Deadline News by Caleb Pirtle III
He got the era and tone of the book exactly as I have come to expect in great stories of the time.
DURING THE EARLY DAYS of the 1930s, a publisher and his young daughter become the conscience of a little town whose peace and serenity have been shattered by a brutal murder.
Everyone’s a suspect.
But no one has a motive.
The publisher only wants to turn out his weekly newspaper on time but discovers himself digging deep through the secret layers of the town to find love he thought had abandoned him forever and a killer that no jury would ever convict.
About Caleb Pirtle III:
Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than sixty-five books. He is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He served as sports editor for The Daily Texan and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing.
He began his career in the newspaper business, working with the Plainview Daily Herald and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, winning both the Texas Associated Press and Headliner’s Awards.
When Governor John Connally began the Texas Tourist Development Agency, he named Pirtle as his chief of media relations, which introduced Pirtle to the world of travel. He left Texas to become the travel editor of Southern Living Magazine for a decade, capturing the Discover America Award three times. At Southern Living, he wrote three books – The Unending Season, XIT: The American Cowboy, and The Grandest Day, all Southeastern Library Association award winners. He wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.
Pirtle served as editorial director for Dockery House Publishing in Dallas for twenty-five years, developing and producing books and magazines for the corporate and retail marketplace.
He has written three teleplays: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, a mini-series for CBS television, Wildcat: The Story of Sarah Delaney and the Doodlebug Man, for a CBS made-for-television movie, and The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for John Milius and TNT.
An Excerpt from Deadline News:
The headline on the newspaper that hit the streets the next morning had been boiled down to a single word.
My only regret was not having larger type.
The lead paragraph was simple as well.
They said it couldn’t be done. Dad did it.
The story filled up most of the front page of the newspaper, and it carried only the basic facts.
Almost two thousand had gathered around the Daisy Bradford Number 3 to watch the well come in. Some said more. Some said less. I rounded off the estimates.
The gusher blew oil over the crown of the derrick.
The crowd cheered wildly, and danced in a rain that was warmed by the heat of raw oil pouring from the back furnace of hell itself.
On test, the well ran fifty-two barrels in seventeen minutes.
Men went to sleep beset with poverty and woke up rich and didn’t yet know it.
And I quoted old Dad Joiner, as he leaned against the derrick, his face and clothes stained black: “I always dreamed it. I never believed it.”
Down near the bottom, I placed two other stories on the front page.
The first said: Charges this morning were dropped against Wade Walker in the shotgun slaying of Miss Pauline Carter, who was well known throughout the community as the proprietor of the downtown boarding house. The boarding house burned to the ground only days after her murder.
The second article was one column and three short sentences: The Advocate has learned from Sheriff Tatum Bond that he has uncovered recent evidence that a former roustabout from Wyoming has become his lead suspect in the unsolved murder of Miss Carter. He said the evidence was found in the possession of Miss Valerie Hamilton, who is presently in the employment of Miss Maizie Thompson. The information provided by Miss Hamilton assisted the Sheriff in uncovering the shotgun believed to be the murder weapon.
I wrote it, but I wondered if it was the same shotgun he had planted and retrieved from the home of Wade Walker. All I knew was that I would ever know.
The Sheriff and I had talked it over, sometime after midnight, sometime after A. Jay had gone to bed, sometime after Jenny had gone home alone again, sometime after he picked up a bottle of whiskey from Herb Smooley’s back door.
I don’t drink.
He poured me a glass.
I drank, and when I emptied the glass, he filled it again. I didn’t object.
“What are you gonna do about Doc?” I asked.
“We all do what we have to do,” the Sheriff said. “Doc’s no different from the rest of us.”
“He killed her.”
“No,” the Sheriff said, “he killed her pain.”
“He used a shotgun, for God’s sake.”
“Quick. Sudden. Unexpected. She was asleep,” the Sheriff said. “No one has any more compassion or shows any more mercy than Doc.” He shrugged. “He showed a little mercy that night.”
“So you’re all right with it,” I said.
The Sheriff paused and looked out at the night. It was still raining, but not as hard. He poured another glass of whiskey and drank it straight.
“I am,” he said. “We need Doc. We can get us another one of them store-bought medical doctors in Henderson, but the town needs Doc.”
He stood up and stretched. The cigar had gone out an hour ago.
“Besides,” The Sheriff said, “we don’t want Doc to go to trial.”
“He’d want to testify.”
“What’s wrong with that?’
The Sheriff grinned. “Doc knows every secret in town,” he said. “You don’t want Doc spilling out his secrets. We’d all have to leave.”
I shook my head and eased out of the chair.
The room wasn’t nearly as steady as it has been.
“I don’t have any secrets,” I said.
The Sheriff slapped me on the back as shuffled awkwardly toward the door. “You may not know what they are,” he said, “but Doc does.”
He was laughing when he walked out into the night.
I could hear him still laughing at the far end of the street.
I looked at my reflection in the window.
I didn’t like the man looking back at me.
How did Doc know?
I didn’t know anyone knew.
How could he?
My past lay in an unknown grave that had no marker and no name. Only a cold wind came to blow across a forgotten patch of ground that had been beaten flat by time, the weather, and regret.