Sunday, February 26, 2012


I tend to approach chapters as short stories, in that they have a distinct narrative arc, a beginning, middle and end. The trouble with this is that sometimes that narrative arc isn't obvious to me when I set out to write said chapter. Take the current chapter for instance, which is essentially the biography of Fayette County Sheriff Jim Flournoy.

Liberal application of rum-and-Cokes are good for inspiration, but that only goes so far. I've never been a writer who locks himself in his office with a bottle of liquor and a carton of cigarettes the weekend before deadline and comes out the other side with brilliant finished product. I suppose I'm not old school enough for that.

Flournoy was a tough nut to crack. He died in 1982, so I never got to talk with him. I got some insight on his personality from my various interviews, but in truth, I'm relying on a lot of secondary sources for this piece. The great Thad Sitton interviewed many, many legendary Texas lawmen, including Austin County Sheriff Truman Maddox (which will come into play later, believe you me) but never managed that in-depth sit-down with Flournoy. Most of the extant interviews with him show a sheriff pissed off and annoyed with the media for its intrusion in his life.

Then I hit upon it. Flournoy's life's ambition was to become a cowboy. He lived the life of a cowboy, and after spending years serving as deputy sheriff in a variety of Texas counties, was appointed to the Texas Rangers near the start of World War II, and assigned to patrol the border in the wide-open Big Bend region of Texas. Fantastic! I have a handle from which to explore his character and motivations which later come to play in his career as sheriff of Fayette County. I can't express how important this is to me, the writer, for everything that follows.

Here's a sample of tonight's production:
He sauntered over to his horse, tied to a haggard-looking purple sage. From his saddle bag, he dug out rolling papers and a packet of tobacco, then started rolling himself a fresh smoke.

“You coulda warned me about the snake, you know,” he growled at the horse. The horse swished its tail indifferently.

Flournoy licked the rolling paper, then allowed the hint of a smile to crease his mouth. Those rustlers didn’t have anyone to warn them, either. Five against one? It didn’t seem like a fair fight. Not when that one was a Texas Ranger...
This is still going to be a tough chapter to get through. There's a bunch of different sources to sort through and none of them is Flournoy, but if I handle it right the result will be the most complete picture of the legendary lawman that has ever appeared. Fingers crossed.

Now Playing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Chicken Ranch Central

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