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

16 November 2019

Boucherconnections, 2019




Two weeks ago I attended my sixth Bouchercon mystery convention, in Dallas. My wife Carolyn and I drove over from our home in Mississippi, partly because I don't fit well in airplane seats and partly because I just don't seem to have the patience anymore for all the mumbojumbo at the airport. (I really need to try to trade all those frequent-flyer miles left over from my IBM career for something more useful, like frequent-moviegoer tickets.) Anyhow, our mode of travel for this trip was private automobile instead of commercial aircraft, and except for running into a rainy cold front halfway there, we had a pleasant and enjoyable drive.


I also enjoyed the conference. I've heard some writers say they prefer smaller gatherings, but one reason I like Bouchercon is that it IS big, and therefore attracts a lot of writers, some of whom I know from earlier meetings and some from a computerful of emails and blog posts. I also like the fact that it includes readers as well as writers. I'm not saying I have a lot of groupies--my fans are mostly my publisher and my wife, and I'm not always sure about my wife--but it's impossible to write a lot for mystery magazines and not occasionally run into folks at a mystery conference who tell you they like your creations (whether they really mean it or not). And where else can you spot literary heroes like James Patterson, Sandra Brown, Lawrence Block, Elizabeth George, Laura Lippman, Robert Crais, and so on, in the wild? Or sit down and meet face-to-face with your editors? Very few of mine live in the sunny South.

Let me say one thing, up front. I don't go to Bouchercons for the panels and other events. I do attend them, and I always enjoy them and learn something, but that's not my primary reason. I go to Bouchercons to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. I did a lot of both, this time.


Highlights of this year's conference, for me:



- Short-story panel. I was on only one panel this year, and I had fun there--probably because it was made up mostly of longtime friends. It was called "Short and Sweet--and Sometimes Dark," and featured me, James Lincoln Warren, R.T. Lawton, Mysti Berry, Michael Bracken, and (moderator) Barb Goffman. Four of us are current inmates at the SleuthSayers asylum and one (JLW) was my master and commander at SS's predecessor, Criminal Brief, for four years. NOTE: If there are better panel moderators anywhere than Barb Goffman, I have yet to meet them. She's wonderful.


- Catching up a bit with old friends. I won't try to list them here for fear I might leave someone out, but you know who you are. In this sense, Bouchercon always feels a little like coming back to school after summer vacation and seeing all your pals again.

- Meeting for the first time (in person) several longtime email or Facebook buddies: Kevin Tipple, Travis Richardson, Frank Zafiro, Kaye George, Alan Orloff, Rick Ollerman, Dixon Hill, William Dylan Powell, Sandra Murphy, etc.

- Signing of the 2019 Bouchercon anthology. I knew only the editor and two of the other contributors, one of whom was unable to attend B'con this year, but we had a good time at the "release party" and a big crowd in the signing line. Those of you who have done this in the past know it's a fun session, and this was also the first time I'd seen the new book, which is always a thrill. Several folks even brought copies of previous Bouchercon anthologies to be signed--I've been fortunate enough to be featured in the most recent four (this one, Florida Happens, Passport to Murder, and Blood on the Bayou).

- The book room. This is always a place to run into people you've been trying to catch, and I love browsing the shelves even though I already own far too many mysteries. I especially enjoyed visiting with Don and Jen Longmuir, who this time oversaw the bookroom but didn't represent their own store (Scene of the Crime Books in Ontario) and who have always been SO good to me in selling the books I bring to Bouchercons. I also had a great time talking with Joe R. Lansdale and his daughter Kasey, who are both wonderful writers, at their book tables--I thought I owned all of Joe's novels and story collections, but I found and bought a few more from him this trip. (Another reason I like Joe Lansdale: He's from East Texas, so I can understand him when he speaks.)

- Signing at the MWA tables. Those who participated were given a half-hour to sit and sign anything anyone brought to us--books, anthologies, magazines, programs, etc. This turned out to be (as expected) more of a visiting session than a signing, but I think it worked. I was seated beside Charles Salzberg and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. That's the great thing about this kind of event--I probably wouldn't have even met Charles otherwise. Thanks, Margery Flax, for assigning me a table.

- An informal get-together of the contributors to Michael Bracken's new P.I. anthology, The Eyes of Texas (which takes the prize, I think, for the best title I've ever seen for an anthology, along with Barb's upcoming Crime Travel antho). About half the authors in Eyes of TX were there, and it was great seeing the ones I knew and meeting the ones I didn't. I admire them all. Some of us even had dinner together the first night and lunch the next day.


Overall, I thought this was one of the best Bouchercons I've been to. The hotel, the events, the guests of honor, the location, the food, everything--except maybe the weather, the first couple days--was excellent. I've heard some horror stories about some of the B'cons I missed, over the years, and I'm glad this one worked so well.

As for regrets, I have only two. One is that I missed seeing several people I had really hoped to meet or reconnect with: Jan Grape, Jim Wilsky, Cathy Pickens, Paul Marks, Jane Lee, Earl Staggs, Greg Herren, Marcia Preston, Dennis Palumbo, a few others, Maybe next time. My other regret is that the Bouchercon anthology signing happened to be scheduled in the same time slot as several other sessions I would have enjoyed attending: the presentation of the Derringer Awards, a Bill Crider tribute, and an Elizabeth George interview. I missed all three, but (as I mentioned) I had a good time at the signing.


So, those are my observations. Did you attend this year? If so, what did you think? Have you also attended Bourchercons in the past? How many? Which of those do you think were the best? Do you plan to make Sacramento next year?

As for this year's conference, I thought it was a great four or five days, spent in the company of friends and acquaintances and my wife and 1800 writers and readers who love mysteries. What could be better than that?




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