If we were having coffee today I think I’d finally be willing to tell you about certain aspects of the backstory.
There was recently a national news story floating around concerning some changes in Texas law … you might have seen it, usually mentioning the plan to make it legal to carry swords or something like that. Actually, that might be some sort of loophole, but what it really means is that the stalwart citizens of Texas will soon be allowed to carry knives longer than 5.5 inches. This law has long been on the books. They classified any knife longer than 5.5 inches as a Bowie knife. Although Jim Bowie was a hero of the Alamo and was famous for his larger than usual knife, it has been illegal in Texas for quite some time — that is until this fall.
The current law was a major dramatic component to the backstory of my first novel The Fever. It was based on a real incident I knew about. It resulted in the arrest of the hero, who felt the same way about the irony of Jim Bowie’s knife. This was the catalyst that threw my hero Sam into jail, where he made acquaintance with Slim, the derelict who slowly died in his arms. Ah, but not before revealing his secret. THAT is the other major backstory component, another bit of Texas lore. Slim, it seems, had some personal knowledge of the location of the elusive Sublett mine.
That’s right. And this, my friends, is a true mystery of mythical Texas proportions. Ben Sublett was a real person who lived in West Texas and there are believable reports that he had access to some quantity of gold. The stories go that he would disappear into the wilds of the parched landscape and return with gold. People tried to follow him but to no avail. He supposedly died without revealing the location to anyone. If you google Ben Sublett you will see quite a few websites and articles dedicated to him and his lost gold mine. They all mention pretty much the same details. Like one curious fact … his name was actually William C. Sublett. Not sure where “Ben” came from.
Here are a couple of my favorite links about Ben Sublett:
This one has a picture of a roadside Texas historical marker: http://www.odessahistory.com/subltmkr.htm
A friend pointed out to me that the historical marker in the first link above is just outside a place called Sam’s BBQ … I promise you that name “Sam” is just a coincidence. Still a bit of added irony, no?
Old Ben apparently never got rich from his gold. He seemed content to use it ,subsidize his life, like a sort of nineteenth-century social security. The common thread in all of the stories about him is that he’d disappear and return with gold. People have speculated on its location for over a hundred years. The Guadalupe Mountains seems to be a common landmark, but if it was in the mountain range proper, well that is a National Park now so good luck with that, but there are a lot of possibilities in the general area.
I used both of these things as the core of my story. An almost ridiculous arrest followed by a chance meeting that resulted in a deathbed confession. “THE FEVER” was wedged into the hero’s soul where it smoldered until it became a full-fledged obsession. THAT is what the story is about … a sort of “what would you do?” scenario.
How far would you go to feed your fever?
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Info on his novels, including THE FEVER, can be found at http://www.thefensk.com Before you buy them, be sure to check out his new video trailers on the videos tab.