Friday, December 26, 2014

Signing Tour

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

With Sammy Brown Library Director Debbie Godwin
Several months ago I was contacted by Arcadia Publishing, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Acquisitions editors wanted to know if I would produce a book entitled Texas Outlaws. I was immediately attracted, but I pointed out that a book about Texas Outlaws would be about criminals, losers with few redeeming qualities, men on the dodge who left little photographic records. I suggested Texas Gunfighters, which would include Texas Rangers, town marshals, county sheriffs, and other upholders of the law. In addition to peace officers and outlaws, Texas Gunfighters would include blood feuds, as well as the evolution of Sam Colt’s revolving pistols, which took place by Texas Rangers who needed a repeating weapon as they battled mounted Comanche warriors on the frontier. Arcadia approved the project under the title Texas Gunslingers.

My first book, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters (University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), established that there were far more shootouts in Texas than in any other state or territory. More gunfighters were from Texas, and more died and were buried in Texas. There were more blood feuds in Texas, across a period of seven decades, beginning with the Regulator-Moderator War of the 1840s. For more than 30 years I’ve explored these events and people in a variety of books and articles. I’ve presented many programs through the years, and perhaps my most popular program as State Historian is “Gunfighterology,” presented with array of replica weapons and gun rigs.

Texas Gunslingers is my fifth title for Arcadia. I’ve put together two community books, the type of book that comprises the majority of Arcadia’s 9,000 titles. But increasingly Arcadia has turned to subject books which, like all other titles, rely upon 200 or so photos as a major element of telling the story of the community or subject. I’ve been permitted to utilize the Arcadia treatment on three favorite Texas history subjects: East Texas in World War II (2010); West Texas Cattle Kingdoms (2013); and now Texas Gunslingers (2014).

Karon at the entrance of the Scurry County Museum
At the beginning of the project I already possessed a majority of the images I needed, assembled for previous books and articles I had written. The theme of the book is that Texas was the gunfighter capital of the Old West. Nothing is more dramatic than life and death conflict, and when those conflicts take place in frontier settings, between men in big hats and boots wielding Colt revolvers and Winchesters, a special appeal is generated.

Texas Gunslingers was released the second week in December. But it was discovered that pre-orders greatly exceeded the first printing, and Arcadia scrambled to assemble a second printing. Of course, the timing of the release was perfect: A profusely illustrated book on a popular subject for just $21.99 – an ideal stocking stuffer!

My wife Karon and I embarked on a week of pre-Christmas programs and signings, beginning on Monday, December 15 at the Sammy Brown Library in Carthage. There had been excellent publicity, including interviews over KGAS Radio and lengthy PR pieces with color photos in the Panola Watchman. Head Librarian Debbie Godwin also flooded her website, and a banner crowd was the result. I signed non-stop for more than two hours, and many sales were of other titles of mine we had on display. Of course, like any author I’m convinced that books make the best gifts!

Before Monday afternoon ended, Karon and I were driving toward West Texas. By mid-day Tuesday we were in Snyder, and we reported to the Scurry County Museum on the campus of West Texas College. Museum Director Daniel Schlegel had arranged an evening program and signing, not only of Texas Gunslingers but also of The Johnson-Sims Feud and other titles he keeps in the museum gift shop. The last old-fashioned blood feud in Texas, the Johnson-Sims conflict, erupted on the Snyder Square on December 16, 1916. Several months ago Daniel arranged an anniversary program event with me, and several weeks ago he added a book signing activity. (Daniel also set up an exciting afternoon field trip, which I’ll describe in a future blog.) Daniel secured newspaper, radio, and electronic publicity, and we enjoyed a fine, responsive crowd.

With Rosa Latimer at Ruby Lane Books (below)

The following day, Wednesday, we drove to Post, where Rosa Latimer has established an independent book store, Ruby Lane Books. Without any prior experience in the book business, Rosa bought a two-story building on Post’s main street. She opened a book store downstairs and lives upstairs. The store is warm and intimate, and Rosa arranges pleasant book events. She provided a light lunch, and I enjoyed seeing old friends while signing a large number of books.

We were back in Carthage by mid-day Thursday. Several people came to the house to acquire inscribed books as Christmas gifts. On Friday I spoke to a noon meeting of the Carthage Rotary Club, describing the new book. That afternoon Karon and I made a two-hour drive to Winnsboro, where we had been invited to have a signing at the Gilbreath Memorial Library. (It was my third appearance in Winnsboro since February, and I intend to discuss the two most recent events in my next blog). Karon and I returned to Carthage on Saturday afternoon, and I happily signed books for last-minute shoppers through Christmas Eve.

For more information:

Gilbreath Memorial Library in Winnsboro
With Library Director Pam Dumse