Friday, May 14, 2010

What is it about Texas? - Kathleen O'Brien

On paper, I’m a Florida gal, born and bred. But for the past couple of years, as I wrote TEXAS BABY, TEXAS WEDDING and TEXAS TROUBLE, I’ve been in a totally Texas state of mind…or should I say state of heart?

I’ve always known Texas was more than just a place, more than just a spot on the map. It has always held a special glamour for all of us. Its history carries the weight of myth. Its people possess a touch of the truly heroic.

And the men…

Oh, the men. I grew up knowing that the tilt of a cowboy hat could tell you everything about the man beneath. Texas heroes had irresistible, rakish white smiles in wind-tanned faces. They had lean, strong bodies they knew how to use. They weren’t afraid of dirt or hard work. They had profound, almost primal, connections to the land and the horses and the stars. They were courteous and loyal, and they played a mean hand of poker. They drank hard, shot straight, and were unflinchingly kind to little boys, old dogs and widows.

And, of course, they looked like James Dean, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, James Garner, Mel Gibson, and Michael Landon.

Come to think of it, I can’t understand why it took me so long to decide to write a Texas series! And, now that it’s over, I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to this fantastic state.

To celebrate the release of TEXAS TROUBLE, I have been running a contest on my website. (It’s still going…come on by and enter!) I asked my readers to tell me what they love about Texas. The answers have been wonderful. Some of them are echoes of my own feelings, and some have brought fascinating new perspectives.

One reader shared her memories of the great TV shows—“Rawhide,” “Wagon Train,” “Big Valley,” “Bonanza,” “Yancy Derringer,” “Gunsmoke.” Oh…yes! Several mentioned the friendly people and the Southern hospitality. Some were bewitched by the wide open spaces. “It’s a world away.” “It’s hot, hot, hot.” Another reader applauded the Texan’s bigger-than-life passion for life. The Constance O’Banyon books had first turned some readers on to Texas. For others, their first real visit to that state had hooked them forever.

Some reasons were intensely poignant and personal. “I love Books set in Texas because I'm from Texas and so was my late father. For some reason when I read a book set there it reminds me of him.” Some were sassy and fun. “I also like wide open spaces with neighbors miles

away. If you wanted to get naked with your guy outside no one would be around to see you.”

But sooner or later, they all came back to the men. Those Texas tough guys with hearts of gold have, on big screen and small, in books, in our real lives and in our dreams, captured our hearts.

I’d love to hear your favorite cowboy story. Posting here will enter you in the contest, as well. Which cowboy, from the past or from the page, has stolen your heart…and refuses, in spite of everything, to let it go?



Virginia C said...

Hi, Kathleen!

I love, love, love my cowboys and men of the Old West! The love of my life is Sam Elliott : )Sam has no peer as a Western star. Also, his voice alone would make all the seams come loose in your clothes!

Robert Fuller & Robert Horton; James Drury & Doug Mcclure (from "The Virginian"); Peter Breck, Lee Majors, Richard Long (the Barkley brothers from "The Big Valley); The Cartwrights--especially Guy Williams as cousin Will Cartwright (he also had the title role as TV's Zorro and Professor John Robinson in "Lost in Space"); James Garner as "Maverick" or just James Garner; James Arness, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver from "Gunsmoke"; Clint Walker as "Cheyenne"; Lee Horsley from "Paradise". I love them all, and there are just too many more to mention.

However, one of the greatest TV Men of the West was Stuart Whitman as Marshal Jim Crown in "Cimarron Strip". In my opinion, this is one of the best westerns ever put on the screen. The episodes which pitted Stuart Whitman against Richard Boone, whose character called Marshall Crown by the name "Tricky Jim" were outstanding! If you can ever find a sexier lawman than Stuart Whitman, please let me know! Those looks, those eyes, that strut and that voice!

Historical Western Romance is my favorite genre. I love westerns of all kinds. Being a Southerner, I also love Civil War romances and stories set in the South. However, for me, nothing beats a western in its purest form. By that, I mean a stalwart cowboy and his lady, the land, and the life. When a cowboy truly loves, he loves with all his heart, forever. His woman is as cherished as his values, his “cowboy code of honor”. Not always in words, but in deep, deep feelings. Feelings as true as the blue of a Texas bluebonnet.

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

dee said...

Loved this post. I'm a Texan - was raised by em, married em, and love it. As far as the best story, many people know who Benny Binion was - a Texas gambler made famous for his Horseshoe Casino and was the originator of the World Series of Poker. My grandparents knew him back in the day and though he was considered a rough and even murderous type, when my mother got polio in the 1950s and was crippled, he paid for her to get the best treatment possible at the Las Vegas Shriners hospital. He employed my grandparents at his casino during that time and to this day, my mom walks without a cane or any problem(she is 65). Not everyone likes the rough exterior Texans are known for, but the heart of gold can't be overlooked.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Virginia, your comment is so beautifully put I can hardly think of an appropriate response…except maybe….SIGH!!!!

Yes, yes and yes! Those names all make me swoon, and I had to laugh when you said “James Garner as ‘Maverick,’ or just James Garner.” LOL—my sentiments exactly, Virginia!

And here’s my silly secret: When I was a kid, I had a HUGE crush on Richard Boone as Paladin!

Wow. Thanks for making my day even brighter with all these great memories!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Dee, that is the most awesome Texas story ever! I hadn't heard of Benny Binion, but I'm intrigued now, and I'm going to have to look him up!

I bet it's awesome to be a Texan, and have those yummy Texas men in your life from cradle onward! I think you're right that we're hooked on those hearts of gold!

Estella said...

Has to be John Wayne, followed by Sam Elliott.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Oh, my gosh, how could I have written this blog without mentioning John Wayne? He set the standard...everyone else just tries to live up! :) When I was in a college film class, I saw "Stagecoach," and just fell in love. Thanks so much, Estella, for reminding me! And of course Sam Elliott is in a league of his own!

Isn't it amazing how many fabulous cowboys there are?

Virginia C said...

I also adore John Wayne. Not a perfect man, but my goodness, what a man! From what I've seen, read, and heard from his films, and articles and interviews, he was the real deal. I love his older, iconic cowboy image. The scence from True Grit where he takes the horses reins in his mouth, and charges forward, blasting away with two pistols is forever burned in my brain.

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in "The Quiet Man" are as close to perfect as possible. This is one of the most beautiful films ever made, and it is one of my all-time favorites. John and Maureen were the best of friends, and they were always a delight to watch together on film.

If you watch John Wayne in his early films, you will see a very sexy, charming, "look 'em in the eye" kind of guy. What a physique! If he focused his undivided attention on a woman, I think she would have been in big, big trouble! No wonder they called him "Duke" : )

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Kathleen O'Brien said...

So, so true, Virginia! And a big hurray for "The Quiet Man." One of my very favorites, too!

Anonymous said...


Mary Anne Landers said...

Thank you for your post, Kathleen.

Funny you should blog about Texas. Here in Arkansas we tend to regard our neighbor to the southwest as a rival. A friendly rival, of course. The biggest college football rivalry in Arkansas---where there are no pro football teams---is between the Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (my alma mater) and the Longhorns of the University of Texas at Austin. And never underestimate the loyalty of a football fan in this part of the country to his or her favorite team!

Having said all that, yes, cowboys---and westerners in general--- fascinate me. And if they happen to be from Texas, well, that's fine by me too.

I can't recall offhand the titles of western romances I've read. I don't have any on my keepers shelf (yes, I just checked).

During the heyday of TV westerns in the 50s and 60s, I watched a handful of episodes. But as a fan of pre-contemporary movies, I have much clearer memories of my favorite western films.

Three are especially relevent to this discussion because of their romantic themes. One is "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". You've mentioned elsewhere that this is your favorite film, so I don't have to remind you (or most of your blog readers, I bet) of the love story of Robert Redford and Katherine Ross.

Another is "Stagecoach" (1939), in which John Wayne plays an outcast gunslinger and Claire Trevor plays---in the parlance of the period---a "woman of the town". No, that doesn't mean she's an urban sophisticate. In the course of the hazard-filled journey with an ensemble of characters on the title conveyance, these two square pegs discover love and redemption. Their story isn't new, but it's still touching and memorable.

Finally, there's "Duel in the Sun" (1947), David Selznick's romantic saga that wisecracking reviewers dubbed "Lust in the Dust". It's overproduced, overheated, overblown, and over the top---and I love it for those very reasons!

Set on a ranch in old Texas, the plot focuses on Jennifer Jones as what was then called a half-breed---and a sexual loose cannon. She's torn between two brothers: noble-minded Joseph Cotten and rebellious Gregory Peck. No prizes for guessing which one she falls hard for. Trouble ensues, as does much chest-heaving drama---and love scenes that must have just barely squeaked past the Hays Office. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

BookJunkee00 said...

I love Being from Texas, Love reading about the Old West or any story set in Texas makes me want to go back ( I live in phoenix) I have to say John Wayne is my favorite cowboy oh and of course George Strait!!! lol. Great Post here looking forward to reading your books !!

srodriquez1 (at) gmail (dot) (com)

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Mary Ann, what wonderful choices! Yes, you remember correctly...Butch Cassidy is the movie of my heart. Stagecoach, too, was fabulous. I mentioned it earlier, too, as the movie in which I "discovered" the power of John Wayne!

LOL about the football rivalries. I come from Florida, the home of the Florida/Florida State annual slugfest. So you can imagine how easily I can relate to that!

Thanks so much for stopping by. You always have such cogent comments. I love to see your name on my list!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

BookJunkee, I have to say that George Strait can really wear a cowboy hat! :)

I can imagine that your heart will always yearn for Texas. It obviously catches people and holds on tight! Although--I do hear that Phoenix is gorgeous, too.

I'm so glad you stopped by! We seem all to be agreed that John Wayne is The Man!

Virginia C said...

Hi, Kathleen & Mary Ann! I actually watched “Duel In The Sun” and “The Stalking Moon” today. Both are great Westerns starring the “most marvelous” Gregory Peck! I really think that he was one of the more handsome and talented Hollywood stars of all time. Such presence, and that voice! Wonderful cheekbones and delicious dark eyes : ) Mary Ann gave a wonderful description of “Duel In The Sun”. The other film, “The Stalking Moon” was made in 1968. Even though Gregory Peck was in his early fifties in this film, he was just as handsome, with an added ruggedness which was perfect for the role. What I learned in researching “The Stalking Moon” was that Gregory Peck was an extremely strong and athletic man who loved to do his own stunts. He was not only intelligent and scholarly, as he so brilliantly portrayed “Atticus Finch” in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, he was quite physically active!

One of the greatest Western films ever, “The Searchers”, starred John Wayne in one of his finest performances. The film was based on the book of the same name by Alan LeMay, who also wrote “The Unforgiven”, which made into a fine film starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn. I watched “The Unforgiven” last night! It also stars Lillian Gish, Audie Murphy, and Doug McClure. Doug played “Trampas” on the legendary TV Western “The Virginian”, which starred James Drury in the title role. I recently purchased the books on which all three films were based. Leisure Books has reissued “THE CLASSIC FILM COLLECTION”–Amazing novels that inspired the greatest movies of the Western genre!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Virginia, you're too good! Doug McClure was another cowboy I learned to love early in life. I'd completely forgotten his name on "The Virginian"!

Gregory Peck is an actor I revere almost above all others, but I can't think of him as a cowboy. For me, he's Atticus, or he's the hero in "Roman Holiday." His personal dignity and quiet charm are just about as sexy as anything I've ever seen.

What fun! And your movie day sounds awesome, too!

runner10 said...

Love those cowboys!! John Wayne is one of the all-time greats.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Runner, isn't it amazing that one man could impress us all so profoundly? He must truly have had some inner something that mesmerized.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Meg M said...

John Wayne in True Grit and with Maureen O'Hara in McLintock! - just as good as The Quiet Man, although I do love Ireland - High Chaparral, Butch and Sundance, Bonanza, they don't have to be in Texas for me to LOVE those tried and true cowboys! But how come your Texas Trouble man isn't wearing his Stetson? ;-D

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Hi, Meg!

You're so right. "Texas" is more a geography of the spirit than anything on the map. And oh, yes, "True Grit" is wonderful, but, as you suggested, the Irish locations make "The Quiet Man" something special.

Good catch about the cover! Logan Cathcart isn't wearing his Stetson because he's still earning the right to be called a Texan. He's come from another kind of life, hoping he could hide from an unbearable past. But then he falls in love with the rich, off-limits widow of the ranch next door, probably the only woman he'll ever meet who has as much emotional baggage as he does!

Terrific to see you here! Thanks for coming by!

Meg M said...

Wow! Sounds like you have conflict galore in Texas Trouble, Kathleen! Cheers, and happy SALES to you! ;-D

Kathleen O'Brien said...

LOL, Meg. LOVE that! I'll be humming it all day!

Mary said...

Bonanza was the first I remember being totally enthralled with a cowboy. Little John was so darn cute.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Little Joe was adorable! I kind of had a crush on Adam, too, though. Maybe I just thought it made me more interesting to "crush" against the tide. Everyone loved Little Joe best!

I can still hum that theme song from "Bonanza," can't you, Mary? :)

Mary Anne Landers said...

Kathleen and Mary: Dum di-di-dum di-di-dum di-di-dum di-di-dum dum! Yes, I too can still hum the "Bonanza" theme.

Mary would pick Little Joe; Kathleen would pick Adam. But save Hoss for me. Not the obvious choice? That was part of Dan Blocker's appeal!

Anyone dig trivia questions? Try this one. "Hoss" was just a nickname. What was the middle Cartwright boy's real name? No googling! I'll post the answer tomorrow.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

But...but...but I *love* to Google things! Okay, I'll be good. But you mustn't forget tomorrow, or I'll have to hunt it down on my own, now that you've got me curious.

I liked Hoss, too. He was that special kind of sweet, generous of heart, that is its own kind of sexy. And to tell the truth, I always had a tiny thing for Daddy Ben, too! :) Guess that's why the series was so successful. Not a dud in the whole family!

Mary Anne Landers said...

Silly me, I forgot! If you think you know the answer to my "Bonanza" trivia question, "What was Hoss Cartwright's real first name?", you can e-mail me at or Or message me via my Facebook account (I'm the only Mary Anne Landers on FB, at least the last time I looked).

When I post the answer tomorrow, I'll include the names of all the TV/western trivia geniuses who got it right.

Mary Anne Landers said...

Okay, gang; here's the answer to my "Bonanza" trivia question.

Hoss Cartwright's real first name was Eric. Sound unlikely for a nineteenth-century American frontiersman? Not in this case. His mother was a Swedish immigrant, one Inger Borgstrom, who died in an Indian attack when he was little.

My thanks to Virginia C who answered this question correctly, and without googling. She's a "Bonanza" fan from way back, and must know a wealth of trivia about the series.

You can relax now, Kathleen!

Laurie said...

I have to agree with Sam Elliott always loved his lanky good looks and gravely voice!

No cowboy stories. I'm from Wisconsin never see cowboys there.

I like all the stories that are set on ranches and feature real honest guys as ranchers.