Lamar English professor releases new novel

Lamar English professor releases new novel

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 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, visit­son/publications

Kevin King contributed to this article.