Monday, June 27, 2011

What is Reavis Z. Wortham reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Reavis Z. Wortham, author of The Rock Hole.

His entry begins:
Chinaberry Sidewalks

I read to excess and usually have several books going at once. I just finished a wonderful surprise. The memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, by Rodney Crowell, was a book I wish I’d written. This talented musician has other skills besides writing and performing on stage. He is a true writer, and this uproarious book by a man that is within a year or two of my own age touch several chords, though luckily, I didn’t have the traumatic childhood he experienced.

It was a book I couldn’t put down, and my own writing suffered for a day and a half while I escaped to my bedroom to enjoy his descriptions of Texas thunderstorms, honky tonks, hurricanes, conversations so familiar I became homesick, and adventures reminiscent of Jean Shepherd’s In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash (the book from which Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun was made into A Christmas Story). I write humor, mostly outdoor humor about the guys I hunt with. I’m no stranger to laughing at Pat McManus, Donald Westlake, or Max Shulman, but Crowell actually made me laugh out loud, so much that in one scene on page 115 I had to pause and wipe away the tears. In that chapter, Crowell and his childhood cronies attack the abusive father of a friend with rocks, dirt clods, and BB guns. They might have won the battle, but when his mama hears about it and wears him out with a chinaberry switch and then when that breaks, with her hair brush, his dad’s one line response at the crest of the crisis is absolutely hilarious.

But it isn’t all...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Rock Hole:
"An accomplished first novel about life and murder in a small Texas town.... Not just scary but funny too, as Wortham nails time and place in a sure-handed, captivating way. There's a lot of good stuff in this unpretentious gem. Don't miss it."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Set in 1964, Wortham's engaging first novel takes readers to Center Springs, Tex., where 10-year-old Top has come to live with grandparents Becky and Ned Parker. Ned is both farmer and constable, used to dealing with illegal stills, minor thefts, drunks, and family disputes, but not with the kind of vicious cruelty behind a slew of animal tortures and killings. What might be an idyllic time for Top and his tomboy cousin, Pepper, is marred by their overhearing Ned and Deputy John Washington, who polices the town's black community, discussing whether the atrocities are being committed by whites, blacks, or Indians across the border in Oklahoma. When the killer turns to human victims, starting with Ned's cousin Joseph, the stage is set for a tense ending. Solid characters and a vivid depiction of a vanishing period make this a series to watch."
--Publishers Weekly

"What a gem of a book!.... I wanted to finish the book to find out what the conclusions would be but at the same time I didn't want the book to end!"

"Wortham does a great job of creating a foreboding atmosphere from the get-go. His assured debut is multilayered and shows his love of story­telling. The juxtaposition of the old ways with the new era—the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War—provides just the kindling needed for a crackling good mystery in a Western setting."
--Library Journal
Learn more about the book and author at Reavis Z. Wortham's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Rock Hole.

My Book, The Movie: The Rock Hole.

Writers Read: Reavis Z. Wortham.

--Marshal Zeringue