Carlton Stowers' life and mine have connected at odd times and in odd ways. In the early '70s he wrote a book called Spirit, about two high school football teams, one of which was the Brownwood Lions. I was living in Brownwood at the time, and I was impressed by the book.
Then Stowers started writing about the Dallas Cowboys in the Dallas Morning News, the paper I'd been reading since I was old enough to read. I subscribed in college, both undergraduate and grad school, and I was still subscribing in Brownwood. I was a big Cowboy fan in those days, and I followed his work in the paper.
Later on, Carlton wrote true crime books. He's one of the best, and he's won two Edgars for his work in that field. One of the Edgar winners is Too the Last Breath, which is about a murder that took place in Alvin, where I now live. I was able to help a little bit with the research for that one. We run into each other now and then at writers' conferences around the state.
Another notable event was the first ClueFest. I was the fiction GoH, and Carlton was the nonfiction GoH. He was amused and bemused by the whole thing. Judy and I still get a kick out of thinking about his reaction.
His latest book is about the little town of Penelope, Texas, where they play six-man football. Penelope is thirty miles from my hometown of Mexia, and I've been there a couple of times. There's not much left of it now. After 9/11, Carlton was looking for something to renew his faith in humanity. He didn't want to write about death and cruelty anymore, and he found his subject in Penelope.
I really enjoyed this book. The names of all the little towns he mentions are familiar to me, many of them being in the West Texas area from which Howard Payne University drew its students. The names themselves mean a lot to me: Rule, Mullin, Aquilla, Oglesby, Iredell, Calvert, Gustine, Coolidge, Axtell, Malone, and a lot of others. Even Mexia gets a brief mention. So does Brownwood, where Stowers' father died when the book was being written.
I love small-town Texas. They represent a Texas that a lot of people don't even know exists these days. This is mostly what I write about in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes books, and others as well. But while I write fiction, Carlton Stowers writes it the way it is. Great stuff. Check it out.