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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Do you know author Landon Wallace?

You might.

Landon Wallace website:

http://authorlandonwallace.com/the-election/

“Blake,” Cat whispered while turning her head up to his, “what are we doing?”

When Blake looked into her eyes he offered no answers but instead leaned down and pressed his lips against hers, softly and tenderly at first, but when she didn’t pull back, with a hungry force that swept her into the moment. – From The Election (Trinity River Press, 2017, $18.95)

The “Blake” is State Sen. Blake Buchanan, the protagonist in Fort Worth author Landon Wallace’s latest book, a political thriller/romance titled The Election. The plot: Buchanan is in a long-shot race for governor of Texas, a race that pits him against, as the book jacket says, “a sexy conservative whose values are as phony as her plasticized figure.” Along the way Buchanan finds himself embroiled in a love affair that could destroy his life and his chances with the electorate. The book is contemporary, set in Texas, and hits on topics such as the tea party, political campaigning and such. This Wallace has a firm grasp of what he writes.

While the photo on the book jacket shows a man wearing a hat with his face in the shadows, those in the know can point out Wallace in a crowd. If, that is, that crowd includes prominent Fort Worth attorney Dee Kelly Jr., a partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman, the Fort Worth law firm co-founded by his father, Dee Kelly Sr., who died in 2015.

Wallace is the pseudonym for Kelly and it worked well for his first book, Come and Take It: Search for the Treasure of the Alamo. Few suspected the attorney was the author of a historical mystery about the search for the legendary treasure of the Alamo.

But by the time his second book was hitting the streets, and the fact that this book includes a lot of terrain familiar to Kelly – Texas politics, law, political issues – word started getting around.

As a result, Kelly agreed to a public book signing in December at Michael’s Cuisine & Bar.

“On this one, the word got out enough that people were calling, so they knew,” said Kelly. “My anonymity was a little bit gone, so I decided to go ahead and do a little launch.”

And, apparently the lawyer/author enjoyed it.

“It was fun,” he said. “People we already kind of know showed up, so it was nice. But heavy promotion would be difficult, giving book tours and things like that. I’m not going to do any of that. I might do a few more things like that though, as time permits.”

Kelly is not, he emphasizes, giving up his day job or even interfering with it.

“I try to write between 6 and 7:30 to 8 every morning, so basically I have two hours,” he said. “And then weekends, and occasionally at night … So, that’s been kind of a cycle over a fairly long period of time.”

A history major at the University of Texas before obtaining his law degree there, Kelly said he had long been interested in writing. A fan of writers like Robert Ludlum, David Morrell and John Grisham, Kelly had done some writing before law school intervened.

“I went to law school and that curtailed my creative writing for some time, and then I took a job back home,” he said.

“Then I went through a phase where I read almost entirely history and nonfiction, McCullough and people like that and a lot of the great biographical writers, and then I got to the next phase of reading, and I think I read everything now. I think I’m fairly eclectic. I don’t really confine it, so I kind of went through those cycles,” he said.

Throughout his career, he kept writing, but never seriously.

“Then as I got closer to my 50th birthday I said, ‘This is not something I can put on the back burner much longer because there’s no guarantee on these things,’ and so I decided to dedicate some early morning hours to getting serious about actually producing a novel. That’s what I did.”

That dedication paid off.

“I don’t think you realize until you’re doing it with regularity that, like anything else, you get better the more you do it,” he said. “And the more you write and the more you spend time and work with professionals who know what they’re doing, you improve.”

He worked with a professional editor to put some polish on the work and then … how to publish? Kelly worked with a collective run by three women, part of Trinity River Press. “I found my way to a group of ladies who worked through this hybrid arrangement where they do a lot of work for me and get the label out,” he said. “It allows me to not have to take on all that extra work of publishing cycle, which I just don’t have time for. I’ve got a job I need to spend my daylight hours working.”

As to the pseudonym, Kelly basically pulled it out of a hat.

“It was pretty random,” he said. “It was basically, seven or eight names that I liked and played around with, pulled a few out, and put these together, and liked it, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s it.’ It’s as simple as that. Not a lot of thought to it. Not a lot of strategic value or any kind of real reference to me or anything I’ve done. Those are just two names I liked.”

His first book garnered some good reviews and so has The Election.

“Wallace handles all of [political and romantic] elements with a deft touch, juggling his cast of scheming characters with flair and a crisp, economic writing style,” says BlueInk Review, a well-regarded online review site.

Kelly, whose father was a well-known local, state and national political power broker, has been involved on the political side himself and knows the world of which he writes.

“I think this [book] has some interesting, relevant information in it as it relates to those topics, so, I’m hopeful people will enjoy it. But, I think writers tend to write about what they know best,” he said.

Asked if there are any characters in the book people in Fort Worth would recognize. Kelly says maybe, but unlikely.

“That’s always the big question. Every character’s a compilation of a variety of things, and I work pretty hard to avoid identifying any particular character, although I get people asking me all the time, ‘Is it this person, that person?’ I think you observe different folks over a period of time, and you see characteristics that are interesting for good and bad, to make the heroes more virtuous and the antagonists more devious,” he said.

There is a character in the book, a Texas oil man named Jim Bob Tate that resembles, well, basically every Texas oil man you’ve ever met.

Truth, Kelly notes, is really stranger than fiction.

“I would write things I knew were true that had happened and I’d have readers say, ‘That’s not possible.’ So, there you go,” he said.

As for his next book, it’s a sequel to The Election, titled, of course, The Next Election.

“I just didn’t feel the journey was over for these characters,” he said.

But it may be a few years. After all, he does have a pretty important day job.

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