Tag Archives: Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City remembers


One of the first scenes in The Shadow Tracer takes place at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. I visited the memorial last summer and wrote about it at the time.


Here are a couple of photos I took. They made it into the book. If you’re wondering why Sarah Keller thinks about the mementos left in remembrance at the memorial, this is why.

Oklahoma City: I’m here and I’m talking


Tonight I’ll be talking and signing The Shadow Tracer here in my hometown.

The Shadow Tracer Author Talk
7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
6100 N. May Avenue
Oklahoma City ,OK

The novel is partly set in OKC. So come on out and hear me talk all about it.

Oklahoma City: Road trip part 1

Tomorrow evening I’m speaking in Oklahoma City. I’m going to be telling my hometown about The Shadow Tracer. I’ll be at Barnes & Noble, 6100 May Avenue. That’s Tuesday, July 2nd, at 7 p.m.

So today the Husband and I loaded up the car and we moved to Beverleee… No, wait. We hit the Interstate and headed north from Austin. It’s been a long time since I’ve made this drive, so I was staring out the window like a tourist. Highlights of the journey:

  • We passed Redneck Fireworks & then Rumpy’s Bakery. At which point the Husband announced that he did not want to meet the baker.
  • Just north of Austin we saw a free range bra rolling down I-35. It was red. We swerved.
  • We were rolling through Ft. Worth when, through the magic of my phone and THE INTERNET, I learned that the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has included The Shadow Tracer as one of its Three Books for Summer Reading Lists.
  • I attempted to surf on the hood of the car, raising my arms and making V for Victory signs, shouting, “Thank you, Ft. Worth!” However, the Husband prevented me from climbing out the window while we were going 70 mph on I-35. Spoilsport.
  • Shortly after crossing into Oklahoma, we passed the Stallion Station. Yes, that’s exactly what you think it is.
  • As we drove through southern Oklahoma, the radio station played ’80s rock and made public service announcements in the Chickasaw language.

Now we’re in Oklahoma City. It’s a perfect day under glorious blue skies. But the tornado devastation in Moore is still raw. I’ll have more to say about that later. Everybody is hanging in there, but nature has been violent.

The Shadow Tracer: June-July events

The Shadow Tracer will be published in the US and Canada (yes, Canadians — did you hear that?) on June 27th. Here are the book events on tap for me right now:


The Shadow Tracer US publication launch
June 27, 2013
Book People
603 N Lamar Blvd  Austin, TX 78703
(512) 472-5050
7 p.m. — It’s a book party. Come on down.

Houston: Murder by the Book
The Shadow Tracer: Author Talk
June 28th, 6:30 p.m.
Murder by the Book
2342 Bissonnet Houston, TX 77005
713-524-8597 / 888-424-2842

Oklahoma City
The Shadow Tracer: Author Talk
July 2nd, 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
6100 North May Ave
Oklahoma City, OK 73112

ThrillerFest VIII
July 10-13
Grand Hyatt, New York City

At ThrillerFest I’ll be the panel master for “BOXERS OR BRIEFS? Making Your Attorney Stand Out,” Saturday, July 13 from 9:30 am – 10:20 am. Panelists will be Linda Fairstein, Al Giannini, John Lescroart, John Sheldon, Andy Siegel, and Walter Walker. And if that bunch doesn’t make for a fantastic discussion, nothing will.

I’d love to see you at any of these events.

Oklahoma City: Memory and Resilience

When you walk off the plane in Oklahoma City, the first things you see are windows etched with images of famous Oklahomans — Woody Guthrie, Will Rogers, James Garner. When you get downtown, the “Guardian” stands watch atop the dome of the state capitol, a powerful bronze statue of a Native American warrior. All around you the state’s heritage unfolds — even in the prairie that spreads to all horizons and the enormous skies above. After all, this is Tornado Alley.

It’s also the place whose worst tornado was manmade: the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.

The killers claimed they blew up the building and murdered 168 people out of American patriotism. But they weren’t patriots. They were anarchists and totalitarians. They didn’t believe in “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” They believed they had the godlike right to destroy innocent lives on a massive scale. Timothy McVeigh parked his Ryder truck beneath what he knew was a day care center. He still lit the fuse and walked away. And he had the arrogance to call it war.

I’ve written before, on my blog and in my novels, about extremism and violence. China Lake is about apocalyptic religion. The Liar’s Lullaby is about fringe political paranoia. As I wrote those novels, the Oklahoma City bombing lurked in the back of my mind. Most of my family lives in OKC. My aunt’s car was blown off the road that day by the force of the blast. She escaped with broken bones. Around the corner, every window in my uncle’s office building shattered on the people inside. They were the lucky ones.

In China Lake, Evan Delaney talks about “the turf of the loners, the outsiders, the digital screamers, a territory of inchoate rage and belief in the rectifying power of kerosene mixed with ammonium nitrate fertilizer.” The people who commit such atrocities haven’t gone away. They’re out there, and they want to watch the world burn.

But they don’t have the final word.

Last week when I was in Oklahoma City I went to the memorial, on the site where the Murrah Building stood. I called it research. But it was really a pilgrimage. The memorial is a place to find grace, and it’s harrowing. The reflecting pool and the field of empty chairs are peaceful but haunting. In one corner of the grounds, the remains of the Murrah Building still stand. They’re nothing but concrete, twisted rebar, and blackened plaster that’s charred half an inch deep. Portions of the fence that was installed to protect the bombing site are still in place, and on it people still leave tokens of remembrance: notes, photos, flags, key rings. The baby shoes are the hardest to look at.

The memorial is also a call to action. See this. Feel its impact. So that from here on, you can do something. Offer compassion, reach out, speak up, and realize we’re all in this together.

Not long ago, on the fifteenth anniversary of the bombing, the London Observer ran a moving feature on Oklahoma City. Reporter Ed Vulliamy wrote:

There was something unique about Oklahoma City’s response to the bombing, which one sensed immediately at the time. The Okies love where they live with good reason: theirs is probably the least pretentious city in the world. They have down-to-earth decency, a rugged decorum, easy-going diligence. These characteristics came into play in the hour of horror, loss and need.

That captures it. My grandmother, Margaret Love, was a lifelong Oklahoman. She raised seven kids in Oklahoma City and helped found the volunteer league at St. Anthony Hospital, where I was born. She worked there every Wednesday for forty years. At her funeral in 2005, a group of several dozen people, mostly women in their seventies and eighties, came to the church wearing their bright red St. Anthony volunteer vests. In the church, some out-of-towners smiled at the cheerful sight. I could almost hear them thinking, Isn’t that sweet.

But they didn’t know. They didn’t understand that those women, who looked gray and fragile and soft, were veterans. Those women had been at the hospital that day. St. Anthony is walking distance from where the Murrah Building stood, and it’s where most of the victims were taken after the bombing. Those women had found themselves in the middle of an unimaginable mass casualty attack — and didn’t flinch. They stood up, and did whatever needed doing, all day, all night, for as long as it took. My grandmother stayed at the hospital ferrying supplies, ferrying people, answering phones, until midnight. She was 84. She told me she’d never felt as despondent about humanity as she did that day, yet at the same time so inspired by people’s selflessness — women and men from all over the city, the state, and the country phoned to ask what they could give: food, blankets, their own blood?

And at the church years later, the volunteers didn’t say anything. They didn’t brag. They came in solidarity with my grandmother. They came to salute a sister.

Today, when you’re in OKC, locals will quietly suggest you visit the memorial. It’s always there, an ache in the city’s heartbeat. But it’s not what the city is about. Nowadays the noise downtown comes from fans around the court, cheering for the Thunder. The basketball arena is the place where Oklahomans get loud. And as usual, they’re doing it to support a team.

Thunder up.

Tonight: Barnes & Noble Oklahoma City

This evening I’ll be speaking and signing at Barnes & Noble on May Avenue in Oklahoma City. Book events always get me pumped up, but tonight’s event is special because OKC is where I was born. And all my family is here. And they might show up en masse, which means (1) the feud, and (2) if you show up as well, you’ll have an excellent chance to worm embarrassing stories out of them about me.

I’ll be talking about Ransom River, which has now been loose in the wild for ten days. And it has spread everywhere. Last night I checked, and the Barnes & Noble here has corraled a bunch of copies, which are all waiting for happy homes.

And to reward folks who take the time to come out and hear me, I’m going to have a surprise or two during my talk. So if you want to find out stuff about my writing you won’t hear anyplace else… for another year or so… tonight’s your chance.

July 16: Book talk and signing
7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
6100 N May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK
Phone: 405.843.9300

Upcoming events: Thrillerfest, Oklahoma City

I have a couple of events coming up in the next ten days. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, I’d love to see you. If you have a copy of Ransom River, I’d love to sign it, then hoist you on my shoulders and run around showing you off, shouting, “See? See what happens when people buy my books?” And you would pump your fists in the air, cheering wildly. You would not grab fistfuls of my hair while hanging on and yelling for help, not at all.

Anyway. If you’re in New York City:

July 11-14
New York City
Panel: “How Do You Create Suspense on Every Page?” Saturday July 14 10:30-11:20 a.m.

And if you’re in the fine state of Oklahoma (that is, my home state):

Oklahoma City
Monday July 16: Book signing: 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
6100 N May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73112
Phone: 405.843.9300

Note: if you come to the OKC event, you’ll likely run into a ton of my relatives. This will be your chance to find out the truth about my childhood, once and for all.

When research freaks me out

Look at the map below. Take a moment. Tell me if anything seems odd. Peculiar. Weird. Gobsmackingly freaky.

See all those landmarks, and suburbs, and neighborhoods? On this map, they include a place labeled “Watchful Eyes.”


Here’s the street view photo, taken at the center of that supposed place. I see nothing besides the sorts of neat white wooden houses that populated the neighborhoods where I lived in OKC as a small child.

Can anybody help me figure out what’s going on with this? I do not believe Oklahoma City has a neighborhood called Watchful Eyes. And the only reference I can find to that phrase comes from this ten-year-old much derided poster by Transport for London ( “Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes” of CCTV cameras on city buses). Who’s playing funny with Google maps?