All Posts by admin

Sessums’ History Snippets: The Texas Rangers

I had the basic mystery story set in my mind for The Case of The Texas Ranger even before I decided it would feature an old Texas Ranger. Sometimes inspiration takes us by surprise!

Most of us from the Lone Star state grew up revering the prestige of the great Texas Rangers.  My husband worked with some of them during his time as an arson and fraud investigator early in his career.  I got the idea for Templeton Gorham partly from watching the Netflix movie The Highwaymen starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.)  The movie chronicles the tracking down of Bonnie and Clyde in the late thirties.

After watching the movie, I was interested to know more about Frank Hamer, the ranger credited with their killing, so I found a book called Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, The Man who Killed Bonnie and Clyde.  The book was a fascinating study of the man from his youth to his death.  What was most interesting to me was the fact that Hamer was known for his protection of blacks against lynching. The book is full of tales of his efforts to stand between violent mobs and prisoners in his custody.  Later, he also fought continuously against the KKK and their rackets to control cities and counties.

In the early 1900s, Hamer befriended a young son of an ex-slave and sharecropper.  Mance Lipscomb went on later in life to become a renowned blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, but he often talked about his early life following him around Navasota, Texas.  He spoke highly of Hamer saying, “He wad’n no piece a man, he was a whole man.”   The character Alonzo was inspired by Mance Lipscomb.

Be sure to preorder the upcoming The Case of the Texas Ranger and head over to my Snazzy, Knobby, Keen Dish page to enter the GIVEAWAY!

Sessums History Snippet: The New London Explosion:

The upcoming JD Pierson mystery, The Case of the Texas Ranger starts with a tragedy in East Texas when a school building explodes in the small town of New London, about 25 miles west of Tyler, Texas.

The story of the New London School explosion is true, though the characters I’ve created in reference to the terrible tragedy are all fictional.  The school district of New London was one of the wealthiest, even though the Depression was raging.  The oil boom in that part of Texas boosted local revenue, and in 1932, the school was built at a cost of $1 million or about $18 million today.

Despite urgings from the architects, the school district decided to install gas heaters in the building instead of a boiler.  Then, in 1937, the district terminated its natural gas contract and decided to tap directly into Parade Gas Company’s residue gas lines.  This wasn’t unusual in the area, and because the gas was considered to be a byproduct that was simply flared off by the company, they simply overlooked the practice. 

On that fateful day, a Thursday, students in grades first through fourth had left the school early.  Reports differ, but there were approximately 500 students at the school when an instructor turned on an electric sander, thereby sparking the explosion.  Witnesses reported that the walls bulged and the roof lifted up before falling back down.

Help poured into East Texas from all around, and Tyler’s own Mother Francis Hospital did indeed open their doors early to treat the injured children and adults.  Of the 500 or so persons in the building, only about 130 walked away without serious injury.  Estimates of the dead go as high as 319.

The story of the New London catastrophe was reported all over the world, and one of those reporters was a very young Walter Cronkite.  This was one of his first assignments, and he later is quoted as saying, “I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.”

The cause of the catastrophe was found to be a leak in the connection to the gas pipeline that allowed the fuel to build up throughout the building without notice since it was odorless and colorless.  Later, and in part because of this tragedy, an additive was put in natural gas so that leaks could be discovered quicker. If you’re ever in East Texas, there is a little museum dedicated to the tragedy.  I’m told that until not long ago, one of the children who survived the event served as a docent and gave her own first-person accounts of the experience.  You can also see their website which includes some haunting personal accountings from the time.

Photo from the New London Museum site.

Be sure to preorder the upcoming The Case of the Texas Ranger and head over to my Snazzy, Knobby, Keen Dish page to enter the GIVEAWAY!

Get your first look at The Case of the Texas Ranger!

Howdy! The Case of the Texas Ranger is still getting its final round of edits, but here is an “unedited” teaser for you. Enjoy then be sure to preorder your copy do you get it as soon as it releases in a few weeks.

The house was mostly dark, though there was a light in a small building off to the left of the main house.  J.D. turned to me, “You’ll find Temp’s man, Alonzo, living in that little house there.  He can help us get Temp up to bed.”

“Judas Priest, J.D.,” he growled as he got out of the car on his own, “I’m not on death’s door,” yet as he tried to make his way up the stairs to the front door of his home he stumbled and Dad had to lend him his shoulder.

I rushed towards the smaller house to find the person called Alonzo, but before I could get there I saw a dark man hurrying into his overshirt as he leaped off the little porch towards us, “The ranger done got hisself drunk again?”

I shook my head as I fell into step with him, “No he’s gotten himself shot.”

“Well, that done woulda been my next guess.”

“Does he get shot often?”

“Often ‘nough, Miss…”

“Oh, my name is Pierson.  I presume you’re Mr. Alonzo?”

“Yes’m.  Just Alonzo.”

“And I’m Jenny.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Jenny.”

I tipped my head in greeting and he offered me a crooked smile.  I noticed he walked stiffly as if he had at some point suffered a back injury.  Still, when he got to his employer, he tucked his arm under Gorham’s and took his weight, grunting as he helped him into the house.

My dad dropped back, letting the two of them go ahead and up the stairs.  We stood side-by-side, our faced tipped up to watch.  They disappeared into a room at the head of the stairs, while we continued to stare at the open door where they’d gone.

I winked one eye closed when I heard a series of growled expletives, then smiled when I felt Dolly come to stand beside me, her body leaning into my leg.

“Jenny, why are you and Dolly here?” Dad asked, suddenly sounding concerned.

“You checked out of your hotel,” I noted.

He grunted and nodded, then turned and went towards an anteroom to the left of the staircase, “I wanted to see Temp… I needed to see him.  And when he invited me to stay here. Seemed the thing to do.”

After a few seconds I followed after him, not much surprised when I saw him pouring himself a drink.  He swallowed it down quickly while I glared at him down my nose.

“I’m drinking again.”

It was a stupid thing to say, as if it were some revelation that surprised him more than me.  I wrinkled my nose, sniffed, then took a seat, back ramrod stiff, “I can see that.”

Dolly moved to the center of the room, her dark eyes studying Dad intently for several moments before flicking in my direction to stare me down.  I had the impression she was concerned, torn between the two of us.  As if she sensed our dual unrest and wanted to make it better, but couldn’t.  I leaned down and rubbed my fingers together, coaxing her back to my side.  She peered over at him again, then lifted her fluffy backside off the floor and trotted to me. 

I scooped her up into my lap, both of us glancing over when we heard the clink of glass and saw Dad pouring himself another. “You know, when I came here I thought maybe I’d kill him myself.”

You can preorder The Case of the Texas Ranger today! Just click HERE!

This story ran amok… with a surprise visitor!

Although I plot my cozies, sometimes the unexpected happens.  So imagine my surprise when a little corgi made her way into the upcoming JD Pierson mystery! The Case of the Texas Ranger is coming this summer, but here’s a quick snippet for you to enjoy:

The last thing I expected to find when I arrived at the little Sears Roebuck model home that was my father’s was a puppy.  But that’s just what was waiting for me, the little mutt seeking refuge from the rain out on our front porch.

The furball was huddled into up tight against the door frame and cowered a little when I approached.  Bending over, I put my hand out to let the poor thing sniff me, then scratched her ear when she leaned closer.

“Where did you come from?” I asked, picking the creature up and carefully looking for injuries but finding none.  “You’re a sweet girl, aren’t you?” I said, though noted she was dirty and a little smelly.  But considering I myself was pretty much the same, I decided cradling her against my dress wasn’t such a big deal.

“Are you hungry?” I asked, then unlocked the door and stepped inside.  I kicked off my dirty shoes and hooked my hat onto the rack, then padded towards the kitchen to look for something to feed my little visitor.

After I dried her off with a towel, I placed her on the floor, then pulled out some cold cuts for her to enjoy.  It took her all of thirty seconds to finish those off, then she slurped at a saucer of milk with equal gusto.  The pooches’ legs were short, almost squatty, and she had enormous ears that stuck straight out from her head.  Her coat was black, white, and brown, or at least I thought it was under the layer of mud still coating her.

“I think you need a bath next,” I told her, standing up from the kitchen table. One glance down at myself reminded me that I needed one too.  I reached for the pup, tucking her comfortably under one arm and started for the bathroom.

“Gee whiz!” I exclaimed when the front door opened unexpectedly, my father bursting inside.  I’d been so intent on my little four-legged visitor that I hadn’t noticed the cab pulling up to the house.

He stomped his muddy feet on the floor mat, before fixing me with a wide grin and exclaiming, “H’lo there, Jenny Dee!” then he dropped his bag as he stripped out of his wet overcoat and tossed his hat onto the rack.  I stood there in silence, hugging the pup to me, unsure what to say. I suddenly felt vulnerable, horrors of my day steamrolling into me and threatening to knock me to the floor.  My father looked at me again, then his smile fell off his face and he rushed forward, panic in his expression, “Is that blood on your dress?  Are you injured?”

I was absolutely horrified when a little sob threatened to make its way up my throat.  Blinking against the tears I pushed past him towards the bathroom, “I need to get this little pup cleaned up,” I said in a rush, dashing out of his line of sight.

You can preorder The Case of the Texas Ranger today! Just click HERE!

The Killer Jack Mystery is here! Join the tour today!

The Errant Heirs Caper
The J.D. Pierson Mystery Series Book 1
by C.H. Sessums
Genre: Cozy Mystery
At a dime a dozen, I’m going broke handing out excuses for my dad.
The name on the door says “JD Pierson, Investigator,” but most days the chair behind his desk is empty. It’s 1936 and times are hard for everyone in Tyler, Texas, but it’s all I can do to keep the rent paid since Dad lost his way in a bottle of gin.
When JD suddenly shows a moment of sober coherence, I whisk him off to his favorite fishing lake in the hopes I can keep him off the sauce. I wanted Dad back in the investigator game, but having an old friend turn up dead was not part of the plan.
But when a swarm of heirs swoops in we’re left wondering if his death really was an accident, or if murder is how one of them means to cash in.
**only .99 cents!**
The Killer Jack Mystery
The J.D. Pierson Mystery Series Book 2
A trip to state prison puts Jenny on the trail for a stolen necklace and right into the path of a killer…
The lights are just about to go out for good in my father’s PI office when I get an unexpected call from the state penitentiary. My mother’s only brother was sent up for robbery years ago, and now he needs Dad’s help to get his daughter out of trouble. It’s impossible for me to be sure that the pendant around Cousin Betty’s neck is stolen, but one thing’s for sure—she doesn’t want to talk about where it came from. When my cousin gets gunned down walking home and the necklace disappears, I realize I’m not only looking for a thief . . . I’m dealing with a murderer.
Can I track down the identity of a man named Jack in time, or will he disappear into the shadows, only to kill again?
The Case of the Texas Ranger
The J.D. Pierson Mystery Series Book 3
A Texas Ranger—a virtual relic from the past–walks into a bar… but it isn’t funny when he gets shot down on the street the moment he walks out…
Just like the doctors warned, Dad has made lots of promises about staying off the bottle. That doesn’t stop me from being disappointed to find him at the local speakeasy one night. The leathery, stout man at his table looks vaguely familiar, and I’m only a little surprised to find out he’s Templeton Gorham, former Texas Ranger. The governor shut down the Rangers years ago, but before that, Templeton was virtually a legend in his profession. He and JD are laughing over drinks like old friends, but later, when the three of us walk out into the night, gunshots pierce the darkness. Templeton is left lying in a pool of blood, and I’m left with a brand-new case on my hands.
When the victim won’t speak, can I find the answers to keep a killer from finishing the job he started?
C.H. SESSUMS is a pen name for USA Today Bestselling Author Olivia Hardin. While Olivia writes all manner of romance, C.H. scribbles out cozy mysteries set in her beloved state of Texas. Whether exploring urban legends from all over the lone star state or solving capers set in far off times, mystery meets history in all of her stories.
In real life, C.H. lives in gorgeous East Texas with her hubby and their two rescue dogs. Every weekend all four of them pile up into their bunkhouse to watch classic movies and listen to old-time radio.
$20.00 Amazon Gift Card and a custom bookmark with coffee cup charm
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Quarantine Survival with Old-Time Radio

One of the things the hubby and I do almost daily is listen to episodes of Old-Time Radio.  Usually, in the evenings just before going to sleep, we pile into bed with our two furbabies and listen to one episode before dozing off into the arms of Morpheus (Did you know that shutting off electronics and avoiding looking at phone and tablet screens before bed can help you get better sleep?  Looking at bright screens messes up our Circadian Clocks and makes sleep more difficult.  So shut off the television, tablet and phone and get yourself a better night’s sleep!) 

Since most of us are stuck at home looking for things to occupy our time, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites and snazzy old fashioned radio episodes.  First up… Jack Webb. 

A tale of three Jacks…

Jack Webb is best known for his part in creating and staring in the long-running Dragnet television and radio series.  But he also had some other interesting roles. 

We’ll start with Dragnet with an episode entitled “The Big Thank You.”  In this one, seven months after her release from prison, a confessed murderess loses contact with her parole officer and it’s up to Sergeant Friday and his partner Ben to find out what happened to her.  I hope you’ll enjoy this intriguing episode in the Dragnet police drama.

From 1946 to 1947 Jack Webb also stared in Pat Novak, For Hire.  Pat isn’t an investigator, but is instead a boat operator in San Francisco and does odd jobs for cash.  In the episode “Rita Malloy” his boat gets stolen and when it turns up a man is dead and the police, of course, think “Patsy” is the one responsible. 

I’ll be frank, I can only take the Pat Novak, For Hire episodes in small doses.  Webb’s dry and cliché humor is a little over-done.  But my favorite thing about this series is the character Jocko, a drunken ex-doctor who Pat usually enlists to help him get out of trouble.  So give it a listen and see what you think of the show.

The last “Jack” tale I have for you is a really strange departure for the Jack Webb we know from Dragnet.  “The Ring of Thoth” is a story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and adapted for the series Escape.  It starts in the Louvre where an Egyptologist becomes trapped inside overnight.  He awakens to find an attendant opening the case of one of the mummies.  The attendant, played by Jack Webb, has a strange almost ephemeral voice and spins a tale that is both tragic and somewhat spooky.  Take a listen and tell me if you anticipated the twist at the end.

Noir for your radio…

Most of us know the author Raymond Chandler’s character Phillip Marlowe from old movies, especially The Big Sleep.  When I think of Marlow I always see Humphrey Bogart’s face, even when I’m listening to the radio programs of The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe.  But if I see Bogart’s face, I hear Gerald Mohr’s voice.  The funny thing about the radio series is that in almost every one, Marlowe at some point gets struck on the head and knocked out cold!  In “Baton Sinister” Marlowe is paid to deliver a tapestry, but it gets stolen before he can arrange to get it to his client. 

And speaking of Bogart, probably one of his most famous films is The Maltese Falcon where he plays Sam Spade created by Author Dashiell Hammett.  Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe was strongly influenced by Hammett’s Spade character.  But the radio version of Spade has the delightful Lorraine Tuttle playing the part of Effie and her voice and banter with Spade make the series so much more fun.  Check out “The Sugar Kane Caper” and tell me what you think of Effie and Sam, played by Howard Duff.

A few bonuses

I’ve included two other favorite radio episodes for your listening pleasure.  First, “The Veldt” an X-Minus-One sci-fi program that fans of Star Trek: TNG will enjoy (the Holodeck gone wild.)  And last a Gunsmoke episode called “Good Girl-Bad Company.”  My favorite thing about Gunsmoke is the cast of characters.  Whether its Miss Kitty played by Georgia Ellis, Parley Baer’s Chester or Howard McNear as Doc, each of the parts brings something to the soundwaves that make the series unbeatable.

So check out the playlist and discover the excitement and power of Old-Time Radio.  And then comment below or send me an email to let me know what you thought of these.

Looking for books and a fun giveaway? Check out the Snazzy, Knobby, Keen Dish page by clicking the image below!

Sessums Snippets: People’s Petroleum Building

When Jenny Dee Pierson’s heels clack against the terrazzo halls to the office she shares with her father, she’s walking through what was once called The Peoples National Bank Building.

The summer of 1929 saw industry and manufacturing cutting back on production, signaling the coming economic collapse. Workers were laid off or lost their jobs. The unemployed didn’t purchase as much, and so production declined further. A vicious cycle ensued. Thousands of banks began to fail between 1929 and 1933, but even before that, they’d begun overextending credit on speculation. The hard times got harder.

Still, with deprivation of 35% unemployment nationwide, rampant hunger and want, some of East Texas managed to stave off the coming disaster, at least for a while. Black gold in the East Texas oilfields was the reason. The Peoples National Bank Building became a center of that oil-rich prosperity.

In 1932 local Tyler attorney Samuel A. Lindsey commissioned and assisted in financing the construction of a fabulous art-deco style building. At the time of its construction, it was one of the tallest skyscrapers west of the Mississippi River. Opening its doors in November 1932, it was fully leased by 1933. And in 1934 oil magnate H.L Hunt located the offices of Hunt Oil Company in one suite of the building. Through the Depression and on until the 1950s, the building remained a prime location for offices in downtown Tyler.

Eventually, time took its toll on the building. Construction moved away from the downtown area and vacancies ran high. By the year 2000, the building was considered to be mostly unoccupied. And then three Tyler businessmen began what this humble writer believes to be a remarkable transformation. Tim and Garnett Brookshire,along with Andy Bergfeld, acquired the building, naming it the People’s Petroleum Building. They undertook an extensive renovation project to bring this spectacular Tyler landmark back to its former glory, going to extremes to maintain the historical ambiance of the stately structure.

You can see more about the building in the video below:

Since then the Brookshires and Bergfeld have undertaken a similar renovation of the more modern Plaza Tower building adjacent to the People’s Petroleum Building. With their work in renovating these two buildings and their exceptional management skills, they have drawn people back to downtown Tyler. Tenants of the two buildings (myself included) marvel constantly at their gracious administration and their innovative eye for bringing industries together. If you’re anywhere near Tyler, Texas, take the time to come downtown. Walk the square and enjoy a few quiet moments on one of the park benches. Come into the People’s Petroleum Building and enjoy a meal at Jack Ryan’s Steak and Chophouse. Or head over to the Plaza Tower for some coffee at Café 1948. And if it happens to be a Thursday, you can delight in “Tunes on the Square” while grabbing a quick bite from one of the food trucks that come by for lunch.

Downtown Tyler is an amazing mix of history and modernity, married in a way that I’m sure you’ll enjoy experiencing.

If you haven’t started the JD Pierson Series yet, you can get the first story free by subscribing to my newsletter!

The J.D. Pierson Mystery Series
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial