Garland outdoor humor columnist Reavis Z. Wortham grew up hearing stories about old Texas murders and he wondered why someone didn't write a book about them.
A third is in the final editing stages, and several more are on the way.
“My granddad was a constable in the 1960s,” he said. “One day I sat down and decided to write a novel. … My wife read the first few pages and said it was the best stuff I'd ever written.”
Wortham was among more than 50 best-selling Texas authors featured Saturday in the Fourth Annual East Texas Book Fest held at The University of Texas at Tyler Ornelas Activity Center.
The occasion emphasized plenty of popular reads and a special appearance by retired NBA great Elvin Hayes, honorary chair. Hayes shared his story about the rise from poverty to sports fame.
Hayes, also the author of “They Call Me the Big E,” said a caring teacher and a good education played powerful roles in his life, giving him the courage to aim high and reach his life's goals.
He told the audience that knowledge is power, citing the accomplishments of social reformer Frederick Douglass, who escaped the confines of slavery in the 1800s after he learned to read, breaking social norms of the era.
Event chair Dee Brock said Book Fest is designed to be a celebration of writing, reading, books and libraries.
“We expect a really good turnout today,” Ms. Brock said, predicting an attendance of about 300. “We've got six rows of authors and lots of books for sale.”
Book Fest featured a variety of genres and opportunities to interact with the authors that included Taylor Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of “The Informationist.”
Special break-out sessions provided opportunities for the authors to share their own stories and proven strategies for writing, illustrating and publishing that first book.
First time “Mourning Reign” author Edward Hancock II, of Gilmer, said he's just getting started in the business, and viewed Book Fest as a chance to learn more about the craft.
“I've been waiting for a whole year,” he said. “I really wanted to attend.”
Patty Wiseman's anticipated three-book series is set in the 1920s, centered on the life of her late grandmother's adventures of a defiant young woman rebelling against an arranged marriage.
The Marshall author, who spent 24 years as a financial advisor, has two mystery books under her belt and a third in the works.
One popular author and blogger was “Elvis,” a golden retriever, appearing with his ghost writer-owner, Gina Smith. Elvis is part of Therapet's READ program, intended to boost literacy in children.
The pair created a children's book, using illustrations created by emerging readers — Ms. Smith carried out the writing duties; Elvis provided the inspiration.
“This is the first year they've ever had a dog in it,” Ms. Smith said, as attendees stopped to pet the dog and peruse the book. “It's fabulous.”
Book Fest was supported by the East Texas Communities Foundation, Junior League of Tyler, Friends of the Libraries in Lindale, Troup, Tyler and Whitehouse; Humanities Texas and the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
SALT, an organization representing the public libraries in Smith County, and the Muntz Library at UT Tyler organized the event.
Attendee Chase Ragland, who just completed his Master's from The University of Texas at Tyler, gave the festival a thumbs up.
“I love books,” he said, perusing the selections. “I love looking at children's books for the illustrations, but I really read anything … I think I'm about to be broke.”