A Man in Trouble: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff


James R. Callan introduces Book 4 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles with a sleuth who is an old friend to his readers.

Father Frank, a catholic priest, has long been James R. Callan’s favorite amateur detective in a brilliant series of East Texas cozy mysteries.

We know him.

We believe in him.

He’s a good man.

If you’re in trouble, Father Frank is the one man you want coming to your rescue.

But if you’re guilty, he will find you.

Father Frank is gentle.

He’s relentless.

There is no escape.

His flock needs him.

He never takes time for himself.

But in You Won’t Know How … Or When, book 4 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles, Father Frank is taking a well-deserved break from his pastoral duties.

He’s on his way to the Texas Hill Country to visit an old friend.

A little rest.

A little relaxation.

That’s what he needs.

The peace and quiet doesn’t last long.

Someone is out to get him.

His life is in danger.


James R. Callan

“I’m gonna kill you.”

Father Frank’s mouth dropped open. How do you respond to someone who says that? He doesn’t sound like he’s kidding. Father Frank knew he should reply, but no words came to him. He sounds like he means it.

Before his shocked mind presented him with some comment, the man continued. “I’m gonna eliminate you from this earth.”

Father Frank remained speechless. Several thoughts swirled in his mind: …Why would you do that? What did I do to anger you? Killing someone is against the law; The police will track you down and put you in jail; God is watching you.

But the shock of hearing someone say that in person proved to be too much. It shut down his normal thought process. No words came out his mouth.

His day plunged downhill.


His day had started out much better. He was taking his first vacation in four years and was visiting the Texas Hill Country for the first time ever. Sitting west of Austin and north of San Antonio, its granite hills were more pronounced than the rolling hills around his home base in northeast Texas.

When he’d arrived that afternoon, a little bleary-eyed from the drive, he dropped his bag on the porch, rang the doorbell and surveyed the house as he waited. It was a little larger than his rectory in Pine Tree, but appeared to be older. The church, on the other hand, looked smaller than Prince of Peace, his church back in northeast Texas.

The town of Magnolia Bluff, at least the part he had driven through, lived up to its reputation—beautiful. And true to the publicity of the Hill Country, the wild flowers were stunning and profuse. He smiled. But we have taller trees.

The door opened. “You’re really here.”

Father Frank reached out and grabbed his friend’s hand. “Glad to be here, Lee.”

“Come in, come in.” Father Lee backed up and gestured him in.

Father Frank picked up his duffel bag and followed Father Lee into the house.

Ten minutes later, the two sat in the living room relating much of what had happened since they left the seminary five years ago, ordained as priests in the Catholic Church. Father Frank, after a couple of short stints as an assistant at two large churches, now served as the pastor of Prince of Peace church in Pine Tree. Father Lee had spent his first four years as an assistant at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Fort Worth, before being assigned as pastor of Christ the King Church in Magnolia Bluff.

“I hope this isn’t too much of an imposition, Lee. This is my first vacation since I was ordained and I’ve always wanted to visit the Hill Country. It’s amazing. I’ve lived in Texas all of my thirty-three years but have never been to the Hill Country. My father spent some time here – at least a couple of months – after he retired. He gave the area high praise, particularly the Enchanted Rock and the Cascade Caverns. With you here, it seemed like a good time to venture down.”

“No imposition at all. Been too long since we got together. Can I get you somethin’ to drink?“

“Wouldn’t happen to have a Dr Pepper, would you?”

“Ha. I knew you were comin’ so naturally I’ve got Dr Peppers.” He hopped up. “Keep your seat and I’ll be right back.”

Father Frank looked around the small but neatly furnished living room. A small TV, couch, two easy chairs and a square coffee table. No LazyBoy. He laughed to himself. How can I get inspired here?

Father Lee returned with a Dr Pepper for Father Frank and iced tea for himself. “First let me apologize for your bedroom. It’s small. And worse yet, you have to go through the kitchen and the livin’ room to get to the bathroom. Hope you don’t get up too often during the night.”

“No need to apologize. At Prince of Peace, the rectory has only one bedroom. So, when my sister comes to visit, I give her the bedroom and I sleep in my office. But she cooks great meals when she’s there. So, I consider it a bargain.”

“Boy, I’d love to have my sister come visit and cook. But that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, she’s in the hospital right now.”

“Hospital? I hope it’s not something serious.”

“It was, but she’s okay now. Which brings me to a favor I need to ask of you. If you’re willin’, it would be a tremendous help to me.”

“Not sure how I can help, but just name it.”

Father Lee took a drink of his tea, then leaned toward his guest. “She’s gettin’ out of the hospital today – in Austin. It’d be great if I could go help her.”

“Not a problem. I’ll just explore this beautiful town while you’re gone.”

“Ah, there’s a little more to it than that. I always hear confessions on Saturdays. Could you cover for me tonight?”

Father Frank was already nodding. “Consider it done.”

Father Lee sat back a little, relaxed his hands and released the breath he had been holding. “Thank you. Usually aren’t too many. But I don’t like to cancel. If they feel the need, I hate to let ‘em down.”

“Not a problem.”

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