Texan Reavis Wortham is an award-winning writer and photographer whose humorous articles on outdoor life have appeared in magazines and newspapers such as Texas Sportsman, American Cowboy and Vintage Trucks. A retired educator, Reavis continues to reside in Texas with his wife, who has been the focus of several of her husband’s tongue-in-cheek columns and is obviously a lady of great patience, charm and a poor aim, as she hasn’t hit him yet.
Reavis’s humor and love of quirky characters resulted “Doreen’s 24 Hour Eat Gas Now Café.” If you’ve ever hunted or fished, “Doreen’s” is probably a good laugh you’ll enjoy for hours.
Last year “The Rock Hole” introduced the Red River Mystery Series featuring Ned Parker, an aging lawman in 1964, and his relatives and friends. The author’s combination of superb prose topping a recipe of mystery and suspense sprinkled with downhome humor quickly garnered much deserved attention.
“Burrows,” the second in the series, takes us inside a terror-ridden warehouse of trash, booby traps, and murder. Yet, within the story is a child’s purity matched with an aging character’s soon-to-come death that results in a tender connection of past and future. Interestingly, more than one reviewer, including Publishers Weekly, has likened this touching balance to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Q. How did the comparisons of “Burrows” against “To Kill a Mockingbird” change your opinion of your writing abilities?
A. Comparison to such a great work of literature is embarrassing, to say the least. I am humbled that the reviewer thought “Burrows” reminded them of such a famous and successful novel. It made writing much harder, though, because now I find myself overthinking what I’ve done.
When I’m writing, I’ve learned to never open books by Larry McMurtry, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Tim Dorsey or my friend John Gilstrap (to name only a few). These guys make it look easy, so I just plow ahead until deadline with a sick feeling of dreaded failure, and then send the manuscript in and hope for the best.
Q. Have you considered infusing your wife’s poetry into one of your stories?
A. My bride, who I call The War Department in my newspaper columns and magazine articles, has fun with poetry, but she has never tried to get published. I don’t have that knack, but maybe one of my characters, 12-year-old Pepper, can start writing poetry. That might be The War Department’s role in the next book as we watch Pepper grow older. My bride and I have co-written a few newspaper columns that came out surprisingly well, with few resulting injuries to my person.
Q. What or whom do you credit for your style of homespun humor?
Page 2 of 2 - A. I have to thank Pat McManus for his inspiration to commit humor, as well as the late writers Corey Ford and Donald Westlake. Those guys spin tales that make me laugh, but at the same time, the stories are real and give a sense of atmosphere and place. There’s always humor in everything we do, even in the worst moments of our lives, so I try to break up the tension to give the readers a break.
Q. Western, country, rural … whatever term a person chooses to brand the traditional style of a humorist with is fading. Do you believe it can be saved?
A. Publishers these days are asking for contemporary situations. That’s what sells, and when you deviate from what’s working, they get nervous. I am the humor editor of Texas Fish and Game Magazine, one of the few outdoor magazines that lists a staff humorist. Back in the day, Ed Zern and Corey Ford kept us entertained with their stories that were funny and atmospheric, but made us think. I believe that’s because America was 80 percent rural, and their small town guys were recognizable to a changing society. Today, we’re 80 percent urban, and too many folks find western, country or rural humor to be corn pone.
That said, Pat McManus still gives us chuckles in his monthly Outdoor Life columns, so traditional humor is still alive and well. Remember the days when The Saturday Evening Post printed funny columns? Today’s mainstream magazines have turned to sex, cooking recipes, sex, fashion, and fifty shades of sex, forgetting how it was when Prudence Macintosh and other humorists brought something different to the publication. We all need to stick with what brung us. The humorist can be saved if publishers lighten up and allow writers to produce work that is fun and clean.
Q. Any parting thoughts?
A. Well, my novels aren’t full of humor, and don’t expect the same thing from book to book. I have no formula, and although the main characters continue to reappear, each novel is different in some way.
Small-town life in rural America, specific ways of speaking and phrases that fade into oblivion from disuse are vanishing, so when I started “The Rock Hole,” I simply wanted to preserve those things and tell a good story about how simple people in their small communities deal with the outside influences of the world.
DA Kentner is the author of the acclaimed suspense novel “Whistle Pass.” http://whistlepass.blogspot.com/