Twisted Texan author coming to Sherman
BY K. MCSTAY
Rich Mussler is pretty sure that some people buy his books just for the title. The author of the "Twisted Texan" short story collections doesn't mind, though. After his first book of short stories, Tales of the Twisted Texan, was published, he quickly put out another, "Twisted Texan and Other Stories." As the stories progressed, the focus of the book became a senior U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, so much so that the second book focuses primarily on said agent, and those individuals connected, even tangentially, to him.
Mussler will be in Sherman in the near future to sign copies of his books and to mingle with his fans.
"It's an attitude that's uniquely Texan," Mussler said. "An attitude of getting the job done, regardless of the techniques used to do it." The DEA agent is a tortured soul of sorts, still reeling from the murder of his girlfriend after the Peace Corps stationed her in Colombia. His story was so compelling, however, that Mussler said his publishers were immediately clamoring for a novel. "I've never written a novel," he said. "It's a lot harder."
Short stories, he said, are more his forté. "They come out in a hiccup, and all I can do is write them down." The shorter works tend to deal with one theme, he said, while novels are more complex. "They've got to have depth," he said. Nevertheless, Mussler hopes to eventually write a series of novels on this character. "It'd be great to be the author of the next James Bond," he said. There aren't many stories focused on DEA agents, he said, though he doesn't want to get stuck writing the same characters over and over.
The characters he does chose to work with come tend to be amalgamations of several of those closest to him, and his DEA agent is no exception. "He's a composite of myself and my brothers," Mussler said. "And my sister. Pretty much all his goodness comes from her." He said the "human qualities" of his central character are a draw to readers.
His DEA agent is from Tyler, and is a Baptist. "He has a relationship with God, but he's mad at God," Mussler said. People can relate to that disappointment, Mussler said. "There are times when you wonder, 'why is this happening to me?'" he said. "But sometimes, it's okay to say to God, 'I don't understand this.'"
Mussler was born outside of Corpus Christi, but soon moved to Oregon with his family. "I've always had a bit of awe about Texas," he said. As the only member of his family born in his state, he said he was frequently the subject of curious questionings by others. "People are interested in Texas," Mussler said. Eventually, he said, he and his wife moved to Texas, and the pair are quite fond of it. "My wife loves it here," he said.
He said he's always been an artist at heart, and can remember making comics as a young child. After working with film for many years, Mussler began to write, though he kept his short stories private. It was only after tragedy struck that he was able to reveal his creativity to his family. While taking an evening walk, Mussler was hit by a 16-year-old driver while she was on the phone.
"I was in a helicopter," he recalled, "and the guy who was looking down at me looked just like Radar (from the TV show M*A*S*H)." When Mussler attempted to get up and look around, he was quickly told that he'd be hit by a card. "That was the first I'd heard of it," he said. After several days in the ICU and months of recovery, he decided he'd better work with all the stories he'd stashed away, and quickly began sorting through each of boxes, all the while with one hand in a sling. The stories were soon edited and placed in a book, and thus was born the "Twisted Texan" series.
Between writing his novel and doing book signings, Mussler also speaks to students, particularly at the high school level. "They're so intelligent," he said. "Being creative is not encouraged enough."
Mussler will be signing books from 1 -3 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Hastings Entertainment in Sherman.