Today on Wednesday’s Writing & Words, I’m excited to introduce Charles Ray, author of Frontier Justice.
Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal
When the Civil War ended, runaway slave Bass Reeves returned to Arkansas, married his sweetheart, and started raising a family. Unable to read or write English, but proficient in six Indian languages and an expert with firearms, he was often hired by deputy U.S. Marshals to scout when they sought fugitives in Indian Territory. When President U.S. Grant appointed Isaac Parker federal judge for Arkansas and the Indian Territory, Parker decided to hire African-Americans as deputies because inhabitants of the Indian Territory didn’t trust whites. Reeves was one of several blacks among the 200 deputies Parker deputized, and became the most famous. In a 32-year career, this amazing man captured over 3,000 fugitives and only had to kill 14.
Frontier Justice is a fictionalized account of Reeves’ first two years as a deputy marshal.
- Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself? Are you married? Any kids? Where do you live?
A: I grew up in a small town in East Texas. When I graduated from high school, I joined the army just to get away from it—oh, and to see the world as well. I’m married and have four adult kids and three grandchildren. After spending 20 years in the army, and a further 30 years in the U.S. Foreign Service as an American diplomat there’s no way I could ever fit back into the rural Texas world, so I live in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.
- What genre do you write? Why do you like that particular type of story?
A: I write fiction and nonfiction, and because I like reading several genres, I also write more than one. My main fiction, though, is Western/History; a series about the Buffalo Soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry, in the Old West after the Civil War; and a mystery series about a retired army officer who lives in the DC area and works as a private detective. He hates bureaucrats, politicians, and except for his friend who works for a firm that has him on retainer, he’s not too fond of lawyers. I’ve also done a trilogy about the Cold War, a fictionalized account of the life of Bass Reeves, the first African-American deputy US marshal west of the Mississippi, some urban fantasy, and a couple of sword and sorcery stories. My nonfiction has included a few books on leadership and management and a couple of photo books of my travels. I once taught photography in a junior college, and have worked as a newspaper and magazine photographer/artist. As to why I like my two main fiction genres—I’ve always been something of a history geek, and I try in my books, even though the events are fictional, to set the historical record straight. In my mystery series, I show how honor and integrity are important, and that in DC, the average people live pretty exciting lives, too.
- What are your fondest memories of writing or reading?
A: When I was a kid, my stepfather’s sister had two sets of encyclopedias—Americana and Britannica—and I was the only person she would let read them. By the time I graduated from high school, I had read every book in both series.
- What are some of your favorite authors and books?
A: Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mysteries, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Louis L’Amour. Some of my favorite books: The Illustrated Man; I, Robot; A is for Alibi; The Big Chill; John Carter of Mars; The Fire Next Time; Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. See where I’m going with this? I’m all over the place. I love to read—and with a few exceptions, I’ll read anything (almost).
- If you could describe what writing means to you, how would you do so?
A: Writing helps me to make sense of the constant jumble of thoughts whirling around in my mind.
- What is your favorite snack & drink while reading/writing?
A: I seldom eat when I’m writing. When I’m reading, I like a peanut butter sandwich (only super crunchy). As to drink, when I feel like being healthy, I drink water. I start each morning with one or two cups of coffee. When I get tired of drinking healthy, I mix a big vodka and tonic or plain vodka on ice.
- Which book do you think was best adapted into a movie? Why?
A: I am Legend, starring Will Smith. Even though the screenplay veered off many of the most chilling scenes in the book, it stayed true to the intent.
- Which book was the least successful adaptation into a movie? Why?
A: I, Robot, also with Will Smith. It was funny and exciting, but too far from the book which has always been one of my favorites.
- Write your favorite quote and explain why you picked it?
A: “You can only be insulted if you allow it.” Don’t know who originally said it, but it applies so well to writers. You have to have a lot of self-confidence and a thick skin to write for public consumption. No matter how well you write, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it—for whatever reason. That can only bother you if you allow it to.
- Any other things you’d like to share?
A: Being a writer means one really important thing—you write. You should write every day, even if it’s just a grocery list or a list of chores. Never, never, never let someone else convince you that you can’t write, because the truth is, you can.
Thanks so much for jouning us today!!
Charles Ray has been writing fiction since his teens. A native of Texas, he left home and joined the U.S. Army when he was 17. After 20 years in uniform, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service, serving as an American diplomat in Africa and Asia until his retirement in 2012. He now lives in Maryland where he is a fulltime writer/photographer. Ray has worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist and has written more than 50 works of fiction and nonfiction, including a popular series about the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the Ninth U.S. Cavalry in the period after the Civil War. He has been a book reviewer for various print publications since the 1970s and does regular book reviews on his writer’s blog, http://charlieray45.wordpress.com (Charles Ray’s Ramblings).
He currently works as a part time lecturer for Johns Hopkins University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and runs a workshop in professional writing for Rangel Scholars at Howard University.
FB page ishttps://www.facebook.com/CharlieRay
Twitter is https://twitter.com/charlieray45