Name: Caleb Pirtle III
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Degree: Journalism from The University of Texas
Career: Newspaper Reporter, Magazine Editor, Publisher, Novelist, Screenwriter
LET CALEB PIRTLE III PRESENT YOUR NEXT PROGRAM OR WRITING WORKSHOP.
NOVELIST * SCREENWRITER *PUBLISHER
WINNER OF THE BEST IN TEXAS BOOK AWARD
AND THE BEVERLY HILLS BOOK AWARD
FOR HISTORICAL FICTION
CONTACT CALEB PIRTLE III FOR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than eighty books, including four noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark, and Place of Skulls. Secrets and Conspiracy are now audiobooks on audible.com.
Pirtle has written three novels in the Boom Town Saga: Back Side of a Blue Moon, Bad Side of a Wicked Moon, and Lost Side of an Orphan’s Moon. The three novellas in the Man on the Run series are Lovely Night to Die, Rainy Night to Die, and Lonely Night to Die. He has also written Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever and Last Deadly Lie, as well as Whodunit: The Adverb Looks guilty. It is everything Pirtle suspects about writing.
He is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best-selling art book of all time at the time of its publication.
Pirtle has written three teleplays: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, a mini-series for CBS television starring Kenny Rogers, Loni Anderson, Dixie Carter, and Mariska Hargitay, Wildcat: The Story of Sarah Delaney and the Doodlebug Man, a CBS made-for-television movie, and The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for John Milius and TNT television.
He wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.
Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.
Magnolia Bluff waits.
May twenty-third is coming.
Somebody always dies on May twenty-third.
No one knows.
A killer walks in the shadows.
The killer is ready to strike again.
The Man Who Talks to Strangers: A Memoir of Sorts
Caleb Pirtle III has traveled down many back roads and dead-end streets during his writing career as newspaperman, magazine editor, and author. He collects people. More accurately, he collects their stories. Some call him a writer. He calls himself a thief. He says, “I steal their stories, write, and publish them.”
He has written a memoir of sorts about many of those whose paths he crossed – from the down and out to national celebrities, from country music stars to death row inmates, from hitmen and lawyers to farmers who struck it rich when the oil fields broke the Great Depression that gripped East Texas.
You will find a mesmerizing collection of the famous, the notorious, the unknown. Pirtle’s stories will make you laugh and cry and feel good about mankind. Some are hard-edged. Some prick and warm the heart. He says, “What happens is never as important as the people who make it happen,” and those in his memoir are not easy to forget. As one reviewer said, “His writing reads like short stories of literary fiction. They’re not quite like anything you’ve read before.”
Pirtle believes his whole life has hinged on one simple fact. He’s the man who talks to strangers wherever he happens to find them.
Secrets of the Dead
AMBROSE LINCOLN is one of the government’s prized operatives, a trained assassin, a man whose past is continually erased by mind control tactics and shock treatments. His days have no meaning. He no longer fears death. As far as he is concerned, a man without a memory is a man who’s already dead.
From Germany come rumors of a mad man threatening to rule Europe and maybe the world. On the Night of Broken Glass, his brown shirts and storm troopers move into Baden-Baden and begin their methodical termination of the Jews.
In America, so far away, the violence is nothing more than a protest over a Jewish boy who murdered a German diplomat because the Third Reich had removed and maybe killed his family. It was simply a case of vandalism that got out of hand. No one is concerned, and the American government wants to keep it that way. No one in Washington wants to go to war with Hitler, and President Roosevelt continues to preach neutrality. But word is leaked that one Jewish photographer took pictures of the rampage of brutality and murder that night. He was killed, but his daughter is in hiding with the film.
Ambrose Lincoln is dispatched to Baden-Baden with one charge. Find the film and bring it back. It will tell the truth. It will uncover the lies. The photographs will reveal to the world the sadistic threat that exists for everyone if Hitler’s mad march isn’t stopped. His mission is to uncover the deadly secrets that his own government doesn’t want him to find, secrets that can change history.
Conspiracy of Lies
IT WAS THE RACE for the bomb. America was at war a long way from home.
Hitler’s war machine was storming across Europe. Russia feared the German threat and secretly wanted to become a world power, more feared than it already was.
All three nations knew that whoever split the atom and developed the Atomic Bomb first would rule the world.
A stealth operation within the U. S. Government dispatched their man with no memory to Los Alamos where physicists, chemists, and scholars were frantically trying to build the bomb.
Ambrose Lincoln was himself a human experiment, a man whose mind had been erased by electronic shock treatments because the rogue operation believed he could be more effective if he wasn’t shackled by fears and memories of the past.
It would be his duty to uncover and silence those who were stealing America’s most vital secrets and selling them to Russia and Germany.
If he fails the United States might well lose the war, and Lincoln finds himself embedded in a conspiracy of lies where nothing is as it seems to be.
Night Side of Dark
AMERICAN OPERATIVE Ambrose Lincoln has no idea where he is or has been or where he is going.
He believes he has been to the night side of dark, a place of the first death, from which no one can return.
So why does he find himself on the bomb-ruined landscape of Poland, or has he been exiled to the second death?
Lincoln only realizes, if the man in the shadows has not lied to him, he must find an ancient religious painting that has been missing for centuries.
The German Gestapo will pay a fortune to buy it, or take a man’s life to get it.
The painting, if legend holds true, is the German hierarchy’s final and only chance to escape the onslaught of the war that is crumbling around their feet.
The painting is a tear in time through which man can escape this world and enter another.
Place of Skulls
A MAN WITH no known past and no name has been dispatched to the deserts, ghost towns, and underbelly of drug-infested Mexico to uncover a secret that could forever change the scope and teachings of Christianity.
A DEA agent has written that he possesses the unmistakable and undeniable proof that Christ did indeed return to earth again and walk the land of the Aztecs almost fifteen hundred years after his crucifixion on the cross. But has the agent found a relic? An artifact? A long-lost manuscript of the written Word? No one knows, and the agent dies before he can smuggle the secret out of an empty grave.
Ambrose Lincoln can’t dig past the charred fragments of his memory, but he must unravel the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the white-skinned, blue-eyed, god figure whose sixteenth-century ministry, death, resurrection, and mystical promise to return someday to gather up his people closely parallels the Biblical story of the man called Christ. Is Quetzalcoatl merely a myth, or was he Christ himself?
Lincoln’s quest to find the answers, he becomes involved in a rogue CIA plot to invade Mexico and wage an unholy war on drugs, financed by operatives working for Hitler’s Germany. He finds himself pursued by the same mysterious assassin who struck down the DEA agent.
Does the artifact actually exist? Who possesses it now? Lincoln battles an unseen and unknown enemy in an effort to survive long enough to discover the truth. If he doesn’t, he knows that death awaits him on the desert sands of a land held sacred for centuries by the mysterious and holy ones.
Back Side of a Blue Moon
WINNER OF 2018 THE BEST IN TEXAS BOOK AWARD
AND THE BEVERLY HILLS BOOK AWARD
FOR HISTORICAL FICTION
TIMES ARE HARD along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.
Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim-flam man. The Sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.
Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.
She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?
As one reviewer wrote: “This story set in a small town in East Texas in the Great Depression should go down as a classic in American literature.”
Bad Side of a Wicked Moon
WINNER OF THE BEST OF TEXAS BOOK AWARD
FOR HISTORICAL MYSTERY
LOVE, LAW, AND JUSTICE come to boom town Texas.
The discovery of oil has broken the stranglehold the Great Depression had on a dying East Texas town. Strangers are pouring into Ashland.
Where there is oil, there are jobs, as well as con artists, thieves, scalawags, and at least one murderer.
One stranger drives a hearse. But who is he, and why is he found hanging from the crown block of an oil derrick.
The Sheriff might solve the mystery. It’s his job. But he’s discovered shot to death on his own drilling rig.
No one in town is above suspicion. But who has a deadly motive?
Eudora Durant is the most beautiful widow in town. She’s also the richest.
With the charming con man Doc Bannister at her side, she risks everything to bring law and justice to a struggling boom town even if she has to personally keep an innocent man from being sentenced to the electric chair.
Lost Side of an Orphan’s Moon
THE BRILLIANTLY CONCEIVED historical mystery will forever change the way you look at those who endured and survived hard times when the discovery of oil breathed hope into communities that were dying from burnt crops and wilted cotton stalks.
As one reviewer said the award-winning Boom Town Saga, “Combine The Grapes of Wrath and maybe a little Huck Finn and perhaps you will understand the magnitude of this story set in a small town in East Texas in the Great Depression. It should go down as a classic in American literature.”
An oil boom has broken the back of the Great Depression. A small East Texas town is awash with new names and new faces, and no one knows whose eyes belong to the man who carried a lovely fancy dancer from the ballroom of a Sporting House into the darkness of a rainy night and killed her.
Was it a crime of passion? Did she reject him?
Was it someone from her past?
Or was he as unfamiliar as the next roustabout or drifter walking the streets?
A preacher has set up the tent for his traveling Love and Salvation Show on the road beside the courthouse. A strange hunchback with a voice of doom casts an uneasy shadow across the town. Where did he come from? Nobody knows.
Men are spending their hard-earned money with dime-a-dance girls, looking for love, a wife, or something more sinister. Everyone has a secret. Whose secret sent the lovely Louise Fontaine to a muddy grave?
And who is the small boy who stepped off the train with a paper note attached to his coat that said: My name is Ollie Porter. My daddy is Oliver Porter. He works in the oilfields. Does anyone know where he is? Is the boy connected to the fancy dancer or, perhaps, the killer? Or is he just a waif in search of a home?
Ashland is a town without law. It is threatening to explode from the mass of humanity crowding into the oilfield. Is the death of the fancy dancer only the first? And can Doc, the charming and lovable con man, and Eudora, the beautiful widow, catch a killer before they find out who’s the next to die?
Lonely Night to Die
LONELY NIGHT TO DIE is a collection of three noir thriller novellas in a single volume. The stories follow the exploits of Roland Sand, the Quiet Assassin, who has broken away from a rogue agency within the CIA.
His missions are those no one else wants to tackle.
The reason is simple.
Sand is expendable.
If he doesn’t return, he won’t be missed.
His name is erased. It’s as though he never existed.
Lovely Night to Die: Why should she fall in love with a man she defended in court?
Does she know he’s a CIA assassin?
Does she know he has orders to kill the President?
Does she know she will die if he fails?
What else doesn’t she know?
Sand can’t afford to fail. He doesn’t want to lose the girl he loves.
But can he save the President and her both?
He has a second to make up his mind.
“Great characters, superb pacing, intriguing storytelling. Recommended for fans of solid action thrillers everywhere. – Review by Enrico Graffiti
Rainy Night to Die: Sand is sent to Ukraine to smuggle out a beautiful lounge jazz singer who, for years, has been smuggling Russian secrets back to MI-6’s home office in Great Britain.
Her contact in London has been compromised.
He is found floating in the Thames River.
Sand must extricate Pauline Bellerose before the Russians trace the stolen secrets back to her and place a noose around her neck.
He has twenty-four hours to find the singer and remove her to safety.
If she is caught, she dies.
It’s a frantic race to a waiting ship off the coast of Ukraine.
Death waits around every bend in the road.
“With numerous clever twists and turns to the story, it will keep you reading until the unexpected surprise at the end.” –Review by Jackie Taylor Zortman
Lonely Night to Die: Sand awakens on a park bench in town he’s never seen before.
How did he get there?
He doesn’t know.
Who is the beautiful girl on the bench beside him?
He doesn’t know.
But she’s quite dead, and he has no idea who killed her.
But he’ll find out if it’s the last thing he ever does.
It might well be.
Whodunit? The Adverb Looks Guilty
I grew up in a world of storytellers and have spent a lifetime writing stories. I’ve poured words into newspapers, magazines, made-for-television movies, documentaries, motion pictures, and books, both fiction and nonfiction. If it weren’t for words, I’d have no life at all.
Whodunit: The Adverb Looks Guilty is everything I suspect about writing, including my own observations about the trials and triumphs of the writing life. The book is, in reality, a memoir, a writing primer filled with tips, advice, thoughts, and information passed on by my Muse, and my characters, as well as ideas stolen from the masters of literature.
Come share my frustrations, disappointments, and those wonderful moments when the words are snatched out of the air where they have been waiting all along, and the right noun, for a change, is slammed hard against the right verb, and I can sleep that night knowing all is right with the world.
The most damning two words in writing are The End. It means I have to begin all over again and plow the fields of my memories for stories that my mama said would be better off untold.
Pirtle’s stories reveal a behind the scenes look at humanity in all its splendor and all its flaws. But most of all, the stories speak of a people’s strength, determination, and a passion that endures throughout the good times and the bad. – Author S.S Bazinet
Last Deadly Lie
A WOMAN IS desperately in love. A woman is scorned. A woman is betrayed. Someone will pay a terrible price.
Last Deadly Lie is a chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered too long in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death.
The story cuts deep into the anger and anguish that boils deep inside the congregation of a Presbyterian Church, as the pastor battles back against gossip – or maybe the truths – of those who are committed to having him removed from the pulpit at any cost. All are caught in a crossfire of vengeance that is fought behind closed doors with sex, bribery, blackmail, and murder.
Friends are forever wedged apart by the turmoil. Generations of conflict erupt with violence. And a maddening horror grips the lives of innocents who become as demonic as the Satan they curse with their nightly prayers.
Borger: Last Dance at Sundown
Out on a wild and lonely patch of prairie land in the Texas Panhandle, amidst the coyotes, whirling dervishes, horned toads, and rattlesnakes, a single wooden oil derrick birthed the boomtown of Borger.
Asa Borger was a visionary. Or maybe he was just a gambling man. But he could see the distant parade of civilization marching toward an oilfield, and surely when they came, the wildcatters, roughnecks, and roustabouts would need to place to hold their homes and take their money. They needed a town. Asa Borger built them one.
The town, his namesake, was as tough, as harsh, as wild as the Godforsaken land around it, a den of corruption and iniquity, fueled in 1926 by the largest oil strike in Texas, a land known for its big oil and big rich.
The unpaved streets of Borger were lined with dance halls and gambling parlors and brothels. Bootleggers made more money than oilmen. Want a girl for the night? Want a man killed? It cost about the same. Borger was known as the “Sodom of the Plains,” the “Wickedest Town in Texas.”
It took the Texas Rangers to tame it and Martial Law with the Texas National Guard to bring some measure of law and order to its wayward and nefarious ways.
It’s finally time to tell the true story of historical Borger as seen through the eyes of early day newspapermen who wrote about a strange array of eccentric and often villainous characters walking the streets of a boomtown.
Lovely Night to Die
Roland Sand has killed two government operatives sent to execute him. He is arrested and represented in court by a beautiful young public defender, Eleanor Trent. Their eyes connect. So do their hearts, but both keep their feeling buried deep inside them.
Eleanor does not know that Sand is an assassin for a rogue intelligence agency that sells its deadly services to foreign nations as well as to its own country. He has angered his chief, the one-eyed Bohemian, by refusing to kill an accountant who accidentally saw the details of a top-secret mission. Sand sees no reason why an innocent man should die.
The Bohemian’s agents kidnap Sand and take him from the Durango, Colorado, jail. He is given one chance to redeem himself. He must carry out the assignment to assassinate the President of the United States. It is a mission sanctioned from inside the United States government.
Eleanor is furious, and she is frightened. She has lost cases before. But never has she lost a client. In desperation, he calls Navy SEAL Commander Patrick Hurt to help her track down the missing Roland Sand. She handled a case for one of Hurt’s friends years earlier, and he said she could count on him if she ever needed him.
At Midway Airport, Sand awaits the arrival of Air Force One. The President comes down the steps, and Sand sees Eleanor in the greeting committee. He is told, “Kill the President or we kill the lady.” He has only a second to make up his mind. And Hurt knows, if necessary, he must kill Sand to save the President.
Rainy Night to Die
ROLAND SAND IS the quiet assassin. His missions for intelligence agencies are those no one else wants to tackle. The reason is simple. Sand is expendable. If he doesn’t return, he won’t be missed. His name is erased. It’s as though he never existed.
Sand is sent to Ukraine to smuggle out a beautiful lounge jazz singer who, for years, has been smuggling Russian secrets back to MI-6’s home office in Great Britain. Her contact in London has been compromised. He is found floating in the Thames River. Sand must extricate Pauline Bellerose before the Russians trace the stolen secrets back to her and place a noose around her neck.
He has twenty-four hours to find the singer and remove her to safety. If she is caught, she dies.
A ship is waiting in the fog off the coast of Odessa. Time is running out. He must reach the ship at the appointed hour, or it will leave without them. In the secret world of espionage, the window of escape is narrow and closing all the time. The midnight storm is the only place to hide.
The Russians are waiting on the road to the sea. Sand can’t outrun them. He can’t outfight them. He must outwit them. Otherwise, he’s trapped, and it’s a rainy night to die.
Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk
IN THE MID-1970s, a band of men with little expertise in the oilfield defied the hard ground of Giddings, Texas, to search for oil in barren, poverty-stricken land that was littered with dry holes, shattered hopes, and empty pockets.
Max Williams, the former hot-shot basketball player at SMU, and Irv Deal had been in high-dollar real estate until the real estate market collapsed. Both were facing the wrath of hard times.
Pat Holloway was a lawyer who operated drilling funds but had never tested the ill-fated Austin Chalk. He drilled the most and earned the most but lost it all in the shady confines of a Dallas courtroom.
Jimmy Luecke was a highway patrolman who stopped Holloway for speeding one night and promised not to take him to jail if the lawyer/oilman would agree to drill on his family’s land.
Bill Shuford was right out of college and more interested in finding the next beer joint than his next job.
Jim Dobos was a constable who used his badge to lease land, struck it rich, and was found with a gunshot in his head. Was it murder or suicide?
Clayton Williams was the only big-time oilman in the bunch, but in the beginning, he made the mistake of employing the wrong geologist.
Only those who used the geologic genius of Ray Holifield found oil. Holifield had cracked the code of the chalk.
Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is the true story of their fights, their feuds, their trials, their tribulations, and their triumphs as they discovered the second-largest oilfield in the United States during the past half-century. Once they came, Giddings would never be the same again.
Confessions from the Road
I GREW UP in a world occupied by storytellers. Their stories were better than books. Their stories became books. After all, life is just one story piled on top of another with page numbers.
In those days, storytellers did not know they were telling stories. They were simply carrying on a conversation. I never outgrew their stories. Nor did I ever stop listening to conversations that hopscotched their way along the side of a wayward road.
The voices stay with me. So do the stories they told me.
The voices may come from down the road a piece, at the counter of a diner, on the bar stool in a beer joint, sitting in the front yard of a mountain cabin, along a stretch of spun-sugar sand, back in the darkness of a pine thicket, amidst the downtown traffic jam of a city at sundown, or from the faint memories of a distant past.
Everyone who crosses my path has a story to tell. It may be personal. It may be something that happened last week or the year before. It may have been handed down for more than a single generation. It may even be true, but who knows anymore?
For decades I’ve collected the stories I hear and can’t forget those whose names are often long forgotten. But at one time in my life, they came my way, and I wrote down their confessions from the road.
Never Afraid, Never a Doubt
Hershel Kimbrell served as head basketball coach at McMurry University for thirty-one years, winning 448 games and being named to the NAIA Hall of Fame.
His teams were mostly too small, too short, and too slow, perhaps, but they were the giant slayers, defeating top-ranked programs for one reason.
Coach Kimbrell taught his players they were better than they were, and they believed him.
Never Afraid, Never A Doubt is the biography of a man who believed in building winners.
And it had little to do with the scoreboard.
The Speaking Gig
Pirtle is rapidly gaining recognition for his humorous and inspirational programs and workshops developed for writer’s conferences and writing groups that are working to better understand the advantages of creative writing and publishing in the midst of the digital eBook revolution
Pirtle teaches fiction and nonfiction writing classes at Tyler Junior College’s continuing education program. He is presently available to present programs at colleges, writer’s conferences, writer’s organizations, association meetings, chambers of commerce, civic organizations, schools, historical associations, and libraries. See below for a list of past speaking engagements.
Keynote Address: Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference
Workshop: Silver Leos Writers Conference
East Texas Christian Writers Conference
North East Texas Writers Association
Red River Valley Writers Association
Holly Lake Book Club
Texas Poetry Association
Tyler Literary Book Club
Bankhead Highway Film Festival, Mount Vernon
Bankhead Highway Film Festival, Garland
Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation
East Texas Historical Association
East Texas Writers Guild
East Texas Writers Association
Rose City Writers Association
Tyler Newcomers Association
Rotary Club, Jacksonville, Texas
Sam’s Club: First Presbyterian Church in Tyler, Texas
Book Talk, Overton, Texas
I have also spoken at these events:
Governors Conferences in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho, California.
National Association of Travel Organizations
Discover America Association
Society of American Travel Writers
Discover Texas Association