BOOK REVIEW: Murder Is A Family Affair By Donalie Beltran

EVIL CAN BE INHERITED, AND IT WILL BE MUCH MORE VICIOUS!

A grisly tale told with love in the tender prose of debut author, Donalie Beltran, is an anomaly I did not expect as I read Murder is a Family Affair, but that is what this talented and original author delivers. I highly recommend this novel which has earned Five Stars.

The story spans three generations of the Tuxhorn clan, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century with Henry Tuxhorn’s funeral in Prussia, his son, August fleeing the corrupt Prussian government, and the oppressive Catholic Church, August brought his angry violent nature to the new land and made it a tool to his success and subsequent suicide. Henry’s grandson, Charles is the primary focus of this mystery. He is the final inheritor of the evil hatred and brutal Tuxhorn curse.

The Tuxhorn’s are psychopathic killers and thieves, devoid of the love they never received in childhood. Totally amoral and deliberately cruel, they leave a trail of viciousness across the mid-west and into the twentieth century. The wicked Tuxhorn crimes are shocking, but Beltran’s writing unfolds the evil actions with an understanding worthy of a Freudian scholar.

Beltran has accumulated extensively researched facts about the Tuxhorn family as well as their victims, family members, neighbors, and townsfolk. She describes the houses architecture, furnishings, and buildings in the towns from her research efforts. Beltran knits her found facts together with a bridge of narrative and intelligent dialog that create images in the readers mind like a faded sepia daguerreotype.

The author develops her characters thoroughly so that the reader feels that she is reading about a person known well. Good writing demands that the pace of the story keeps the reader “hooked” throughout, and Murder is a Family Affair does not disappoint. From the opening paragraph through to page 308, a reader will turn each page, eager to see what comes next! The author has left us a clue to the content on the back cover of the book. I received an Advance Review Copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. The Beltran clue that grabbed me when I read it is;

THE STORY IS TRUE.

THE FAMILY IS REAL.

THE FAMILY IS MINE.

IF MAN EVOLVED FROM MONKEYS AND APES, WHY DO WE STILL HAVE MONKEYS AND APES?

The October issue of Texas Monthly has a terrific article by Erica Grieder titled Money Makes the World Go Round. It is a very well written biographical piece about the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard W. Fisher. Why, you might ask, is this important to me? Well, you’d be right to ask that question; however, if you read the last blog here, you might assume that it has something to do with Texas ATTITUDE. Right, you would be!

As Ms. Grieder reports, Mr. Fisher has a background that is Texas all the way, but that is not what I wanted to talk about. Read the piece in the October 2013 issue of Texas Monthly. There are a few things that Grieder says which reflect directly on the Attitude of Texans. First, she points out, that The Dallas Fed is one of twelve regional Federal Reserve System for the United States. The Dallas Fed, of which Mr. Fisher has presided since 2005, “It is the only Fed bank with a district that’s basically just a single state, and since that state is Texas, the Dallas Fed has a long tradition of being a pain in the ass. Historically, the president of the Dallas Fed tends to be one of the more maverick figures in the country’s financial system, given to plain talk and fiscally hawkish views.” Now, I ask you, is that a t t I t u d e? At the Federal Reserve? Yes, it is!

While the policies of the Dallas Fed are securely in the capable hands of Richard Fisher, the fact that under his leadership together with polices of the Texas legislature, Texas’ economic picture is the most effective in the Union. That probably adds to the attitude formula, don’t ya think?

In the article, Ms. Grieder mentions that among Fisher’s pals is the former President of the USA, George W. Bush. Okay, a President from Texas. As you may recall, we’ve had 3; Lyndon B. Johnson – 36, George H. W. Bush – 41, and Fisher’s pal, George W. Bush – 43. Pretty impressive when you consider that only Massachusetts with 4 Presidents, Virginia with 5, (George Washington – 1, Thomas Jefferson – 3, James Madison – 4, James Monroe – 5, and John Tyler – 10 – Wow!), and Ohio (Ohio?) had 6 Presidents, oh, and that Northeast Liberal Hippy Enclave, New York, has had the same number as Ohio (Ohio?)

Alright, so Texas doesn’t rank all that high with leaders of the free world, but we beat California with only three! And, except for President Reagan, we lead the pack in conservative legislators, and that may be the point of the article; conservative, fiscally responsible law makers can make the machinery of government and commerce work for the good of the people.

Grieder said something else in the article. She quoted Mr. Fisher; “Here’s the way I’d put it,” said Fisher. “I’d rather see the Texification of the United State than the Californification. California’s a beautiful place. I was born there, and I go out there often. It’s a stunningly physically beautiful place. But it’s an unhappy place. It sort of went past whatever that point is of balance.”

Now it is not my intent to put down the Golden State. I love California, as do so many other millions. This blog subject is to compare those things I grew up with in California to the things I’ve come to appreciate and care for, different that they may be, in Texas, my new home. If there are any Texans or displaced Texans that would like to comment on this subject, then, “Come on down!”

IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM?

In my last blog post, I mentioned that Texans have an attitude, and mused where that might have come from. Of course, I don’t know the answer, but I have my suspicions. So, I go to the dictionary for a clue. Attitude is defined as meaning manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing. Interesting to note that the word Attitude has a French origin, coined around 1670, a few years before Spain ran the French out of Texas. Ummm!

Oh, I almost forgot; the Synonym for Attitude is Position, meaning a condition with reference to place; location; situation. So, I think we have it. A Texas attitude is a reflection of thinking, or feeling (and showing through actions) just how different a Texan is from everyone else. Superior? Not necessarily, (but it sometimes comes out that way).

I will bet that the six flags, which have flown over Texas in the past 494 years, have been an influence on that attitude. Your average Texan – by my observation – is proud of his history and is generally aware of the impact antiquity plays. Another word for it might be Culture. The average citizen of Southern California would not be as informed.

Aware of French colonization efforts, Spain reestablished its territorial claims in 1690 and the French abandoned their five years of occupation. The Spain left a deep impact on Texas. Spanish language provided the names for many of the rivers, towns, and counties that currently exist, and Spanish architectural concepts still thrive in buildings like the Alamo. Having a revered historical landmark in the center of the second largest city in the state makes the remembering easier for residents of San Antonio, but then every Texan, statewide, knows the importance of that 1836 heroic battle. The old mission chapel is an official Texas State Shrine. Certainly, that must be a factor in the Texan attitude.

So, Spain lost Texas in the 1821 War of Independence to Mexico, who lost Texas to The Republic of Texas in 1836. Because of Sam Houston’s efforts, Texas was admitted into the Union as the 28th state in 1845. Then came the Civil War in 1861 and Texas declared its session and joined the Confederate States of America. We all know how well that went. The Texas holiday Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 when Federal troops arrived in Texas. The Stars and Stripes were raised over Austin a few days later.

Did you see it: One of the elements of attitude? With the exception of Houston’s salesmanship, each of the flags was changed by a war. I’m told by some of the “older guys” that war does change people: those on the front-lines, families whose home is overrun by the opposition troops, or loved ones, lonely and sick with fear and grief. War changes you.

Next time; where a new Texan sees attitude in daily life.

DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

Walter’s blog is about the joys and frustrations experienced in becoming a full-time fiction writer, and some observations of people and life along the way.

For reason I won’t bore you with here, I moved to Boerne, Texas a bit more than 3 years ago, Leaving Southern California’s Laguna Beach for the parched plains of South Texas. This move was made somewhat easier with the knowledge that I would reconnect with my brother, Robert Danley. Before retiring to Boerne, Bobby was a building contractor in Hawaii. We had seen each other only four times in 40 years. He came to Los Angeles twice, to attend two of my weddings, and I went to Hawaii twice, on two different honeymoons.

The decision should have been harder than it was. I wanted to move here and be a Texan. I didn’t want horses−had several in California over the years− and I didn’t want to wear cowboy boots− been doing that with jeans and three piece suites for more than twenty-five years. What I did want, besides connecting with Bobby and Mary, was the attitude. Texans have attitude; about independence, about personal rights, about property rights, and most assuredly about state’s rights.

Some parts of California had that, a long time ago. Orange County, a non-rush hour drive south of Los Angeles, was considered a conservative bastion of free thinkers when my family moved to Anaheim in the pre Disneyland days. It changed. By the time I got out of the Navy/Marine Corp (I was a medic and served in both services) Disneyland and the money it brought had changed Anaheim forever. My high school Latin teacher, “Wild” Bill Daley, was elected Mayor while I was away. His son Tom served several Mayoral terms following in Bill’s footsteps, but Anaheim was no longer a small town. The power brokers from Sacramento sent minions to take advantage and changed the attitude. I moved to the beach.

I’m talken’ here ‘bout ATTITUDE!  I love history, and God knows, Texas has some of the best around. No other state had six different flags flown over her lands. In fact, few other states have had her boarders changed so often by so many. Did that have something to do with the Texas attitude? Maybe. But most likely it was what the people endured between being a territory of Spain and reconstruction after the Civil War that had greater impact on the attitude of those who lovingly call themselves Texans.

It sounds like a US History lesson is coming. NOT! I want to share some things that I have made note of. Things I’ve discovered about becoming a Texan. I hope that you will enjoy the reminiscence, whether you are a reader from Texas or from anywhere else. And that is the essence of a Texas Attitude. It’s Texas and everywhere else!

Next time,

BOOK REVIEW: German Settlement Of The Texas Hill Country By Jefferson Morgenthaler

German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country by our own Jefferson Morgenthaler is a work of exceptional importance to those who live in the Hill Country, the sweet spot of Texas. Jeff’s non-fiction account of the story of the founders begins in 1845 with the first wave of German immigrants. These émigrés founded New Braunfels, with subsequent settlers moving on to establish Fredericksburg and the other towns of the Hill Country.

Morgenthaler makes history come alive in his telling of the individuals who struggled to build these communities. He examines, in fascinating detail, each element of their world; from the German fatherland’s politics and economy that instigated migration, the trials of travel, the hardships overcome of disease and weather, the faith, and traditions kept sacred by those who came. Morgenthaler explores the conflicts with native Indians, the reasons they left everything and risked coming to these shores, and in the telling, Jeff puts a human face on those pioneers. He does this in such a way that each character becomes a person you may have known.

Much in the style of historian David McCullough, Morgenthaler’s writing is personal and insightful. Making that history live and be significant for today, marking the path that those earlier men and woman fashioned which leads to our doorsteps; this is a talent that only a few great authors demonstrate. Morgenthaler tells this sweeping, fascinating story with power and intimacy, bringing us into the lives of remarkable men and woman.

Morgenthaler’s epic – it is a 9 hour read – follows are forefathers through the significant history of Texas and that of her component counties. Throughout the book Morgenthaler draws comparisons to cause and effect that we live with today. He ends the tale with a report of the last days and demise of the central characters, putting each in their final identified resting place.

I highly recommend German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country for the joy of entertainment in addition to the knowledge of our past which it intelligently delivers. You will be glad that you experienced this brilliant work of literature.

 

Until then, keep on reading and learning!

 

*German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country by Jefferson Morgenthaler – Kindle edition, Published 2011 by Mockingbird Books

BOOK REVIEW: Walking Hill Country Towns By Diane Capito

Since I am new to Boerne (and to Texas, for that matter) I stay on high alert for any book that will educate me about the history of my new home. I found two gems that are well worth sharing with my Boerne neighbors!

Walking Hill Country Towns by Diane Capito is a pocket-guide for the casual explorer. Its audience is the person that wants to take an interesting stroll through 41 of the Hill Country’s small towns from Antioch to Wimberly. A few have no walks−there just isn’t anywhere interesting to walk in Anholt. Others have more, like the five walks charted for New Braunfels. Readers of Explorer will be pleased that Boerne lists four walks out of the 196 described in the book.

After a delightful historical introduction to Boerne, Capito describes the walks for our town. Walk 3 was fascinating to me. Many, many years ago, a high school teacher told our class that the best way to study the history of an area was to visit the graveyards. Ms. Capito has done this for us, with a brief walk through our own Texas Historical Cemetery on School Street. Don’t think a stroll through a graveyard is exciting? Read the book!

A road map begins Walking Hill Country Towns, allowing the opportunity to “jump-in” at any point on the compass. Towns are listed alphabetically so moving from the map to the description of town walks is effortless. It is a very user-friendly structure.

The reader will capture a lot of Capito’s personality in reading her Preface, in which she writes;

I especially like to meander. Sometimes I turn onto a road just to see where it leads. Or I set out with no destination in mind. I might turn off on the first side road that looks inviting and keep turning onto whatever road next catches my fancy. Since I am directionally challenged, I eventually have no idea where I am. Fortunately, I don’t care where I am. I never fail to have a good time meandering.

Each town walk features a map with turn-by-turn directions. Many have photos of significant structures, and historical information of the locale.

I am a writer of fiction and gained insightful benefit from the two books reviewed here. While the intended audience for each book is very different, both authors did extensive historical research, and their bibliographies are a road map of Hill Country history. I am currently writing an historical western with a fantasy twist, for publication in 2014, and will refer to these indexes diligently. For that novel I owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Capito’s and Mr. Morgenthaler’s hard work. Thank you, Jeff and Diane!

*Walking Hill Country Towns by Diane Capito – Second edition, Published 2010 by Maverick Publishing Company, and

WELCOME TO MY FIRST BLOG!

I’ve read many blogs; most from authors who like me do their own blogging. I’ve also subscribed to blogs from my favorite authors, especially that group I lovingly refer to as the double letters guys (DLG). You know them better as Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, Patricia Cornwell, Ken Follett, Clive Cussler, and the never to be forgotten, Dean Koontz. It makes me a little uncomfortable about my writing career since Walter Danley contains no double letters.

Now when you sell as many books as the DLG, have as many fans as they, you can’t expect that any of the DLG write their own blogs, and they don’t. Well, may be Koontz does sometimes. His blogs don’t come often, but when they do, it is pure Koontz sense of humor, and I love it! When you read a Koontz thriller, there are three things you can absolutely count on; there will a Golden Retriever in the story, you will be scared to death, and there will always be a happy conclusion. That is the type of reputation I’d like as a writer!

Speaking of my favorite authors (yes, there are many in addition to the DLG), I have wondered, which of their many talents brings a handful to the best seller lists? What do they have in common that binds them to the success in a complicated and changing publishing industry? I will share those thoughts in a later blog here, as I recently did in a column for the Explore.

I have been privileged to write a column for Explore, the very classy monthly magazine distributed every month in South Texas. From time-to-time I will include one of those articles here. They are fun to write (as I have to include the books on my TBR list) and share my impressions with the upscale readership of Explore. Let me share the current article from Explore from this month’s edition.