Showing posts with label Dallas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dallas. Show all posts

16 December 2019

Discoveries in Dallas and Tulsa


[A quick writer's note. Last month I missed my blog post by a week. It had nothing to do with Rob or Leigh not letting us know our dates, I just blew it thinking I had another week to write. So here is what should have appeared on November 18 had I paid more attention.]
On Halloween Eve, I traveled east to Dallas for Bouchercon, the world’s largest Mystery Fan Convention. John Floyd has already covered some of the highlights and Michael Bracken covered a bit of the controversy that occurred at the Shamus Awards. I thought about asking friends about unintentional, hurtful comments they’ve received over the years and what would the best response/course of action for the offender once they realize/learn about their faux pas. But I am not organized enough to pull this off this week.

So I think I’ll write about a few other things I did on the trip. On Sunday after the conference, I went with friend and fellow short story writer Eleanor Cawood Jones to the Texas School Book Depository. It is the location where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy from a window six stories up. The museum is a moving experience both emotionally and literally. Patrons are given headphones and walk through different stations starting with Kennedy’s run for office, the politics of the day including the Cold War, Civil Rights, and the Space Race along with the love and hate Texans felt for Kennedy.

Wow, a nice full-page ad welcoming letter

Oh wait…

This "committee" doesn't like the President

Kennedy wasn't beloved by all

The next third documents the long fateful journey the Kennedys took after they arrived at Dallas-Love airport. Some parts in agonizing detail since everybody knows what will happen.

The pièce de résistance is the view onto Elm Street from the sixth floor where Kennedy’s Continental drove by. Two “X”s on the street mark the spots where three bullets either hit Kennedy or the car.





Seeing it person made me realize that it was not impossible for Oswald to have fired both fatal shots alone. He had the training and a rifle with a scope.
Oswald purchased this type of rifle via mail order.

I’m still not dismissing the grassy knoll, completely, but it is possible that Oswald did it all by himself. Regarding the magic bullet that Kevin Costner touted in JFK, I remember reading/listening to a couple of historical books last year for research on an unfinished western. One was about Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp in Dodge City. Many gunfights were documented and in them bullets radical turns inside bodies. I want to say one gunslinger or lawman took lead to their shoulder and the bullet exited their crotch or lodged into a hip.

The final third of the museum is about the Warren report, conspiracy theories, and Kennedy's legacy. I had to wrap up this final sections a little early as I had a plane to catch. The museum surprised me with the comprehensive look at Kennedy and the assassination. It also left me emotionally exhausted as well.

I left Dallas to go up to Tulsa, my hometown, to visit my family.
A mural with nostalgic Tulsa icons

While there, I stopped by the Woody Guthrie Museum. It’s a must for any fan of folk music and also a great introduction for those who don’t know much about the devastation of the dustbowl. The museum has an immersive virtual reality experience where a person gets to sit on a front porch and live through a dust storm.

The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa

My father experiencing the dust bowl.

Other exhibits included short documentaries of Woody, some of the instruments he played, listening booths, many Guthrie drawings, and handwritten manuscripts of song lyrics either recorded or not recorded. While the museum is not that big, there is a lot to read and listen too. In one instance, I took a photo of handwritten lyrics but did not read them until last week. Here is the photo:

Beech Haven Ain't My Home

Do you recognize a familiar name the scribbled words?

Here are the lyrics:
Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I’m just a-driftin’ through!
My wife and angel kids
Are trapped inside these walls
Where I can’t plow nor plant
Nor hang out my family’s clothes!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

Beach Haven ain't my home!
I just cain't pay this rent!
My money's down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain't my home!

Across Beach Haven’s grass
I see my brethrens pass;
They try to hide their misery
Behind that window glass!
We all are crazy tools
As long as race hate rules!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!
When I read the lyrics at home my eyes nearly bugged out. I thought I was reading something wrong. But apparently in the 1950s, Woody was a tenant of the Beech Haven apartments owned by Fred Trump. Yes, that Trump, the president’s father. “Old Man Trump” was not allowing blacks to rent his apartments and Woody, being an egalitarian, saw this for what it was, racist and wrong. I don’t remember that page being labeled as an anti-Trump song behind the glass. And I guess I can see why considering 65.3% the state voted for #45. It looks like it’s up for the visitors to read for themselves. Here is a youtube video of folksinger singing the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-j1xreeaFE

As much as I’d like to comment further, I’ll refrain. Below are the lyrics to Woody's most popular song, "This Land Is Your Land."


In summary, I had a few surprising experiences on my trip that I hadn't expected. Also, if you happen to be in Tulsa, I’d also recommend the Gathering Place. It's a privately funded, multi-million park that is open to the public and lives up to the hype. Have you unexpected revelations during a trip?



My short story, "Them's Fighting Words" came out last month in DARK YONDER: TALES & TABS. The stories revolve around bar owner and southern crime writer, Eryk Pruitt. Proceeds go to the North Texas Food Bank.







Travis Richardson is originally from Oklahoma and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. He has been a finalist and nominee for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. He has two novellas and his short story collection, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED, came out in late 2018. He reviewed Anton Chekhov short stories in the public domain at www.chekhovshorts.com. Find more at TSRichardson.com

10 April 2018

Epiphany of a Blue-Collar Writer


Art Taylor and me trying to out-charm one another.
At the 2017 Bouchercon in Toronto, Art Taylor and I were paired for Speed Dating, an event in which pairs of authors move from table to table around a room and spend a shared two minutes at each table introducing ourselves and our work to mystery fans. The instructions were to speak for one minute each, the beginning, mid-point, and end time of our two minutes announced by the ringing of a bell. Much like Pavlov’s dogs, authors were expected to respond to the neutral stimulus of the bell by launching immediately into a conditioned response: blatant self-promotion. The premise seemed a bit automatonic to me.

I “knew” Art prior to this pairing because we occasionally crossed paths on the Internet and spoke for a few minutes at the Short Mystery Fiction Society lunch at the New Orleans Bouchercon in 2016. So, I asked, via email, if he might be interested in spicing things up. Art may look like a mild-mannered English professor, but deep down he’s quite the radical, and we kicked around several ideas.

We didn’t have an opportunity to test drive our ideas before Speed Dating began Thursday morning, so Robert and Terri Lopresti had the misfortune of being first to witness our unrehearsed song-and-dance. Art and I soon fell into a groove, though, and by the time we presented at our last table we had perfected a Broadway-worthy performance.

Rather than each of us filling a minute talking about our work and ourselves, I introduced Art and he talked about “Parallel Play” (Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning), a 2017 Anthony Award nominee. Then he introduced me and I discussed “Dixie Quickies” (Black Cat Mystery Magazine #1). We wrapped things up by suggesting that readers interested in learning more about our work purchase Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books) because they could easily compare and contrast how we took the same assignment and created radically different stories. (Art’s “A Necessary Ingredient” is nominated for an Agatha; my “Mr. Private Eye Behind the Motel with a .38” may only be eligible for an honorary Harlan Ellison longest title award.)

And here’s where this incredibly long anecdote is leading: While preparing our introductions, we needed, given the time constraints, to focus on one key aspect of the other’s writing career that would be memorable and easy to relate to listeners who might know nothing about us. In my introduction of Art, I focused on the number of awards and award nominations he’s received. In his introduction of me, Art focused on the number of short stories I’ve written.

In our emails leading up to this decision, I compared us to Walmart and Tiffany. (To stretch this analogy to the absurd: I have a store on every corner, filled with mass-produced goods suitable for every consumer; Art has only a few locations, each offering polished jewels to those with refined taste.) Art was polite enough not to agree with my self-assessment.

I long ago accepted my place in the writing hierarchy: I am a blue-collar writer, the type of grunt who gets up each morning, puts on his writer pants, and produces words.

Day in. Day out.

I do my best, my work gets published, and I’ve established myself as a solid middle-of-the-anthology, back-of-the-magazine writer who rarely misses deadlines. When I was younger, I bemoaned my place in the literary universe. I was dismayed by the world’s failure to recognize my genius (a common ailment among the young who feel the world owes them something just for participating) and was frustrated when I attended conventions and sat on panels with writers who had produced a mere handful of stories yet had somehow captured the zeitgeist of the moment.

That changed about ten years ago.

There’s nothing like heart surgery to refocus your attention on what’s important, but my epiphany, such as it was, didn’t arrive in a flash; it developed slowly. After quadruple heart bypass surgery in September 2008, three days after turning 51, I realized I was a grouchy old writer, complaining about the new-fangled publishing world and the writers who inhabit it. I also realized I had accomplished what many writers of my generation had not: I had survived—not just literally, thanks to surgery, but literarily as well. Many of the writers who captured the zeitgeist of their time were of their time and have since burned out, stopped writing, and turned to other things. By plodding along as a blue-collar writer, producing words day in and day out, I created, and continue to create, a substantial body of work.

On a personal level, I learned be happy, to enjoy what I have rather than stress about what I haven’t. On a professional level, that meant a return to writing for the joy of writing, a refocus on the creative act rather than on the end goal of publication, fame, and fortune. Surprisingly, or perhaps not to those who’ve experienced something similar, I not only enjoy the act of writing more than ever before, but I am reaping unexpected benefits.

Because I now realize the publishing world owes me nothing—that there are no prizes just for participating—I enjoy seeing my name on the cover of a magazine, I appreciate the kind words of a reader, and I share the joy of other writers’ achievements.

And if we’re ever paired up for Speed Dating, let’s try to make it fun!

Interested in playing compare and contrast? Art Taylor and I have stories in the current issue of Down & Out: The Magazine. Later this month, I will read my D&O story, “Texas Sundown,” at Noir at the Bar Dallas. Join us, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 18, at The Wild Detectives, 314 W. 8th St., Dallas, Texas. In other news: “My Stripper Past” appears in Pulp Adventures #28 and “One Last Job,” wherein I discuss the genesis of my recent Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine story “The Mourning Man,” is a guest post at Trace Evidence.

16 August 2014

TV Travesty! (Okay, prepare for a silly one…)


I’m a former comedy writer who has fallen off the standup stage and into the world of writing screwball mob crime comedies.  The Goddaughter’s Revenge is my latest zany book.

People often ask me why I write silly stuff.  I say it’s because I am seriously fed up with reality.  I mean, really - what’s so special about it?  Everybody does it. 

So for those of you who are sick of reality (TV or otherwise,) this is for you.  In the lofty traditions of Dallas, Dynasty and Desperate Housewives, make way for…TRAVESTY!
Note the originality of the plot.  (Hey, it’s rerun season!)

INTERIOR.  A pink frilly bedroom.  Daytime.  An attractive young woman in full makeup and Victoria’s Secret underwear reclines on the bed, moaning fatuously.  An older man kneels by her side, wringing his well-manicured hands.
Lance:  “Tell me April, I gotta know.  Is the baby mine?”
April (in bed):  “Oh Lance!  Oh Lance! <sob!> …what baby?”
Michael enters the room.
Michael:  “April honey, I’ve got something to tell you.”
April:  “No - <sob> - not-“
Michael nods.
April:  “You?  And Lance?”
Lance:  “OH-MY-GOD”
Michael:  “And your mother’s been hit by a beer truck, and the boutique has burnt down.”
April (standing up in bed): “THE BOUTIQUE?”
Michael:  “We saved the clothes, but the jewelry was a meltdown. Sorry.”
April (clutching throat):  “I can’t take it anymore! This is too much for one day.”
Michael:  “And it’s only 8 a.m.”
Lance (clearing throat):  “About your mother…”
April (collapsing on bed):  “OH-MY-GOD, MOTHER!  She hated beer.”
Lance:  “I have something to tell you…”
April (to director):  “Do I faint now?”
Lance:  “…she’s actually not your mother…”
Michael:  “WHAT?”
April:  “You mean-“
Lance:  “Yes.  I am”
<gasps all around>
Michael:  “That trip to Sweden…?”
Lance:  “Yes.”
Michael:  “LANA?”
Lance:  “Yes.”
Michael:  “But didn’t we…?”
Lance:  “Yes.”
Director (to April):  “You can faint now.”
Everyone faints.

Stay tuned next week for more riveting drama, when April asks the question, “How do you tell if blue cheese is bad?”

(I won’t always be this silly.  But I had to get this one in before rerun season was over.)     www.melodiecampbell.com