and brawling place to separate herders from their money. They established "Cowtown." Later, along with the surrounding communities of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, we colloquially became a part of the "Metroplex." 

    Dallas/Fort Worth. Although we get half the names in this relationship (or two-thirds if you're a strict word counter), Fort Worthians sometimes feel overlooked in our paired relationship. The residents of St. Paul may well understand. 

    I blame alphabetical ordering. Dallas precedes Fort Worth in the dictionary. Hence, we get D/FW. And we became part of the "Dallas" area. 

    Army regulations distinguish between "camps" and "forts." Forts were permanent facilities, while camps were temporary. Would this region look different if my community had sprung from that original camp? If the sprawl of cities and suburbs dotting North Texas was known collectively as CW/D. If "The Camp" came to a reader and speaker's mouth first, would they be the Camp Worth Cowboys? After all, the team plays football in my county, not Dallas. 

    Perhaps not. Dallas sits on the eastern edge of our twin cities. As settlers came west, they stopped there first. Dallas had been established for nearly a decade by the time Major Arnold pitched his tent on that Trinity riverbank. Even with our name first, we might never have overcome their head start. Still, it's something I ponder now and again. 

    When Sister's in Crime North Dallas announced the anthology, Reckless in Texas, I knew where I'd set my story. My city needed a shout-out. "Steer Clear" does not delve into the history I've outlined. Nor do I have a villain bitter over Dallas's name primacy. I do, however, steal a prize-winning bovine in a locked barn mystery. I tap into Fort Worth's celebration of our cattle-driving heritage. Through the story, I hope to
remind readers about our links to the Chisholm Trail and, hopefully, Fort Worth's place in North Texas's rich crime fiction tradition. 

    The area's crime fiction offerings now include Reckless in Texas. I am happy to join my fellow authors in telling stories about North Texas. Thanks to Barb and the local SINC chapter for putting this volume together. 

    Now if I can just get them to change the chapter's name to Sister's in Crime--Camp Worth. 

    Until next time. 


  1. I believe that my main fictional knowledge of Fort Worth is based on the novels of Dan Jenkins, especially "Semi-Tough" (the film was indeed "loosely based" on the novel - ugh). But he certainly never included much historical information. Thanks!

    1. Instead of saying "North Texas" I thought about calling us "Baja Oklahoma." Happy to see that at least one reader would have caught the reference. Thanks.

  2. Fort Worth has character and a sense of place in their downtown that Dallas lacks, a distinctive feel to the city that tells visitors that they've reached "the West." Where else but the Stockyards can people sign up to ride horseback on a "trail ride" that requires riders to go through city traffic? However, my favorite place to visit in Fort Worth is the Kimball Art Museum. Congratulations on your story. It sounds fitting for Fort Worth.

  3. Thank you and thanks for stopping by.

  4. I'm way behind, Mark, so I only just now saw this. I was so glad to have your story in the anthology. It's always a pleasure working with you. And I've never before got to edit a locked-barn mystery, so that made it doubly fun.


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