Owner-operator pens literary novel about Rangers in turmoil in Civil War Texas
Greatwide-leased owner-operator Bob Grantham, based in San Antonio, Texas, calls the evocative writing in his Collinstown novel an “unintended consequence of being a truck driver.” At least in part, anyway.
Out now from Treble Heart Books under the pen name Robert Neal, the novel follows the intertwining lives of a current and former Texas Ranger just at the outbreak of the Civil War. Bob Cory, the elder former Ranger, is on his way back to Texas to restart his life serenely after a violent past when he has a chance encounter with an old friend and colleague in current Ranger Tom Daniels, a man on the verge of a future of divided loyalty to state and country.
It’s a captivating read, with literary debts owed to Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) and Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men) and historical nods given to the work of Texas historian T.R. Fehrenbach. Grantham traces the book’s roots straight back the pages of Truckers News. Working as a company driver for J.B. Hunt in the early 1990s (he first became an owner-operator, leasing to Clarksville Refrigerated Lines out of Dallas, in 2002), Grantham placed as honorable mention in the magazine’s Mark Twain writing contest, his story being published alongside the winners.
He’d had prior experience writing and publishing a monthly magazine in the Army as an analyst for the Army intelligence unit of which he was part for eight-and-a-half years. He took creative writing in college afterward and “had an article published in that time,” he says, later writing extensive technical reports for Fisher-Webb Oil through the late 1980s before he began trucking.
But “after Truckers News published that article, I really got fired up about writing and I’ve been at it ever since,” he says.
Trucking has facilitated his output. “I was never one of those people who was in love with trucking,” he says. “I did it [and do it] for the money.” After working in the Texas oil fields before prospects in the business went dim in the 1980s, Grantham “looked for a job for two years” before taking to the highway. But the deeper he got into the long-haul life, the more able he was to put time on the road alone to fair use, making it “time to work on my book,” he says. “You’re out here and you’re just drifting, and you have a lot of free time to go over and over things in your mind. And it really helps that you have that time alone. You can’t write a book with people standing over your shoulder. It’s almost impossible to do, if you’re at home. Trucking has been a great way to really get that time alone.”
What’s next for the owner-operator/author? He’s got two other literary novels in the can, and one is being edited for publication at present. “Anytime I have free time, I’m on my laptop working on it,” he says. “I love it. It’s a great time. It’s really something to see something you’ve totally created come into print.”
Find links to Collinstown’s Amazon order pages ($13.50 in print, $7 in Kindle edition) at robertneal.info. (The origin of Grantham’s pen name is pretty simple, FYI. Neal is his middle name.)
Happiness There’s no other way to describe this picture of Virginia Kirk, general manager of the TravelCenters of America C-store and fuel islands in Nashville, Tenn., taken during the location’s grand reopening in March. It’s “awesome” to be back up and running, she told me, after the store endured floodwaters of several feet in May 2010 and was closed for nine months. For more reporting from the grand opening, including a photo gallery of the newly redesigned Music-City-themed stop and its flooding as well as video, see the Truckers News online video queue and the Feb. 15 and March 8 entries on the Channel 19 blog: www.overdriveonline.com/channel19.