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Celebrated Texas Author Carlton Stowers Writing Westerns

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Carlton Stowers, a celebrated Texas author of over forty books, is now writing a series of Western novels. This is only the most recent career change for the highly respected journalist/author. He has changed genres several times before, and always with great success.

After a lengthy career as a sports writer for The Dallas Morning News and other publications, Stowers found fame in a very different field, as a true crime writer. His first true crime book, “Careless Whispers,” was published in 1986. It detailed the horrific rapes and murders of three teenagers at Lake Waco in 1982. The book’s central character was a dedicated patrol sergeant who refused to stop investigating until all four perpetrators were finally incarcerated.

Stowers said, “I was ready to reinvent myself from sports writing and move on to something different, after being in that business a lot of years. I stumbled into writing about crime, something I had never aspired to do. But after the success of ‘Careless Whispers,’ I was now labeled a true crime writer. I did that for a half dozen books or so, but it’s difficult to spend two years dealing with that kind of subject.”

Celebrated Texas Author Carlton Stowers Writing Westerns

Photo: Where Dreams Die Hard

True crime books “To the Last Breath” and “Careless Whispers,” won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime Book for their year. Other award-winning, best-selling books during that period were “Scream at the Sky,” “Innocence Lost,” (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize), and “Open Secrets.” He also wrote an autobiographical “Sins of the Son.”

Carlton’s books have been selections for Book of the Month Club, Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Book Club, and numerous others. Movie/TV production companies optioned five of his books. “Open Secrets” was the basis for an ABC mini-series, “Telling Secrets.” “To the Last Breath” was included in Readers’ Digest’s anthology, “Today’s Best Non-Fiction.” His work has been translated into Afrikaans, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish languages.

His next book evolved from an article Stowers wrote for the “Dallas Observer.” The story of a six-man football team in tiny Penelope, Texas (population 211) struck a chord with readers. It was included in the 2004 “America’s Best Sports Writing” anthology.

The book that resulted, “Where Dreams Die Hard,” was published in 2005. It found instant success, and was named one of the Ten All-Time Best Books on Texas by the “Dallas Morning News.”

I told Carlton this was my favorite sports book, because it’s about much more than just football. We meet the players, coaches, fans and families of the Wolverines football team. Even though they had only won one game the past four years, everyone in town still came out to support their team on Friday nights.

Happy Trails With Roy Rogers

Other sports books Stowers wrote or co-authored include “Marcus,” an autobiography of NFL player Marcus Allen. His book, “Dallas Cowboys: The First 25 Years,” reached No. 1 on the “Dallas Morning News” bestseller list. He also wrote “Happy Trails” with western movie stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

“Each thing I’ve done has involved writing, but by the same token they are all different and challenging in their own way,” Stowers said. “When you’re writing about real people you want it to be right. I sent copies of each book to everybody I wrote about. I wanted them to read it before anybody else.”

Following the success of his non-fiction books, Stowers said, “I had reached a point where I had done all that I wanted to do. I spent the next five years writing essays for American Way Magazine, and also some pieces for People Magazine. That gave me an opportunity to report on some historic things like the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco standoff with the FBI, and the school shooting in Mississippi.”

“On Texas Backroads,” a collection of his essays for American Way, the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, and other publications, was published by Texas Star Trading Company.

Writing Western Novels

Celebrated Texas Author Carlton Stowers Writing Westerns

Photo: Pat Stowers

A few years ago, Stowers was asked by his agent, Jim Donovan, if he would be interested in writing a Western novel. Stowers said he found the idea of writing fiction appealing.

“Except for a few short stories, I never expected to write the great American novel like everybody else I knew,” he laughed. “But writing these books has really been fun. I’ve enjoyed doing it, you can just let your imagination take over.”

The Western novels are stand-alone, and all set in Texas in such places as Tascoso near Amarillo. Other settings include the Palo Dura Canyon, Fort Worth’s old Hell’s Half Acre, and East Texas. Stowers said the only guidelines he was given by the publisher was “no cussing and no sex scenes.”

Literary Agent Jim Donovan said, “Carlton is one of my favorite people, and one of my favorite writers. Award-winning newspaper and magazine sportswriter; Edgar-Award-winning true crime author; collaborator of choice on several high-profile autobiographies; western novelist… each of those demands a specific skill set, and a writer is lucky if they can develop just one. Carlton has mastered them all, and he’s a nice guy, to boot. He’s got more good friends than a half-dozen people usually have in their lifetimes.”

A member of Abilene High School’s 1960 State Championship track team, Stowers attended the University of Texas at Austin on a scholarship. As a journalist, he received numerous state and national awards. He won eight Katie Awards from the Press Club of Dallas and is a four-time winner of the Dallas Bar Association’s Stephen Philbin Award. Stowers was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame in 2010 and inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. He was also named a Living Legend of North Texas Journalist by the Dallas Press Club that year.

Carlton and his wife, Pat, still live in the same quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of Cedar Hill, Texas, where they raised a family. Now empty nesters, they enjoy daily walks around the neighborhood, and frequent visits from their now-adult children and their grandchildren. Carlton is a sought-after speaker for civic and bibliophile programs, and has been honored by several literary groups.

“Comanche Trail,” the first of Stowers’ four historic Westerns, was a finalist for the 2015 Western Fictioneers and Texas Institute of Letters Best First Novel awards. The other three paperback novels, published by Signet, include “Phantom Hill,” “Reunion in Hell” (due out in April), and “Return to Gila Bend” (due out in September).