WRITERS' LEAGUE OF TEXAS

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Moon Rehder Virgil Williams Williams Spence
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 STAR INSTRUCTOR
Photo of Russ Hall

Russ Hall

Russ Hall lives on the waterfront of Lake Marble Falls on the path of an old stagecoach line where a coach has not come along in quite a spell. When not researching and writing mysteries, thrillers, and, soon, westerns, he fishes in order to keep his truth stretching skills honed.

For No Murder Before Its Time, his seventh book, he worked at a Texas Hill Country vineyard for over two years part-time giving tours and pouring up samples of wine that even pleasantly surprised visitors from California's Napa Valley. It was necessary to distort the characters, though not aspects of the setting, to get a ripping yarn, but he was not above that. The characters who people this novel are of the sort you might expect and hope for in a mystery - full of good, evil, and confusion in mixed and diverting emotional proportions while engaged in real-life dilemmas. They are not much at all like the pleasant people who plant, harvest and ferment the grapes that add to the growing reputation of Texas wines. But that's the dickens of writing mysteries.

Though he was not born in Texas, he has eaten enough biscuits and gravy at the Bluebonnet Café by now to pass the blood test. He first moved to Texas in 1983 from New York City, and surprisingly was not strung up at once. Prior to that he had lived in Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Ohio, where he grew up, after being born in Colorado, apparently with a quantity of postage stamps on his first diaper.

Part-Indian himself, his collection of mystery short stories, The Blue-Eyed Indian, showcases his series private investigator, Travis. More novels are expected to be released and share Travis' exploits in the coming years. Other diggings into his genealogical past have been discouraged in expectation of coming up with pirates, sidewinders, claim-jumpers, and, yes, even congressmen.

The Texas Hill Country winery mystery, No Murder Before Its Time, which was released in October, 2003 features Esbeth Walters, who is 72-years young. Part of the model for Esbeth stems from a comment Russ' formerly Pollyanna grandmother shared once from her retirement home: "Sometimes we old people get tired of being cheerful all the damn time." Esbeth has indeed the occasional cranky moment, but who wouldn't these days with rising prices, lowering old-age benefits, and all that road rage (a fair amount of it in her own car). Still, as a retired high school math teacher, she has insight and logical skills that make her a reluctant asset to the sheriff and Texas Ranger on the case.

More will be heard from feisty reluctant detective Esbeth in the coming years, including a mystery coming out in 2005, Black Like Blood, that begins with a body being found in a lake very much like Lake Marble Falls. He has a western novel also being released in hardback in 2005, Bent Red Moon, involving the Lost San Saba Mine and characters adrift in Texas Hill Country during the tail end of the Comanche days.

He subscribes to the view that great characters drive the best novels being written today and that each of those usually want something very much and have at least one or two human flaws. Always on the search for new aspects of character to mold into his own creations, a common question Russ asks people is, "If you were a character in a mystery or thriller, which would you rather be, a hero, a villain, or a victim?" Think about it. Which are you?

When asked why he wanted to teach this workshop on getting published, Russ replied, "My main motivation for doing this is that I wish there had been someone to offer clear answers on this subject years ago when I was starting out."

Register for Russ Hall's workshop.
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