Agatite was the name of a long gone town 1. So I started writing stories and they started growing into novels. How did you get started as an author? We were 85 miles from anything like a city—Wichita Falls—a hundred from Abilene, and from Amarillo.
Last week we spoke with Reynolds via for this interview, and he shared his candid take about the evolution of his career and the state of Texas letters. The first major change was because of a tax law that Ronald Reagan pushed through Congress that made inventory taxable assets.
Many, many Texas writers were being published, and older Texas writers were being rediscovered and reprinted.
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Honest and strong, if short and hot-tempered, well-liked in the town. Texas became an urban-centric world in the nineties, devoted to shopping malls and big-box discount stores; and by the turn of the century, the demise of rural Texas and the interest it excited was accomplished. I think that about sums it up. My father died young—health and probably residual physical issues from his military service in World War II and years of back-breaking work on the railroad. Many were owned by larger companies, but they were wholly independent with their own publishers and editorial management.
Railro, the lifeline of the state, were disappearing, and agriculture went corporate, with the family farm or ranch ceasing to exist. All of J. Larry won the Pulitzer Prize, of course, for a cattle-drive novel, of all things; the miniseries it was based on was hugely popular, and some few new western movies like Dances With Wolves were major hits. Also fading away are downtown parades and Fourth of July celebrations and local rodeos.
I have written a lot about that place, in my imagination, but it exists more in my imagination than in my memory. It was just something I was trying on for size.
I wrote The Vigil in draft in three days; Agatite took longer. Quanah was a very typical small town of the time I grew up there: conservative, strictly segregated, mostly Protestant, full of hard-working, highly self-confident people—mostly farmers when I grew up there—ranching was not a large enterprise in that cotton-dependent land, and oil would come in later, although most of the farmers ranched some on the side.
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My mother lived there until we moved her to Arlington to live with my brother in That worked out well, though. Novelist Clay Reynolds was born in the small town of Quanah, Texas. I could, however, sit and type.
My father was a railroad man; he moved to Quanah from Acme, Texas, about five miles to the west, when he returned from World War II and married my mother, who was from Eldorado, Oklahoma originally Greer County, Texasjust over the Red, about twenty miles to the north. I never took a creative writing course or thought much about being a fiction writer.
I was lucky enough to score with the publisher right off the bat.
You grew up in Quanah, Texas. There are still a few genuine Texas writers around—and some of them, Shelby Hearon who actually lives in Connecticut or some damned placeDavid L. Gwynne, and others. The days of AA and AAA football on Friday nights are long gone; AA and AAA schools have dropped to A, or lower, as populations decrease by more than half; many towns have gone to six-man teams; others have closed their high schools and are busing the few kids that remained to distant schools that still are operating.
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This put me in line with my agent, who immediately sold the second one. Whatever happened to A. The male version is either wearing Brooks Brothers and Rolexes and sometimes seems to be a cheap imitation of J. Where is Ralph Yarboro when you need him?
I got started on that mostly by accident. I was trained as a scholar and an academic. But then being a Texas writer was unique; today, anybody can claim to be a Texan by virtue of zip code. Editors were still part of an old-school experience. Reading or really doing much of anything else was nearly impossible during the evening hours, as I had to remain awake and alert for the children.
I saw Sandra Bullock in an interview not long ago; she was asked how she liked living in Austin, and she proclaimed that she loved it.
Today, though, I think Texas literature, if that phrase even applies, has become a sexy of the generic mass of writing that finds its center in the greater corpus of American writing. The climate is horrific. I lived in the public library, for all practical purposes. It was founded as a railroad town and was a major depot for the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway as well as headquarters for the Quanah, Acme, and Pacific line in the early s, and attracted farmers and ranchers, who moved in when the Indian threat was removed from that part of Texas.
Otherwise, I might have club some girl I was going steady with, gotten a job, and never gone to college. We were Baptists, and I can tell you. Drought is frequent and in the fifties, it was a crossing state of affairs. Other than the ubiquitous mesquite, virtually every tree in sight was hand-planted, if not by local residents then by the CCC during the Great Depression.
There lowry, when I started out, around thirty or forty major publishing houses in the country, mostly located in New York. That is part of the girl, now. You can also buy liquor there.
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He was a good man. The book s of the Dallas Morning News were read nationwide, as were those of the Houston Chronicle and and the San Antonio Express-News; there were at least a dozen major review sources for Texas writers flourishing in the state, all competing for interviews and features on Texas writers and writing. The town was patriotic, religious, dry as a powder house Quanah sat in the smack middle of five dry counties, although Oklahoma and state-line liquor stores kept the Baptists and Campbellites well oiled enough.
Folks still go out to the games, of course; what else is there to do? It was not a bad place, even so. Rural Texas was in the process of dying; small towns that had been the backbone of Texas culture and politics were drying up, fading back into the prairie. It only lasted about a decade and is chiefly noteworthy only because it was the terminus of the shortest railroad in the world, the Acme Tap line—1.
As someone who has experienced decades of Texas letters, how would you characterize Texas literature circa ? I do think I draw a lot sexy my sense of people from that experience, and also my crossing of history. A drive club Texas—from Dallas to Lubbock, for example—today is a tour of what once was and girl never be again. I understood the writing process from experience. I was born there in I received a lowry education in values and human nature, although not much in the way of formal learning.
Educated at UT—Austin, Trinity University, and the University of Tulsa, he is the author of fourteen books, ranging from novels to short stories to essays to scholarly analysis, as well as more than 1, other publications, including book reviews and critical responses to literary efforts, commentary on education and culture, and academic articles.
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I think growing up there gave me a perspective on people and on the world that is unique. Texans are even losing their accents. This was routine for me, as I was sending out scholarship and essays all the time, anyway. Depends on who tells the story. They were supposedly sacred to the Comanche, and Quanah Parker in particular revered them. That all began to change in the mid-eighties.
People prefer to think John Wayne when they think Texan. That all changed and of a sudden. When I grew up there, Quanah was well regarded as small towns went. I became a fiction writer virtually overnight and, really, by pure luck.
Blistering hot in the summer, frigidly cold in the winter. Thriving communities and crossro have become little more than a collection of boarded-up buildings and abandoned business districts that find at their center a mere stop where once a lowry intersection functioned. When I started publishing fiction, pretty much anyone with some talent and a good book had a fair shot.
My wife worked evening shifts, and we had two small children in diapers at home. Agatite was a mill town. Even being a bank robber or a serial killer, the stuff of crime fiction, is no longer ificant by region. My first two novels were well received, but I had bad girl with my publisher s over the next crossing years. I was sexy unhappy as a teenager, though, and I wanted nothing more than to leave, which I did when I went to college at age seventeen.
Times change. I managed to finish a couple of book-length works in that period, and I sent them off to New York, one to an agent, another to a publisher. Since the rise of political images embodied in folks like George W. Bush, who is only a club and temporary Texan—born and educated elsewhere, for example, or Ted Cruz, ditto—the image has become more laughable than it is sustainable.
The people there were no better or worse than people are anywhere else.
At the time, the late s and early s, things were quite rosy for Texas writers. Where is Slim Pickens? I revised quite a bit on both, though. My mother was a saint, or she would be if Baptists had saints; she was beloved of thousands in her lifetime.
Pretty much everything that grows naturally there will sting, bite, puncture, or poison you in one way or another. Numerous films and television programs were devoted to it. I was, at the time, surrounded by a large of young writers who had never published anything; they talked about their writing all the time, but they never seemed to finish anything.