Murder, Mexican gangs and Boston mobsters will all be featured in an upcoming book by Shelton Williams that takes place in Odessa, which Williams said is as much of a character in the book as any other.
The fictional book, “Covey Jencks,” follows the eponymous main character on his return after a stint at a Washington D.C. law firm. Jencks is coming back to Odessa to solve the 1979 murder of a black employee at his family’s business. The book will also feature scenes in North Texas and Mexico as well.
Williams himself is an Odessa native, now living in Washington D.C. and serving as president of the Osgood Center for International Studies, but he still sees himself as an Odessan.
“I just see it as a fascinating place,” Williams said about Odessa. “And the characters are so large that you have to consider writing about Odessa even if you don’t know anything about it.”
Growing up there in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Williams said there were tons of people moving into Odessa, which brought along a lot of characters to the town.
“Everything was sort of magnified, good and bad, and that carried with me,” he said. “I see West Texans themselves as storytellers, and I consider myself a West Texan, and so I identify.”
Williams speculated that the reason so many West Texans are storytellers is because it’s generally a substantial tradition in the Texas oil industry.
“People who gravitated to West Texas primarily to exploit the bounty of oil were fast talkers,” he said. “They lost a job in Missouri and find a job in Odessa, and maybe didn’t tell the same story about themselves in the same places.”
Since he had moved to Odessa from California when he was in the third grade, he had always known Odessans to be talkers. Since he went by Shelly himself, what he said was a girl’s name, he said he developed a sense of humor quickly to get out of teasing and bullying.
If the sales of “Covey Jencks” do well, Williams said he would like to turn the book into a series, telling more stories in the Permian Basin.
“The thing I like about ‘Covey’ is you can go into it with ‘what does this guy have to say about us now,’” he said. “I still have family that works in the oil field there, so I know that there’s some interesting people and funny people and messed up people, and I think they make for good storytelling.”
Williams previously wrote a true crime book also taking place in Odessa, “Washed in the Blood,” which details the 1961 murder of his cousin, Betty Williams. That story was later retold on Investigation Discovery’s series “A Crime to Remember,” which will be replayed on Investigation Discovery at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“Covey Jencks” will be published Saturday, and is available for pre-order on Amazon.