Texas Tradition Series

Published by: TCU Press

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Baja Oklahoma

Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins' second best-known novel, Baja Oklahoma, features protagonist Juanita Hutchins, who can cuss and politically commentate with the best of Jenkins' male protagonists. Still convincingly female, though in no way dumb and girly, fortyish Juanita serves drinks to the colorful crew patronizing Herb's Cafe in South Fort Worth, worries herself sick over a hot-to-trot daughter proving too fond of drugs and the dealers who sell them, endures a hypochondriac mother whose whinings would justify murder, dates a fellow middle-ager whose connections with the oil industry are limited to dipstick duty at his filling station—and, by the way, she also hopes to become a singer-songwriter in the real country tradition of Bob Wills and Willie Nelson. That Juanita is way too old to remain a kid with a crazy dream doesn't matter much to her. In between handing out longneck beers to customer-acquaintances battling hot flashes and deciding when boyfriend Slick is finally going to get lucky, Juanita keeps jotting down lyrics reflective of hard-won wisdom and setting them to music composed on her beloved Martin guitar. Too many of her early songwriting results are one-dimensional or derivative, but finally she hits on something both original and heartfelt: a tribute to her beloved home state, warts and all.

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Fast Copy

Dan Jenkins

In 1935 Betsy Throckmorton’s father lures her from a New York job with Time magazine back to Claybelle, Texas, with the promise that she can be the editor of his Claybelle Standard-Times. Betsy brings along her husband, Ted Winton, an easterner and Yale graduate to whom she is constantly explaining Texas. Ted will run Ben Throckmorton’s radio station, KVAT, where Booty and Them Others sing in rivalry with the better known WBAP Light Crust Doughboys.

In Texas, it’s the middle of the Depression and the Drought. And Prohibition is barely over, liquor still a controversy. Every city has its hobo camp, and Claybelle has the Star of Hope Mission. But it is also the time of new oil money, high living, infidelity, and tangled love triangles. Betsy and Ted chain-smoke and drink often and long, they wouldn’t miss a Paschal High School or TCU football game, they party at the Casino on Jacksboro Highway, and dine at Claybelle’s Shadylawn Country Club.

Betsy is a serious journalist though, and she sets out to change the paper, clashing with the managing editor when she claims international not state news belongs on page one. She clashes with the columnists when she tries to sharpen their leads.

The Texas Murder Machine becomes her big story, when she suspects that Texas Rangers may be killing innocent young men to collect rewards offered by the Texas Bankers Association. Betsy’s journalistic determination leads to a personal tragedy that changes her life forever—and makes her a determined, relentless newswoman.

Fast Copy is a page-turner that combines romantic comedy with the best of the thriller genre. But it’s much more. Dan Jenkins captures Texas in the mid-1930s with a clarity that brings it alive, and his affection for Texas, Fort Worth, and TCU are revealed on every page. Only a native like Jenkins would include the minute details of a TCU-SMU game, the new zephyr stainless steel railroad train, the T&P railroad station, the Fort Worth Cats, and LeGrave Field. His portrait of Claybelle and its leading society folks is tongue-in-cheek funny and right on the mark. Texans should treasure this book for years to come.

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North to Yesterday

Robert Flynn

Robert Flynn has built a richly humorous, poignantly tragic novel around a cattle drive that forces cowboys to herd cattle on foot, to lower themselves to milk a wild longhorn, to tend a baby as well as a herd. At the center of the tale is Lampassas, the storekeeper who has heard the tales of the trail so often he knows the route by heart. Risking all for one last grand adventure, he heads for Trail's End with a herd of straggly, bony longhorns and an odd company of hands: Jamie, his reluctant son; Preacher, a self-ordained revivalist; Gattis, a farm boy never meant to wear cowboy boots; June, a stable hand who finds confidence and courage from his six-shooter; and Pretty Shadow, a drifting cowboy seeking the love of his early youth. Add to this group Covina, a riotously bold but appealing girl with an illegitimate baby, and you have the wildest, most improbable trail driving crew ever. At once magnificent and absurd, Lampassas holds the long drive together in the face of stampedes, drouth, flood, and horse thieves.

"It's the first feller that does something that is the hero, and the last feller that does it that is the fool," Preacher tells Lampassas. But Lampassas and his crew are made great by the enormity of their folly, the strength of their dream.

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Woman of the People

Benjamin Capps

A Woman of the People is one of Texas’ best-known and most-respected novels. In this story of the Texas frontier, Capps dramatizes the capture by a Comanche band of a ten-year-old white girl and her five-year-old sister from the upper reaches of the Brazos River a decade before the Civil War.

As the narrative progresses, Helen Morrison slowly—and almost unbeknownst to herself—goes from being a frightened, rebellious white girl to becoming “a woman of the people.” Like many of the people who figure in true-life Indian captivity narratives, Helen adopts the ways of the Comanches, marries a member of her small band, and becomes a major figure in tribal life.

A Woman of the People parallels in some ways the real story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was taken by Comanches, married Peta Nocona, and became the mother of the celebrated Quanah Parker, the last great chief of the Comanches. But unlike the real-life Cynthia Ann Parker story, where many mysteries abound, the novel takes the reader inside the mind of the main character, and we are allowed to grow with her as she forgets her white heritage and Helen and becomes Tehanita (Little Girl Texan).

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