When I left New York City Sunday morning, I could barely see the sky. 60 story skyscrapers were blocking my view. 1,500 miles later I stepped off my flight to feel like the blue was about to swallow me. Oklahoma City spills across the southwestern prairie beneath a sky that seems too large to be contained.
Luckily it was cloudless. The airport has tornado shelters every hundred yards.
Then I saw the monster trucks, and the Red Dirt Saloon, and the windows filled with signs saying THUNDER UP. I turned on the TV and immediately saw commercials for the symphony and the rodeo. What a place to call my home town.
I was born in Oklahoma City. My family here goes back generations — they got here via the land rush and the Trail of Tears. My grandparents had a farm on Route 66. You want to know why so many characters in the Evan Delaney series talk with a twang, or grew up near a bluebonnet-covered meadow in Shawnee? That’s why.
So around these parts I have cousins by the busload. And when I scheduled an event at an OKC Barnes & Noble to talk about Ransom River, I was hoping some of them would turn up. And that none of them would heckle me.
They did turn up, along with a great crowd of people who weren’t even related to me. And everybody behaved. However, the relatives wanted to know who the characters in my thrillers “really” are. I told them: nobody. And that’s the truth — I make it all up.
Besides, do you think I’m going to reveal that anyone in my family is the basis for:
- Rory Mackenzie’s cousins, who hate her as much as they love money
- Evan’s cousin who holds lingerie parties and ends up leaving an FBI agent hogtied to a bed, stark naked
- The pint-sized assassin in a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform
- The crazed preacher who ends up head-down in a trash can, cowboy boots protruding?
If so, you’ve forgotten that I was a lawyer, and know the definition of libel. My books are fiction. F-I-C-T-I-O-N. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But the crowd might not have believed me. They bought every copy of my books in the store.
And that makes Oklahoma City one of my favorite book events of all time.
And by the way, the ads that show up when you Google “hogtie” to doublecheck the spelling are… eye-popping.
Now excuse me, but a severe thunderstorm warning just interrupted the news, so I’ve got to figure out how to become a stormchaser.