Some books take a winding path to become what they are. To Hell and Gone in Texas is one such edgy thriller. I had read Muriel Barbery’s book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and thought to myself, “Someday I’ll write my hedgehog book.” That’s the sort of memoir book I set out to write, a tale of two brothers who had gone quite different directions until they were estranged and hadn’t spoken to each other in twenty years. One was a womanizer and the other had recently retired as a detective for a sheriff’s department. The working title then was The Half-Life of Love, a tale to see if two brothers were able to reconcile. As I wrote, the thriller/suspense writer in me rose to the surface and the book became a tale of disrupted lives by forces far more evil and sinister than the woes of their lives.
|The author (left) and his real-life brother|
Texas was an ideal setting for the story since it remains on a frontier where just across the border are cartels making billions and they are confronted by U.S. law enforcement people able to spend only millions. It’s an easy place for two brothers and their friends to get swept up into a situation that is way over their heads in danger. Add blistering heat in a drought year and tensions and tempers mount.
My background lends itself to this sort of tale. Years ago I worked on a police force. Before that I sold, tested, fixed, and bore-sighted guns, learned how the various models perform. My journalism days took me to many strange places, such as autopsies, explosive quarrels, and worse. But it was an active interest in the threatening societal changes that led to my researching the drug cartels, the way law enforcement agencies have responded, and the brutal levels that the war between the forces have taken. Other than the research on weapons and procedures, I rounded up everything I could in the libraries and on the internet, interviewed officers in the various departments and agencies, and did a few ride-alongs, where—believe it or not—every perp isn’t found with his shirt off as in the TV series Cops. I found a very dark world out there, one creeping its way toward more innocent people each day.
So, instead of a gripping memoir, the story galloped off, with me hanging on, to deal with good guys who might be as rough and bad as the bad guys, and people caught in the middle who have no business being there. It’s a tale with which most readers who wish to be safe in their own homes can relate. As for the brothers with disrupted lives, anyone who has ever been in a family may get a head nod or two there as well. And I suppose there’s a lesson too, that just when people think life has gotten bad, they can find it can get a whole lot worse.
To Hell and Gone in Texas
By Russ Hall