My first book, Kilborn, is available on Amazon.com in paperback and e-reader format. It comes out of the oral tradition of many small Texas towns, where the telling of tales is a folk art. It makes little difference whether the yarn is true. The value is in the way the story is spun. Eavesdropping is part of the art - necessary to embellish the narratives with the right mispronunciations and dialect. Otherwise it was pure gossip, fodder for the companionable chatter that goes with the three-bean salad and Macaroni Surprise served up in the fellowship hall after the Sunday morning service.
Kilborn is cast with characters from those tales. Most are benign keepers of the community traditions, but one outsider's downward spiral into suicidal madness sends waves of terror and regret though the small cotton-farming town of Jerrod.
A review of the book and excerpts of the Kirkus review are included below.
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Appreciation for the lilting character and charm of the spoken word in rural communities also led me to narrate several books available on Audible.com.
Kirkus Reviews has been the premier reviewing service since 1929. It has a reputation for no-nonsense, no punches pulled reviews which can help launch a writer's career or cause it to flounder. Here's what Kirkus thought of Kilborn:
In Hughes’ quiet debut thriller, one of the townspeople in a small Texas community is becoming increasingly unhinged and, therefore, potentially dangerous.
Dan Baker a local business owner with a cotton farm in Jerrod, Texas, is worried about longtime friend, Zeke Kilborn.He’s currently hospitalized for ongoing heart problems, but of equal concern are the bruises on his knees. Dan believesZeke’s son, Drake, may have abused his father. Drake left his job in Abilene and moved back to Jerrod when Zeke began having heart trouble. But it seems Drake has never recovered from the death of his mother, Bertie, four years ago. In fact, he often talks about Bertie as if she were alive and has conversations with her, even with others in the vicinity. Things get more precarious with the suspicious death of a part-timer at Kilborn Aviation, Zeke’s business that Drake is running.
Dan has good reason to worry about Drake, who apparently wants to reconnect with his ex Janelle, who is Dan’s daughter, despite the fact that Janelle has a boyfriend. Drake’s behavior soon becomes even more erratic, making him an outright menace to others. Hughes’ novel, consisting primarily of dialogue, features minimal but well-crafted descriptions. During a small-town funeral, for example, “the hearse and limos were joined en route to the cemetery by a hodge-podge of pickups with dung-encrusted stock racks.” The thoroughly imagined characters are often winsome; for example, Dan easily deduces whom his reverend friend, Wyman Costley, is secretly dating. Meanwhile, Drake’s descent into (possible) madness is effectively gradual. He begins as a nuisance (brazenly calling Janelle “sweet thang”) but is unsettling when he speaks to his late “momma.” The ending is unexpected but excellent.
An absorbing slow-burn approach and simpatico characters make this a standout novel.
Kirkus Reviews, 2019
A few other mourners stopped Mazie and Alice Faye on the walk to the limo. On their way to their parking place, Dan and LaDonna walked up to Amos McLaren, one of the Sentinels.
“We, ‘preciate you and Ernie bein’ here. It means a lot. Looks like it meant a lot to the others too.” Judging from the bills and checks in the crown of Amos’s upturned hat, Dan was confident Mazie would be getting several hundred dollars from Wyman Costley. Ella was speaking to the other cowboy, her great uncle Ernie. She patted his shoulder then walked toward Wyman. She glanced at Dan and LaDonna, mouthing “see you later.”
Freddy and Mariel walked ahead, down the gradual incline to the parking area. The four stopped as if they had encountered an invisible wall.
Drake was halfway into his car when he paused and stood between the door and the driver’s seat. Though the dark glasses hid his eyes, there was no doubt he was staring at Freddy and Mariel.
Freddy leaned as if to take a step toward Drake. “No,” Mariel whispered as she tightened her grip on his hand. “Simplemente no!”
Drake crouched to get in his Mustang.
Then, a razor-edged keening wail rose on the slight north breeze fixing the group where they stood. Dan felt the skin crawl and hairs stand on the back of his neck. In the distance, out on the rolling prairie, sitting atop a slight knoll was a solitary animal – a dog, Dan was sure.
The primal cry rose to just above silence, and ended with three mournful yelps. The creature stood, stretched and disappeared down the rise.
Kilborn copyright 2019
The small town of Jerrod buries one of its own after a death from suspicious circumstances. Like all funerals, the graveside service is a cross-section of the people who live there. Below is an excerpt about how the graveside service ends.