Lamar University professor, and award-winning author Dr. Jim Sanderson has released Nothing to Lose, a work that includes a setting close to home. Sanderson’s latest novel is set in Beaumont and features a fictional bar off of Tram Road — a favorite hangout place for the main character, Roger Jackson.
Roger is a grouch who tends to tip the bottle a little excessively and keeps company with a rough crowd, dislikes where he lives — described in the novel as a small, humid Southeast Texas town caught between a marsh and an impenetrable forest as well as between racial and social strife and rival versions of Christianity. He dislikes his job as an undercover photographer, which entails taking pictures of cheating spouses, dislikes his past, and now, finds himself entangled in crime. Roger must leave the enclosed suburbs with their prim, cleaned-up Jesus and cheap cocaine and liquor habits. Now, with his new partners, he ventures into the deep Piney Woods with its wild, unruly Pentecostal Jesus and meth-lab economy.
“Jim’s characters are really colorful and intriguing,” said Dr. Catalina Castillón, associate professor of English and modern languages at Lamar University. “He puts so much time into creating them despite his busy schedule as professor and chair.”
Some of Sanderson’s characters appear in more than one of his stories including Harry Krammer. Krammer, who was first mentioned in the short story collection “Faded Love”, is an aging ex-hippie found dead from bullet wounds to the head and torso. The police also find Roger’s photos and want his help in solving this crime. Surrounded by a cast of colorful characters, Roger must do his job while negotiating the dangerous agendas of those around him. But the greatest obstacle is the recurring cocaine trail leading to Jewel McQueen, a small-time crook guarded by his sociopathic brother, Sunshine McQueen, who hears voices in his head. Sunshine will stop at nothing — even murder — to keep his brother out of prison.
Southeast Texas readers will enjoy the story’s setting as well. Sanderson brings his audience right down the streets of modern Beaumont by making references to post-Hurricane Rita blue roofs, the Walmart Supercenter and the (former) Krispy Kreme donuts on Dowlen Road. Thick, steaming August air — mixed with rotten-egg and sour smells emitted by local industry — is among several familiar touchstones of Southeast Texas realism Sanderson includes.
“American literary realism is about society,” Sanderson said. “This novel, although it is a mystery, it’s also about social matters; it revolves around social, racial and economic issues.”
Sanderson has a certain “Texas-Style” writing that incorporates local scenery into the plot and usually includes a distraught protagonist who fights off inner demons with the bottle and a Bible. This common theme can be found throughout most of his novels and can be a brilliant way of connecting readers with the characters on a personal level.
“Jim has over and over confirmed … himself as a novelist, short-story writer and essayist,” said Dr. Sam Gwynn, university professor of English and poet in residence at Lamar. “I’ve been proud to have him as a colleague and, now, as a boss.”
Sanderson has been writing novels and short stories for more than 30 years and has a collection of at least 12 published books. Recently, an assortment of short stories titled “Trashy Behavior” was published through the Lamar University Press after Sanderson won the Texas Institute of Letters’ Kay Cattarulla Award for the short story “Bankers.” After almost 30 years of submitting this Beaumont mystery novel, Nothing to Lose was finally accepted by TCU Press and is scheduled to be published in May.
“I am extremely excited about reading his latest novel,” Castillón said. “Jim is very creative, driven, well known and respected among other Texas writers.”
Jim Sanderson has published two collections of short stories, “Semi-Private Rooms” and “Faded Love” (finalist for the 2010 Texas Institute of Letters’ Jesse Jones Award); an essay collection, “A West Texas Soapbox,” and five novels — El Camino del Rio, Safe Delivery, La Mordida, Nevin’s History: A Novel of Texas and Dolph’s Team. Hill Country Property,” a prequel to the life of Roger Jackson from Nothing to Lose, takes place from 1935-85 around the Austin area and is scheduled to be published by Livingston Press in early 2015. In addition, Sanderson has published over 60 short stories, essays, and scholarly articles. He serves as the chair of the department of English and Modern Languages at Lamar University.
During the Boomtown Film and Music Festival on Feb. 21-22, Sanderson will be signing autographs and selling his newly published collection of short stories, “Trashy Behavior.”
Both “Trashy Behavior” and Nothing to Lose are on sale at Amazon.com. Nothing to Lose is only available for pre-order pending its May publishing.
For more information on Dr. Jim Sanderson and all of his literary works, visit
Kevin King contributed to this article.